2017 Preview of SDSU Aztec Football

Posted: July 31, 2017 in Uncategorized
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Can we top 2016’s 11-3 (especially that dominating Las Vegas Bowl win over Houston)?

Probably not.  But, we will be the best team in the west division of the Mountain West despite having lost a substantial amount of defensive talent and face the always challenging task of replacing starting offensive linemen.

Offense

Let us begin with the aforementioned offensive line.  Antonio Rosales (sr., right guard), Ryan Pope (jr., right tackle) and Nick Gerhard (so., center) do bring experience.  And, yes, since the experience entering summer (I struggle to use the common term “fall” since August in San Diego is nothing like “fall”) camp is found on the right side, look for most of the offensive action to at least begin to the right side of scrimmage.  The left side is another story.  Tyler Roemer (redshirt fr.) and Keith Ismael (redshirt fr.) are the favorites to start at left tackle and left guard respectively.  The struggle for offensive line coach Mike Schmidt lies in teaching Mr. Roemer and Mr. Ishmael to embrace the radical change in game speed they are soon to receive.  I hope UC Davis is a perfect introduction to the change from practice pace to game pace.  However, Arizona State and Stanford will offer a true, and hopefully not too painful, introduction to the role of starting offensive linemen in division one football.  Joe Salcedo, returning from a missed 2016, currently shows as #3 on the depth chart at right tackle, may move to the other side of the line to provide experience.  What is both blessing and curse is of the fifteen players listed on the post-spring offensive line depth chart, seven are redshirt freshmen or true freshmen.  The blessing is a freshman starter is likely a four-year starter.  The curse lies in the learning.

The tight end position will be a position of strength.  David Wells (sr.) starts and will pair with a combination of Parker Houston (so.), Kahale Warring (so) and Darryl Richardson (sr.),

Mikah Holder and Quest Truxton return as starting seniors at the two wide receiver slots.  Mr. Holder offers the curious yet promising 2016 line of a mere 27 catches coupled with an eye-popping 21.5 yards per catch.  Last year’s game average of 44.7 yards hopefully doubles this year.  Mr. Truxton offers glue for hands and will enjoy most of the short routes.  Fred Trevillon is the only other experienced wide receiver on the depth chart.  Much like the offensive line, this group is heavy to freshmen and redshirt freshmen (four of the listed ten).  However, given the intensity of coach Hunkie Cooper, effort will never be a concern.

Rashaad’s Penny’s moment in the sun as the primary running back has at last arrived.  Watching Mr. Penny do the “excuse me, pardon me” through a group of defenders is a delight.  Given last year’s success (1,018 yards and 7.5 ypc) as the #2 running back, he may well surprise the unprepared.  I expect Mr. Penny to average well over 100 yards per game.  Juwan Washington (so.) ran for 490 yards (8.0 ypc) as the #3 running back and invites the obvious comparison to Donnel Pumphrey given size and ferocity.  This will be his year-in-waiting as the #2 back.  Chad Woolsey (so.), Tyler Wormhoudt (sr.) and Chase Jasmin (redshirt fr.) will compete for the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

When Nick Bawden played quarterback, I would wince.  When Nick Bawden plays fullback, I smile.  Mr. Bawden is a man who enjoys contact.  He also can catch a football coming out of the backfield.  Isaac Lessard (so.) will be the #2 fullback and brings game experience.

Most quarterbacks who have a 61% completion ratio and 20 touchdowns compared to a measly 6 interceptions usually generate more than 2,000 yards, but Christian Chapman (jr.) fell 6 yards shy.  If he can keep the 5:2 td/pick ratio, 2017 should be a very productive year.  Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton and quarterbacks coach Blaine Morgan will encourage Mr. Chapman to stretch the field especially given Mikah Holder’s ability to depart quickly with football in hand.  Ryan Agnew (so.) and Chris Laviano (sr. transfer) provide back up.

John Barron (jr.) returns from an impressive 2016 performance (21/23 field goals).   If and when he misses a three-point opportunity, I’ll be stunned.  Color me spoiled.

Defense

Noble Hall (jr.) and Dakota Turner (sr.) will start at the defensive end spots while Sergio Phillips (sr.) moves to the nose guard/lone defensive tackle position.  This trio brings experience and a total of 108 tackles from 2016.  However, the second and third guys on the depth chart do not bring much game time exposure.  The front three is the one place where injury could wreak havoc on the remaining eight.

Ryan Dunn (sr.), Jay Henderson (sr.) and Ronley Lakalaka (jr) bring the same game time smarts to the linebacker spot as present at the defensive line.  Tyler Morris (sr.), Randy Ricks (sr.), Kyahva Trezino (so.) and Troy Cassidy (so.) make for a deep and talented group.

The back five complete a defense that benefits from prior success.  Ron Smith (so.), Trenton Thompson (so.), Parker Baldwin (jr.), Trey Lomax (sr.) and Kameron Kelly (sr.) will make opposing quarterbacks sweaty, clammy and uncomfortable.  Mr. Kelly, Mr. Smith and Mr. Baldwin shared 10 interceptions last year.  Increasing that number in 2017 is to be expected.  Kyree Woods (so.), Israel Cabrera (so.), Dwayne Parchment (so.) and Jeff Clay (so.) are capable substitutes.

Brandon Heicklen (so.) is a welcome late addition as punter.  He boomed the ball at Santa Monica C.C. two years ago averaging almost 44 yards per punt.  Last year he red shirted to “get better”.  Here’s to 45 yards per punt.

Schedule Results

Non-conference worst case is 2-2 with wins over UC Davis and Northern Illinois (both home games).  The Arizona State game is, thankfully, at night, so heat stroke becomes less likely.  Beating the Sun Devils is more likely than upsetting Stanford (truly a good football team and program).  Best case is 3-1.

The MWC schedule begins with Air Force at Colorado Springs in between the Stanford and Northern Illinois games.  Arriving unprepared to play Air Force is a sure loss.  Arrive prepared.  At UNLV is a win, though UNLV is much improved.  Boise returns to the Aztec schedule.  Playing Boise at the Q will be the game of the year.  Fresno State follows with a brand new coaching staff and defense that gave up 31 points per game last year.  At Hawaii follows.  Much like UNLV, Hawaii is a much better football team than two years ago.  Nonetheless, another SDSU win.  San Jose State at San Jose is another Aztec win featuring a new Spartan coaching staff.  Speaking of new coaching staffs, Nevada visits the Q following the first bye week for SDSU.  New Mexico arrives on November 24th to end MWC play.  Best MWC case 7-1.  Worst case 5-3.

Look forward to another MWC championship game, bowl game, exceptional football and larger crowds at the Q.

 

 

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