2020 San Diego State Aztecs Football Preview

Posted: July 11, 2020 in Uncategorized

Let me begin with these words:  The 2020 season is highly unlikely to be completed.  Not just Aztec football, but all college football.  C-19 is increasing in severity (I’m a hospitalization rate guy.  Sure the infection rate is important, but the better telltale sign is how many people are hospitalized due to C-19 infection) as of today (July 8, 2020) and has been for the last half of June.  The Aztec football schedule as presented is likely altered.  Thus life during the C-19 era.  Enough of this cheery note.  Let us take a gander at the 2020 SDSU football team.

The coaching staff underwent significant change.  This makes me feel a tad unsettled.  However, less so than normal given the familiar face of Brady Hoke returning to the head coaching position.  Reportedly, Brady gave a promise/pledge/cross my heart to both Adela de la Torre and John David Wicker that he will remain at the Mesa for the duration of his current contract.  No more Michigan or any other school knocking on his door (that’s not happening anyway) due to the success of the Aztecs.  Jeff Hecklinski becomes the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.  Mr. Hecklinski brings the “fresh look” on behalf of the offensive players stuck in the #2, #3, and #4 spots on the depth chart.  I choose to believe that Mr. Hecklinski will throw the ball a great deal more than Aztec fans have witnessed the last three years.  I expect a minimum of 25 tosses per game.  Not that the running game will be the second act to the passing game, simply the offense will be balanced.  Jeff Horton is no longer the offensive coordinator (thank, God).  He will stay busy with the running backs.  Savai’i Eselu will coach the tight ends.  Defensively, Kurt Mattix assumes Rocky Long’s role as defensive coordinator.  Good luck.  He may as well be the guy who follows Mike Trout when the time comes.  Mr. Mattix claims he will keep the essence of Rocky’s 3-3-5 defense.  I hope so.  Mr. Mattix will also oversee the linebackers.  Kyle Hoke (yes, related to Brady) is the new safeties coach.  Jordan Thomas assumes Brady’s old role of handling the defensive line.  Lots of change.

Offense

Quarterback:  A spirited competition awaits for the starting quarterback spot between  Carson Baker (so.) and transfer Lucas Johnson (jr.).  Mr. Baker started and won the BYU game and did quite well.  He has an arm.  Forty and fifty yard ropes while under pressure are the rule for Mr. Baker.  Mr. Johnson rarely played at Georgia Tech (he was originally a SDSU recruit out of high school.  We all make mistakes, Mr. Johnson).  He is the traditional dual threat quarterback.  Unlike most dual threat quarterbacks, he can actually throw the ball downfield.  At the very least, Coach Heck (the aforementioned Mr. Hecklinski) has options.  The third spot will be a toss up between Jordon Brookshire (jr.) and Matt Salazar (jr.).

Running Backs:  Mr. Horton will have an impressive rotation of backs.  Four returning backs had carries of 89, 79, 78 and 30, which translates into proven game experience.  The Nebraska transfer Greg Bell (sr.), who did not play last year due to injury, enhances a sound rotation of able running backs.  I anticipate Greg Bell to make a starting duo of Bells with Chance Bell (jr., 4.3 yards per rush).  Let the nicknaming begin!  Chase Jasmin (sr., 4.6 ypr) will be part of this active swirl of running backs that includes Jordan Byrd (jr., 4.6 ypr) and Kaegun Williams (jr., 3.7 ypr).

Fullback:  I expect to see the fullbacks, when on the field, slotted for downfield blocking or the surprise catch a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage.  Gone are the days of the bruiser who partnered with the running back for battering purposes at the snap.  Grady Vazquez (sr.), Connor McBride (jr.),  Andrew Alves (so.) and Charlie Rogers (r-fr.) form the depth chart in the order presented.

Wide Receivers:  Lots of talent returning.  Lots.  Coach Hunkie Cooper will enjoy year two of palatable success.  Kobe Smith (jr., 58 catches, 12 yards per catch) and Jesse Matthews (so., 48 catches, 13 ypc) start on opposite sides of the tackles.  Elijah Kothe (jr., 17 catches, 11 ypc), Ethan Dedeaux (jr., 7 catches, but an impressive 17 ypc), Isaiah Richardson (jr., 9 catches, 13 ypc) and BJ Busbee (jr., 13 catches, 8 ypc) back-up Mr. Smith and Mr. Matthews.  Given my WAG (wild ass guess) about Coach Heck’s desire to involve a ball in flight on a regular basis, this group should experience notable increases in both catches and yards per catch.  Visiting the end zone on a regular basis is also on the agenda.

Tight Ends:  I do not foresee a double tight end formation as often as the past.  Daniel Bellinger (jr., 15 catches, 13 ypc) gets the majority of field time.  Transfer Nolan Givan (sr.) doubles with or subs Mr. Bellinger.  Alex Wilson (jr.) is the remaining tight end on the spring roster meaning rare opportunity for true freshmen Aaron Greene and Jay Rudolph to impress during practice.  Take advantage, gentlemen.

Offensive Line:  Last year’s performance was better than 2018’s.  I trust 2020’s will be better than 2019’s.  Coach Mike Schmidt has returning, experienced players that should (a dangerous word.  Should get out of bed.  Should put down the donut) create an able line of protection for all involved.  William Dunkle (so., rg), Zachary Thomas (sr., rt) and Keith Spalding (sr., lt) are returning starters.  Dominic Guidino (sr.) earns a start at the center spot.  Jacob Capra (sr.) does the same at left guard.  Plenty of competition awaits the group forming the second tier:  Desmond Bessent (jr.), Joey Capra (r-fr.), Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson (r-fr.), Chris Martinez (jr.), Kyle Trombley (r-fr.), and Alama Uluave (jr.).

Defense

I enjoyed the Days of Rocky.  Great times.  I am spoiled and have great expectations. Do you hear me, Coach Mattix?

Defensive Line:  Cameron Thomas (so., 49 tackles) and Keyshawn Banks (jr., 43 tackles) are looking for the third starter on the line.  I’m guessing Connor Mitchell (jr.).  He played often enough to notice last year.  Jonah Tavai (jr.), Sefo Mailangi (sr.) and Jalil Lecky (sr.) form the second level.

Linebackers:  Andrew Aleki (sr., 35 tackles) is the only returning linebacker with substantial total tackles in 2019.  The much ballyhooed (love that word) Michael Shawcraft (so.,) starts in 2020.  Choose from Seydrick Lakalaka (jr.), Kaelin Himphill (sr.), Caden McDonald (jr.), and Clifton Styles (so.) to complete the trio of starters.

Defensive Backs:  I group the corners, safties, warriors together.  Why?  Easier for me.  Dwayne Johnson Jr. (sr., 92 tackles), Tariq Thompson (sr., 55 tackles), Darren Hall (jr., 49 tackles), Trenton Thompson (sr., 44 tackles), Tayler Hawkins (sr., 30 tackles) occupy all five of the 2020 starting spots.  Four seniors and a junior bring a tremendous amount of experience, skill and talent.  Opposing quarterbacks can look forward to general confusion and doubt when putting a ball in the air against the Aztec defense.  Most likely next in line:  Cedarious Barfield (so.,), Patrick Morris (so.) and Rashad Scott (jr.).

Kicking Game

Matt Araiza (so.) begins year two as king of field goals and extra points.  Plus, he booms the ball into the end zone during kickoffs.  He can punt as well, but I’m guessing special teams coach Doug Deakin seeks another leg for that duty.  Tanner Kuljian (sr., graduate transfer) gets first shot at the punting job.  He averaged 43 yards in 2018 and 40 yards last year.  Turner Bernard (sr.) is the long snapper.

2020 Prediction

First, if we play all scheduled games, I will be the most surprised fan in Aztec land.  Assuming the impossible happens, the first three games (Sacramento State, @Toledo, UCLA) result in 2-1.  MWC begins on September 26th at Nevada, followed by UNLV, @Utah State, @ Wyoming, San Jose State and Colorado State.  BYU interupts conference play.  We finish @ Fresno State and home against Hawaii.  Both Nevada schools are Aztec wins.  Same with Utah State.  Wyoming (October 17th is better than November given the wild weather that can roar through Laramie at anytime during autumn) is a toss up.  We beat both the Spartans and Rams.  BYU (there) . . .  who knows?  I despise playing those guys.  We beat Fresno.  And Hawaii.  In my perfect world, SDSU goes 10-2 best case.  8-4 worst case.  Mountain West play ranges from 7-1 to 5-3.

Sadly, as I post this masterpiece, I read that the PAC-12 cancelled all non-con games, thus our game against UCLA is no more.

 

 

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