Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Bellinger’

Last year was a year to forget. “Season” is a relative term especially when your school plays a mere 8 games. However, finishing 4-4/4-2 was disappointing. I refuse excuses such as the circus of phone calls and cancellations that finally led to a trip to Boulder where our offense sputtered, stalled and collapsed, thus summing most Aztec offensive efforts for 2020. A successful 2021 season demands a functional offense that puts the ball in the end zone on a regular basis. Three and out moments cannot be the rule of the day. If so, third place in the West division will be the shoulder shrugging result.

Offense: We need a lot of offense during 2021. Whomever wins the quarterback competition will be expected to direct the Aztec offense into the end zone, especially once inside the sacred red-zone. Score and score often. Please.

Quarterback: Lucas Johnson, Jordon Brookshire and Jaylen Mayden will continue the battle royale for the starting spot into August practice. One of the three always pulls a hamstring, one has grand difficulty throwing a pass in excess of 25 yards and the other I know nothing about less his Texas high school football video highlights. You can guess who is who. My hope is a healthy Lucas Johnson coupled with an ever improving Jalen Mayden share the qb duties. I realize my hope is heresy in established football circles because I dare suggest the sharing of the position. However, my reason for duality is the almost guaranteed moment when Mr. Johnson encounters hamstring issues, therefore Mr. Mayden is more than ready.

Running Backs: Greg Bell’s health determines if SDSU has an effective running game in 2021. Sure, Kaegun Williams (4.8 ypr), Chance Bell (4.9 ypr) and Jordan Byrd (6.4 ypr) will continue to receive significant play time, but the running game (and offense) was not the same once Greg Bell (5.6 ypr) was dogged by an ankle injury. Given post-spring practice coaching comments about Jaylon Armstead, I assume he will be in the above mix. Less Mr. Armstead, all the above are seniors, thus offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski and running backs coach Jeff Horton need to groom talent for 2022.

Wide Receivers: A position completely underutilized in 2020. 24 was the greatest number of receptions by an Aztec receiver last year which is a massive dud. Jesse Matthews should (a dangerous word) at least double that number in 2021. Kobe Smith (13 catches), Elijah Kothe (7 catches), TJ Sullivan, Isaiah Richardson, BJ Busbee and Ethan Dedeaux form a competent corps of wide receivers eager to catch and run in 2021. Aztecs of all shapes and sizes and positions caught a total of 115 balls (barely 14 completions per game) in 2020. Increasing that number to 220 will offer proof that the 2021 SDSU offense is indeed balanced between the throw and run.

Tight End: Daniel Bellinger (21 catches for a tad less than 10 yards per catch last year) must be put to greater use in 2021. I hope Mr. Hecklinski calls Mr. Bellinger’s number 6 to 8 times per game during the upcoming season. Standing 6’6 and weighing 255 pounds, he is tough to miss. The #2 tight end will be either Connor McBride or Jay Rudolph.

Offensive Line: This group will be a strong point in 2021 especially with the addition of Mike Goff as offensive line coach. Yes, Mike Schmidt was a fine coach, but too many moments arose the last two years exposing inadequate, sustained blocking that squashed a would be 10+ yard rush into a stumble just past the line of scrimmage. Mr. Goff will be a welcome change for all involved. Joey Capra, Dominic Gudino (please stay healthy), Chris Martinez, Alama Uluave and William Dinkle (see Mr. Gudino) and Zachary Thomas bring a wealth of experience and skill. Kyle Trombley and Tommy Mirabella likely join the 2021 rotation.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix delivered big time ( an Uncle Teddy phrase. Those of you who don’t know the person referred to are not real Aztec football or basketball fans. Shame, you pretenders) in 2020. Last year’s Aztec defense allowed less than 18 points a game and less than 100 yards rushing per game. 283.5 yards of opponents’ offense was the average over the course of last year. Yet, we went 4-4 because of our poor offense. Sure, defensive generated turnovers ending in the end zone are welcome, not expected.

Defensive Line: Much like their brothers on the o-line, a place of strength in 2021. Keshawn Banks, Cameron Thomas anchor the front three. The winner of the Connor Mitchell, Kahi Neves, Jonah Tavai and Jalil Lecky August practice competition determines the #3 starter with the others appearing in game rotation this season.

Linebackers: Caden McDonald, Michael Shawcroft, Seyddrick Lakalaka, Andrew Aleki, Andrew Alves and Segun Olubi represent the best group of linebackers in the entire Mountain West.

Defensive Backs: Much is to be replaced with departure of Tariq Thompson, Dwayne Johnson and Darren Hall who were also the top three tacklers in 2020. Trenton Thompson, Tayler Hawkins and Patrick McMorris are looking for two more Aztecs to make a competent defensive backfield. Rashad Scott is rumored to be healthy once again. Kyron White, Noah Tumblin and Dallas Branch compete to fill the available spots.

Kicking: The talented Matt Araiza will provide many an accurate kick between the goal posts.

Punting: Jack Browning or true freshman Collyn Hopkins compete for the honor. However, if both falter, Mr. Araiza can punt, though head coach Brady Hoke would rather have him concentrate solely on his field goal opportunities.

2021 Schedule

New Mexico State is a win. A ready-to-play Aztec team dominates the Aggies.

@ Arizona results in better coaching beating the Wildcats in Tucson.

Utah will be prepared as they enter Carson for a road game against a MWC school. Potentially a close game, but the Utes win.

Towson: Having read through the Tigers roster, they sport a plethora of transfers from better division I schools. If SDSU starts flat, this game could be a disappointing loss. However, I choose the Aztecs.

New Mexico: This game follows SDSU’s first off week. Containing the UNM rushing game will be key. Aztecs win by a healthy margin.

@ San Jose State: Our first MWC road game and a doozy (cool word) in the waiting. Spartan qb Nick Starkel is talented and so is his receiving corps. This game is won or lost in the air. Last possession wins the game. Sadly, I go with the Spartans.

@ Air Force: This game is scheduled for October 23. In Colorado Springs. The weather will be psychotic. As the SJSU game will be air dominated, the Falcons will do little flying. Both teams will pound and ground. SDSU in a close one because we can throw better than the birds.

Fresno State: As stated in my MWC West preview, I sense Bulldog football is taking a step backward. This game will be the Bulldog’s ninth game. If they arrive 6-2 or 5-3, the game will be close. Anything less, not so much. The Aztecs win.

@ Hawaii: If the Aztec defense controls the Hawaii passing offense, a fairly easy win. Hawaii’s defense has problems stopping any type of competent offense. SDSU wins and enjoys the flight home.

Nevada: Last year’s 26-21 loss to the Wolfpack in Reno was pure coulda, shoulda, woulda. Carson Strong is one of the top three MWC qbs. Nevada has proven talent galore returning on both sides of the ball. Nevada.

@ UNLV: The Rebels coaching staff was brand new last year. New schemes, new attitude, new everything except the result at game’s end. Aztecs by at least 17.

Boise State: This game begins at 9:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t care. And neither will the SDSU coaching staff. The Bronco passing game often shuts the door on opponents. I go with the class of the Mountain division.

2021’s result will be 8-4/5-3. If my prediction of losing to both San Jose State and Fresno State rings true, we finish third in the West. A bowl game is likely, though not guaranteed.

Go, Aztecs.

When I bitch and moan during a 31 – 10 win, my Aztec football life is a tad too good.  Yet, I bitched and moaned during our prolonged penalty party (Dominic Gudino called for holding twice?  C’mon, Dom) that stalled a second quarter drive into a Matt Araiza field goal rather than a touchdown.  My burden is great.

Speaking of Mr. Araiza, six kick offs equaled six touchbacks.  Not bad.  I want to witness the spectacle of the SDSU kick off team veering immediately to the sidelines after one of Mr. Araiza’s kicks.  Who needs coverage when a touchback is guaranteed?  All that sprinting for nothing.

The running game returned with a flourish.  Does this imply our o-line is becoming more effective?  I choose yes.  Jordan Byrd seems to be the heir apparent.  22/134 and 2 touchdowns speaks well.  Chance Bell made the best of his playing time with a line of 17/121 and 1 touchdown.  Ryan Agnew was a passing qb during the first half, then morphed into last year’s version of Captain Handoff during the second half.  I believe I’m bitching and moaning, again.  However, Mr. Agnew was without an interception and did throw for a touchdown to Daniel Bellinger.  Mr. Agnew did not suffer a sack courtesy of the Aztec o-line.

The Aztec defense was sack city against the Aggies.  6 tosses to the ground were suffered by the NMSU qb.  Many bruises.  Keshawn Banks led the way with 2 and enjoyed the company of Cameron Thomas (1.5), Myles Cheatum (1.5) and Andrew Aleki (1).  The Aztec defense created a total of 46 lost yards on behalf of the Aggie offense.  A whole lot of backwards goes a long way.  The Aztec rush defense allowed 30 yards the entire game.  The pass defense, not so much.  299 yards was far too much to a team that specializes in short slant routes.  I find inadequate Luq Barcoo’s and Kyahva Tezino’s interceptions.  I want roses, not daises.  Again, I’m bitching and moaning.

The offense has scored a total of 60 points during the first three games.  To beat Utah State we will need at least half that number.

3-0.  Go, Aztecs.

I don’t know if we are lucky or good.  Maybe a bit of both.  Nevertheless, this game was heavy to the yuck factor.

Thank God for John Barron.  The game winner from 51 yards out (or 52 depending who you listen to) was the perfect final score to a game featuring incompetent offense.  The Aztec offensive line was marginal.  Far too much SJSU pressure was delivered to Ryan Agnew.  He scrambled like eggs on a Saturday morning.  The Spartan defense was camped in the Aztec backfield causing lost yards snap after snap on behalf of Chase Jasmin, Chance Bell and Kaegun Williams (don’t fumble and you get to play).  Ryan Agnew was, again, pedestrian.  His 7/11 featured a miraculous 12.3 yards per catch.  How is that possible?

The Aztec defense saved the night.  Especially holding San Jose State on 4th and 2 deep in the fourth quarter.  Tariq Thompson’s interception highlight was the 41 yards he advanced the ball.  SJSU averaged 1.8 yards per rush and registered only 295 total yards for the evening.  Josh Love posted the most ineffective 26/36 effort of any quarterback this season.  All for a paltry 215 yards passing.  Without a touchdown.  If Ryan Agnew or Christian Chapman ever threw the ball 36 times in a game, I would assume that Jeff Horton was not on the field.

A tip of the hat to Brandon Heicklen averaging 41.8 yards per punt.  Sorely needed and thank you.

Congrats to Damon Moore, Tayler Hawkins, Connor Mitchell, Chance Bell (I like what I see.  He should be “the guy” until Juwan Washington returns) and Daniel Bellinger logging minutes that mattered at game’s end.

6-1/3-0.  Bowl eligible.  Rocky coaches his 100th game as a head coach.  And wins.  Courtesy of a kicker he actually talks to on the sidelines.

“Can you make a fifty harder?”

“Sure.”

“Let’ go.”

Go, Aztecs.