Posts Tagged ‘Hunkie Cooper’

The promising start of 6 – 1 crumbles to 7 – 6.  Four consecutive losses.  The fourth was an absolute butt kicking courtesy of the Ohio Bobcats, 27-0.  The Aztec offense imploded.  We resembled a fourth grade effort at building a papier-mache volcano project gone horribly wrong.  Crap was everywhere with nothing to show.  The game’s end shutout provides emphasis for areas to improve in 2019.  Offense, offense, offense and, um, let’s see, offense.

Rocky and Jeff need to reconsider their commitment to pound and ground given the fact that once Juwan Washington was injured three of the next four games featured SDSU rushing totals of less than 200 yards.  His first game after recovering from his injury also featured  a game total of less than 200 yards . . . as did the next two games as well.  Pound and ground?  More like slap and tickle.  This unimpressive result lies at the collective feet of the offensive line and to a lesser extent the tight ends.  Certainly, injury played a part, but which season does injury not play a part in the journey of an offensive line?  Mike Schmidt has much to fix next year during spring and summer ball.

Perhaps a more balanced offense would contribute to an improved offensive line.  Yet, I have doubts that Ryan Agnew is “the guy” for 2019.  A completion percentage of 51.6% does not create an abundance of confidence.  Granted, Christian Chapman’s 89 passing attempts given to Mr. Agnew might generate an improved completion rate and a sizable increase of his 1,651 total yards passing.  However, might implies might not.

Given the stellar years of Kahale Warring and Parker Houston at the tight-end spots, I trust coach Horton will continue to incorporate passes in their general direction.  I congratulate coach Hunkie Cooper for offering a strong three-deep on each side of the quarterback group of wide receivers during 2018.  At last, we have receivers who can stretch the field after catching the football.  Let’s stretch more often in 2019.

Returning to the running game, I feel the need to abandon the fullback as permanent partner of Mr. Washington.  How about a dual running back set more offensive snaps than not?  Also, I am unconvinced that Chase Jasmin is the #2 back.  I lean towards Chance Bell.  He runs with more abandon and inflicts pain on those attempting to tackle him.

2018 sputtered to an offensive close of 187 passing yards per game and a very un-Aztec 161.7 rushing yards per game.  Feeble, pale, unsteady.  More proof?  All four MWC losses were single digit.  By 4 to Nevada, 3 to UNLV, 9 to Fresno and 1 to Hawaii.  17 points total.  Our offense could not find 18 more points.  What about the seven wins?  The 14 point difference against Sacramento State provided the only double-digit win of the season.  “Single digit” was the Aztec offense nickname and a ready title for a convention of underachievers.  If “single digit” doesn’t motivate, what will?

As for the 2018 defense, less the first (Stanford) and last (Ohio) games of the season, the SDSU defense held their end of the bargain.  Sure, the defensive backfield can improve, but the front three and linebacking crew were outstanding.  When the opposition is held to an average of 334.6 total yards per game accented with allowing an average of only 3 yards per carry, the defense creates hope.  Also, how many head coaches and offensive coordinators (especially) would give a body part for a defense that allowed an average of 22.2 points per game?  Big-12 coaches would offer wives and children for that chance to win.  Frankly, I’m not sure how Rocky improves on giving up less than 231 passing yards per game and less than 104 rushing yards per game.  Though, he will try.

May spring and summer ball create the return of an Aztec offense that blows past 400 yards per game, one way or the other.

 

A defensive gem.  This game was worthy of mud, broken teeth and twisted fingers.  The Aztec defense was exceptional.  Consider:

Stanford’s first three possessions were three and out.

The tree throws for a mere 64 yards on a bad 9/20 with 2 interceptions (thank you, Ron Smith and Kameron Kelly).

Stanford’s total offense at the end of the first quarter:  3 yards.

Stanford’s time of possession in the first quarter:  2:19.  Yeah, I know you can credit the Aztec offense as well.

Total tree offense at the half:  88 yards.

The Aztec defense stops Stanford inside the ten resulting in three points as opposed to seven at the end of the third quarter.

And, of course, the Kameron Kelly pick with 54 seconds remaining.

Final total yardage for Stanford:  238.

Proof enough.

Now for the Aztec offense.  First, Christian Chapman throwing in the pocket is as effective as using bare hands to remove a hot dish from the oven.  Christian needs to move to be successful.  No more pocket stuff.  21/29/0 and one touchdown was a solid performance.  Mikah Holder had his best game of the season.  7 catches for 85 yards and besting his twin brother makes for a fine evening.  Rashaad Penny running against a quality defense for 175 yards (5.5 yards per carry) is testament to his place as a top-ten running back.  The final drive post-electrical collapse is further proof of a team on course to have another fine year.  David Wells insisting on the end-zone and game winning touchdown will be a 2017 season favorite.

John Barron misses a field goal.  Who knew?

Brandon Heicklen needs to be much more consistent with his punts.  To date, his effort is as scattered as his punting.  Also, the offensive line struggled against the Stanford defense.  Mr. Chapman was often on the run on behalf of his own safety.  Clean up that mess now.

Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed Hunkie Cooper yelling at David Shaw for touching Aztec players as the two teams were leaving the field at the half.  Don’t touch Hunkie’s kids.  Speaking of kids, great to see the student section storm the field at game’s end.

As a side note to the city of San Diego, what more proof do you need to maintain the stadium other than the lights going off for 25 minutes?  Game interruption on national television is not helpful to either SDSU or the city of San Diego.  Seems minor league.  Invest in something new and spiffy while keeping the lights on.

3-0.  Go Aztecs.

 

 

 

Let’s begin on the offensive side of the ball.

QB:  As “fall” (honestly, any school west of the Rockies should choose a summer or pre-season description rather than any reference to autumn) camp concludes, Maxwell Smith will be named the starting quarterback.  Mr. Smith started for bad Kentucky teams against dauntingly good SEC (the AAA of the NFL) teams.  That experience is beyond valuable.  If Mr. Smith can limit mistakes and quickly grasp the offense of Jeff Horton, a flurry of offense is the result.  Backing Mr. Smith is Christian Chapman and the Oregon transfer Jake Rodrigues.  Thankfully, Nick Bawden is now a fullback.

RB:  The best running back in the MW returns.  Donnel Pumphrey has no peer.  Fine, I admit New Mexico, Wyoming, Fresno State and Colorado State all possess at least one quality running back, but none quite so talented as Mr. Pumphrey.  Chase Price (a human bowling ball seeking immediate contact with linebackers), the injured Marcus Stamp whose depth chart spot will go to Rashaad Penny followed by Pumphrey-sized freshman, Juwan Washington, make for a talented group of running backs.

FB:  Dakota Gordon is entering Chad Young territory.  No higher praise can be offered to any Aztec fullback.

WR:  A point of major weakness in 2014.  Poor route running.  Extreme lack of concentration.  No confidence.  Alas, 2015 Aztec receivers cannot be any worse.  I choose to anticipate renewed vigor and focus given the arrival of the new wide receivers coach, Hunkie Cooper (how can you not have confidence in a man named Hunkie?).  Lloyd Mills (moments of brilliance during 2014), Mikah Holder, Eric Judge and Chase Favreau head a list of credible receivers.  Unlike the Bob Toledo years, look for two, rather than three, receivers at the line of scrimmage.

TE:  All five on the depth chart are listed at 6’5″, thus Maxwell Smith should not have difficulty finding any of them downfield.  If Daniel Brunskill and David Wells each develop a pair of hands, this position could be the surprise of the offense.

OL:  Darrell Greene’s six game suspension puts the damper on three of five returning starters.  Now Nico Siragusa and Pearce Slater are the shining light of return.  Kwayde Miller, Arthur Flores, Robert Craighead more than likely complete the starting five.  Austin Mass probably backs Mr. Flores at the center spot.  Joe Salcedo (redshirt freshman) impresses o-line coach, Mike Schmidt.  This group allows for a successful start or a few games of adjustment as the season begins.

DL:  Jon Sanchez, Christian Heyward and Alex Barrett may be the best d-line in the West of the Mountain West.

LB:  Calvin Munson was the defensive surprise of 2014.  Expect no drop-off in 2015.  If, if, Jake Fely is healthy, he and Mr. Munson will provide and deliver a substantial amount of energy and hurt.  Choose from Jay Henderson, Devante Davis or Ryan Dunn as the other starter.

DB:  What is the greatest benefit of the return of J.J. Whitaker, Damontae Kazee, Malik Smith, Trey Lomax and Na’im McGee?  They all started in 2014.  This lends to a certain calm, satisfying sleep pattern on behalf of Rocky Long.  Coaching these five becomes more of a conversation than instruction.  A great depth rarely found on a college football team.  This group is the strength of the 3-3-5.  Anticipate much more blitzing than any year since Mr. Long arrived on the Mesa.

K:  Donny Hageman and his wonderfully accurate foot return.

P:  Tanner Blain or Joe Weilbacher.  You choose.

LS:  Jeff Overbaugh (and a guaranteed NFL draft selection).

Coaches:  Jeff Horton remains the running backs coach while assuming offensive coordinator duties.  He has edited Bob Toledo’s playbook.  Rather, removed dozens of pages.  Simplicity is the theme.  With a new starting quarterback, I second the idea.  Hunkie Cooper, granted, has zero collegiate experience, but he brings an energy and demand upon the wide receivers not seen in years.  Bobby Hauck, who was seemingly 100-2 at Montana as head coach, should strengthen the special teams.  I find smart of athletic director Jim Sterk to have two ex-head coaches on staff in Mr. Horton and Mr. Hauck.  Whenever Mr. Long decides to retire, in-house replacement may be a convenient and effective theme.  Blaine Morgan enters year one as SDSU quarterbacks coach.  As a former Air Force Cadet quarterback, anticipate Mr. Morgan grooming a feet-don’t-fail-me-now option when all else fails with Aztec quarterbacks.  Media folks love to swoon over Mr. Long’s unique 3-3-5 alignment, but without a quality defensive coaching staff, a 3-3-5 equals 0.  Coaches Lewis (d-line), Arnett (linebackers), White (cornerbacks) and Gonzales (safeties) deserve a great deal of credit and note on behalf of a superb 2014 defensive effort that was nationally ranked.  Look for even greater defensive heights in 2015.

2015 Schedule:  Beginning the season against USD is less than ideal, but a game is a game.  At Cal follows.  An immediate test to determine the real ability of the Aztec defense.  South Alabama is the second home game.  The Jags recruit kids thought to be a step below SEC ability.  This game must find a prepared Aztec squad or this is a not so surprising loss.  Penn State at Happy Valley follows.  I’m predicting an Aztec win (at last) over a legendary football program.  Fresno State (and their impressive band of alumni travelers) opens MWC play at the Q.  Two road games follow:  at Hawaii and at San Jose State.  The Aztecs return home for the always challenging Aggies of Utah State.  A Halloween game at Fort Collins may bring heavy snow, high winds or a pleasant evening.  Wyoming, at UNLV and Nevada finish the 2015 season.  Since two of three are at the Q, opportunity exists to right any prior disappointment.  Worst case:  7-5.  Best case:  10-2.

Final thoughts:  Will 2015 finally yield a win over a PAC-12 school (Cal) or nationally recognized legend (Penn State)?  Will Donnel Pumphrey rush for a minimum of 100 yards each game?  Is Jeff Horton’s offensive scheme simple enough or too simple?  Does an Aztec defense returning eight defensive starters smash opposing offenses or suffer from a case of overconfidence?  As always, stay tuned.