Posts Tagged ‘Greg Bell’

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.

An old fashioned butt kicking.

10-7 at the half was cause for hand wringing and cursing (plenty). Matt Araiza missed consecutive field goals! What the hell? Okay, the first miss was partially blocked, but c’mon, Superman never fails. Mr. Araiza proves to be human. How dare he. Regardless of Mr. Araiza’s misses, we were first half incompetent when attempting to deliver the football to the end zone.

Behold! The second half begins and the Aztec offense arrives with a blistering performance. 28 points are added to the score board. Greg Bell (161 yards, 7.1 per carry), Chance Bell (98, 9.8) and Jordan Byrd (1 carry for a 78 yard sprint touchdown. My, that will inflate the old yards per carry) enjoyed the hard work of the Aztec offensive line. Carson Baker improved on his UNLV performance with a line of 18/27/163 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Kobe Smith (seemingly a good half foot taller than the Utah State cornerback assigned to stop him) had 6 receptions to lead the other seven who had at least 1 catch. Game’s end featured 570 yards of offense! Of course 71% of those yards were courtesy of the run. Dare I say, the offense has returned.

Utah State did little to nothing all night. Zeroes were notched for the first, third and fourth quarters. The Aggies registered small numbers in passing (112 yards) and rushing (103 yards). They were 3 and done on 6 separate occasions. Their punter was busy (7 punts) and weary. During the first and third quarters, USU did not move the ball to the 50 yard line meaning the Aztec defense was top notch consecutive games. Kurt Mattix calls an excellent game from the booth. May he be Rocky Long II.

As a side note, congrats to Tanner Kuljian on his first punt as an Aztec. 58 yards in the thin air of Logan, Utah. Lucas Johnson also stepped on the field for the first time during the last drive for the obligatory hand-off parade to end the game.

2-0. Go, Aztecs.