Archive for August, 2019

The memory of last year’s miserable finish must be the starting point for 2019.  Beginning last season with 7-2 start only to watch the misery of a 0-4 finish, including the pitiful bowl loss to Ohio, serves as the primary motivator for the 2019 Aztecs.  Revenge, gnashing of teeth and general thirst to hurt must precede this Aztec football campaign.

Granted, most everything can improve, but I’m hard pressed to envision the Aztec defense allowing less than last year’s 3.0 yards per rush.  Impressive plus.  Also, while 7-6 was impermissible disappointing and foul, four of the six losses were by 4 (Nevada), 3 (UNLV), 9, (Fresno State) and 1 (Hawaii), thus one could make the argument that 2018’s offense was generally one score away from a win.  I could also claim that the Aztec offense scoring a woeful 30 touchdowns leaves much to improve.  And I do.  Averaging at least four offensive touchdowns is primary for this year’s success.

As usual, the position analysis unfolds in all well thought glory.

Quarterback:  Ryan Agnew’s (sr) job to lose.  I’m not sold on Ryan (I’m sure he is deeply concerned).  Last year he completed barely half his pass attempts (51.6%) and 115 completions created only 1,651 yards.  I grant sharing the position with the injured Christian Chapman was less than ideal, but at times Mr. Agnew seemed to spend too much mental time watching the clock featuring the return of Mr. Chapman.  This year’s introduction of the spread offense should allow for a great deal of creativity on behalf of Mr. Agnew.  He is a qb who can run vertically.  Such talent creates options for offensive coordinator Jeff Horton on behalf of Mr. Agnew.  The back up is juco transfer Jordon Brookshire (jr) followed by Mark Salazar (soph) and/or Carson Baker (rs-fr).

Running back:  Once Juwan Washington (sr) went down, so did the 2018 Aztec running game.  I was hoping Nebraska transfer Greg Bell (jr) would provide a true 1-2 punch that Aztec fans expect.  Alas, Mr. Bell is injured and unlikely to play in 2019.  Mr. Washington, injured or not, had a good year in 2018 (5.0 yards per carry, 10 tds, 111 yards per game).  The problem was the mere 9 games he played.  Expect a healthy Juwan Washington to rush for a minimum of 1,500 yards in 2019.  If, please God, no, he is not healthy, last year’s challenge of maintaining an impactful run game rears its ugly head, yet again.  I found Chase Jasmin (jr) to be a significant step down from Mr. Washington.  Mr. Jasmin runs a tad too slashy (new word) for me.  I’m hopeful that both Chance Bell (soph) and Jordan Byrd (soph) receive more opportunities to run the ball in 2019.

Fullback:  This position was little used, less the standard blocking, last year.  Isaac Lessard (sr), last year’s starting fullback is injured.  Either Grady Vazquez (jr) or Connor McBride (so) do most of the initial pushing and shoving on behalf of Mr. Washington.  However, in light of the spread offense, I expect the fullback position to be less of an influence compared to past years.

Wide Receiver:  Five guys played last year.  So, I’m proposing a mix of those five to significantly expand the number of catches from last year.  Ethan Dedeaux (so), Kobe Smith (so), Elijah Kothe (so), Bj Busbee (so . . . those of you paying attention have discovered a theme) and Isiah Macklin (jr . . . theme no more).  These gentlemen can catch the ball and run vertically.  What more do I want?  I remain a fan of wide receivers coach Hunkie Cooper.  Why?  Because Mr. Cooper demands, at the very least, the ability to block downfield to create those extra yards for their fellow Aztec with the ball.  This year, his receiving corps blossoms with the spread offense.

Tight End:  Parker Houston becomes “the man”.  He will block less in the 2019 offensive scheme, thus his 16 catches from 2018 should increase enough to notice.  Daniel Bellinger is second on the depth chart.  Alex Wilson (so) and Nic McTear (rs-fr) should be in the mix as the season progresses.  Much like the wide receivers, this is a position that will benefit from the offensive change.

O line:  A disappointment in 2018.  I labeled last year’s squad to be the pre-season best in the MWC.  Wrong.  Tyler Roemer’s departure during the 2018 season was the cherry on top of a bad blocking performance by the Aztec o-line.  Injury did not help, but injury is part of the annual puzzle that must be solved.  As currently listed, the experience is found on the left side.  Left tackle Kyle Spalding (jr), Daishawn Dixon (sr) at left guard and #2 man behind Mr. Spalding, Zachary Thomas (jr), supply brains as well as brawn.  Keith Ismael (jr) and Dominic Gudino (jr) are listed 1 and 2 at the center spot, though Mr. Gudino is far too talented not to start at another line position.  Is this a sign that I should be content with depth?  The massive William Dunkle (6′ 5″, 355, rs-fr) is currently listed as the starting right guard.  The University or Oregon transfer Jacob Capra (jr) most likely earns the right tackle spot.  I’m expecting a return to blocking prominence in 2019.

Defense

D line:  Sophomores, Connor Mitchell and Keshawn Banks, are the defensive ends.  These two received significant playing time in 2018.  Good gets better in 2019.  Myles Cheatum (sr) will be the nose guard.  Juco transfers, Jalil Lecky (jr) and Jonah Tavai (jr), add size and experience (something more than high school football experience) given the relative youth and inexperience of non-starter defensive linemen.  The return of former head coach Brady Hoke as defensive line coach guarantees a much improved Aztec front three during 2019.

Linebacker:  A point of strength, again.  Yawn.  Kyahva Tezino (sr) and his 127 tackles from 2018 centers the defense.  A mix of Caden McDonald (so), Andrew Aleki (jr), Troy Cassidy (sr), Kaelin Himphill (jr), Seyddrick Lakalaka (so) and Will Stricklin (jr) will raise hell, chaos and confusion to the opponents detriment.  A deep and talented group.

D backfield:  These guys are as good as the linebackers.  Luq Barcoo (sr) returns from injury.  Trenton Thompson (jr) and the other Thompson (Tariq, also a junior), Dwyane Johnson (jr) and Darren Hall (so) complete the starting five.  Kyree Woods (sr) may not start, but he will see quality time on the field.

Kicking, punting and special teams:  John Barron is gone.  Boo.  I will miss John.  He was good.  Matt Araiza (rs-fr) is the field goal kicker for now.  If he misses from inside 30 yards, Rocky will sit Mr. Araiza and instead institute two-point plays after touchdowns until further notice.  Do not miss the easy/makable kicks, Mr. Araiza.  Brandon Heicklen (sr) improved his punting game as the 2018 season progressed.  Turner Bernard (jr) handles the long snaps.  Rocky and Jeff will deploy the usual mix of running backs and wide receivers to catch kick offs and punts.  Key word is catch.  Fumbles are death.

The Schedule

Weber State (8/31) is no slouch.  Aztec faithful are painfully aware of our history with FCS schools.  Weber State made the second round of last year’s FCS playoffs.  If the Aztecs overlook these guys, we are off to an official bad start.

@ UCLA.  A game we can win, Pasadena or no Pasadena.  The Bruins play Oklahoma the following Saturday.  I’m anticipating a dose of only-a-MWC-school in light of the Sooners impending arrival.

@ New Mexico State.  Aztecs win.  The Aggies were 3-9 last year and 2-3 at home.

Utah State.  As stated in my ever dazzling MWC football review, Utah State is built around Jordan Love.  A substantial amount of 2018 talent on both sides of the ball is gone.  However, USU has a bye week to prepare game strategy prior to their Aztec date.  SDSU’s defense must set the tone early and often.

@CSU followed by a SDSU bye week. The good news is traveling to Fort Collins in early October makes crazy weather less of a factor.  With a week to prepare, the Aztecs dominate on both sides of the football.

Wyoming at home is a win.

@ San Jose State is a win.

@ UNLV.  Ditto.

Nevada arrives after our second bye week.  College football mavens think more of the Wolf Pack’s ability than I do.  Win.

Fresno State, much like Utah State, loses enough talent to notice.  Yet, by the date of this game (11/16/19) that challenge has been met or not.  The final possession determines the winner.

@ Hawaii.  I’m not looking forward to this game.  Hawaii is vastly improved.  The team with the most mistakes/turnovers/penalties loses.

BYU.  Why we agreed to play these guys is inexplicable.  A divorced parent suddenly agrees to date the former spouse?  The guy you fired wants to be your best friend?  Though, play we must.  This game, while impactful, has no bearing on our MWC standing.  If the Aztecs at this point in the 2019 season have delivered beyond and above expectations, the game becomes significant regarding bowl game designation.  As a fan with decades of BYU/SDSU games in my skull, I long to always beat these guys.  By one or a lot.  Kick BYU butt.

Best case scenario:  10-2.  Worst case scenario:  8-4.  Consecutive bowl game number 10 awaits.

Go, Aztecs.

 

 

 

Mostly a yawner until the Zach Greinke trade.  Nonetheless, here we go.

The Twins did well.  Not great, but well.  Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson create depth that did not exist.  Closer Taylor Rogers and late inning men Ryne Harper and Mike Morin now have plenty of help holding leads from the sixth inning forward.  Minnesota will have their hands full during the Dog Days as Cleveland continues their slow chug for first in the A.L. Central.  Mr. Romo was swapped for two minor leaguers.  One is interesting.  Lewin Diaz, 22, lefty first baseman in AA.  Mr. Diaz has a cumulative power line of 55/249 accompanied with a recently developed sense of hitting for the sake of batting average and obp.  A rare quality choice by Miami scouts and administration.  Mr. Dyson was traded for three minor leaguers.  A tad excessive given the fact that Mr. Dyson finally became a quality bullpen guy in 2018.  Of the three, Jaylin Davis is, sadly, the only one worth a look.  Mr. Davis is in year three of development.  Currently at AAA he is a right fielder with pop.  I grant Mr. Davis a visit to San Francisco prior to season’s end.

L.A. acquiring Tyler White is a solid late inning addition.  Mr. White is an above average defensive first baseman.  Unfortunately, his bat does not follow his glove.  Andre Scrubb is Houston bound.  A fine choice less a slight bb problem, but I’m sure Houston’s AAA coaching staff will fix that concern.  Mr. Scrubb, either a closer or eighth inning man (you choose), has a lifetime line of 2.37/1.25.

Initially when the Mets traded for Marcus Stroman, I assumed Noah Snydergaard was long gone.  Instead the Mets hold steady and strengthen their starting pitching staff.  With these two and Jacob deGrom, a late wild card charge by the Mets is not out of the question regardless of management.

Hats off to Tampa.  A round of applause coupled with fireworks, please.  Eric Sogard makes injury much more manageable.  Mr. Sogard plays most anywhere.  Jesus Aguilar brings his substantial power and deft glove to first base.  Next, Tampa adds Trevor Richards (a perfect fit for a #5 starter) and Nick Anderson in the bullpen.  At the time of the trade, Mr. Anderson led the lowly Miami bullpen in ip (43 2/3) while sporting a whip of 1.28.  Upon hearing the trade, rumor insists that Ryne Stanek, the Miami bound victim, screamed, “Kansas City!  Please send me to K.C.!  Hell, I’ll go to Baltimore!”

Speaking of screaming, why did Milwaukee trade for the likes of Jordan Lyles, Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black?  Would a decent Broadway show give the Three Stooges starring roles?  S.F. receives Mauricio Dubon.  A quality shortstop who can hit and steal.  Mr. Dubon likely sets up shop in San Francisco immediately.  Cody Ponce was the exchangee (new word) for Mr. Lyles.  He’s a righty starter with a cumulative line of 3.72/1.25.  He is currently in AA.  A nice choice by Pittsburgh.

Corey Dickerson moves from one end of Pennsylvania to the other.  He definitely helps the Phillies.  Mr. Dickerson is a classic under-the-radar player.  As for the player to be named later, betcha’ he’s a 19 year old in rookie ball.  As for the Phils trading for Jason Vargas . . . why?  I loved the Mets demanding Austin Bossart.  He is a 24 year old platoon catcher who cannot hit, but, depending upon which of his minor league seasons, throws out 35% to 46% of baserunners.  So there.

Atlanta takes Chris Martin (I”m not a fan) and Shane Greene (I’m a fan).  Kolby Allard goes to Texas.  In three years of minor league ball, Mr. Allard went from rookie ball to AAA.  He didn’t play, he visited.  Impressive numbers puts him on the hill in Texas this season.  Joey Wentz goes to Detroit.  Year three finds him in AA.  He is progressing well.  Given the Tigers need for mound help, he pitches in the bigs in 2020.

Tanner Roark eats innings and doesn’t walk batters.  He helps Oakland stay in the A.L. wild card hunt.

Martin Maldonado to Houston was a dumb move by Theo.  Do not trade quality defensive catching to upgrade the rest of the defense.  Cubs pitchers are not happy.  Houston pitchers are quite pleased.  Tony Kemp will do his usual 2b/ss/cf rotation in late innings for the Cubs.  Joining Tony Kemp in Chicago is Nick Castellanos.  Imagine his joy as he leaves one team that was 32.5 games out of first place to join a team 1 game out and in the thick of division and wild card consideration.  Life is good.

The Nationals rivaled Milwaukee in “You did what?” land.  Daniel Hudson makes sense.  Roenis Elias does not.  Neither does Hunter Strickland who has thrown 3 1/3 ip the entire season.

Cleveland did well.  Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes add significant pop to the middle of the Indians lineup.  Well done.  Logan Allen pitches in Cleveland no later than next year. He was my #1 rated pitcher in the Padres organization.  The Padres receive the much ballyhooed Taylor Trammel who has struggled this year in AA.  Why the collective excitement of baseball mavens over Mr. Trammel?  Finally, Trevor Bauer can now throw baseballs into the Ohio River while pitching for the Reds.

The Zach Greinke deal almost seals the deal for the Astros to appear in the World Series.  I know games must be played, but once the playoffs and three man rotations begin, beating Mr. Greinke, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole is a tall order.  The Snakes chose well from Houston.  Seth Beer, a first baseman and outfielder, in two years has a line of .307/.401 with 37/128.  Josh Rojas is a middle infielder with gap power and base stealing know how (70 bags in 3 years).  Of the two pitchers selected, Corbin Martin likely takes the mound in Phoenix this year.

Enjoy the Dog Days.  Best baseball ever.