Posts Tagged ‘Tayler Hawkins’

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.

Strange. We score 29 points without an offense.

If not for Jordan Byrd (93 yard kickoff return) and BJ Busbee (90 yard punt return), chances are, we lose to a woeful Colorado State team . . . at home. Well, if I may call Carson home.

Jordon Brookshire rushed 23 times for only 73 yards. Why did Mr. Brookshire rush 23 times? Did all the running backs fall into disfavor during the prior week of practice? Offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski was as innovative as a kid making a pb and j sandwich in a five star restaurant. Crust or no crust? Continuing with the Aztec rushing game, 48 runs yielded a whopping 117 yards. That is less than 2.5 yards per carry. Total offense was a pathetic 247 yards. How many teams win by 12 when generating 247 yards of offense? Only the lucky. Returning to Mr. Brookshire, he was a serviceable 14/24 with 1 touchdown, but to little effect downfield. He remains out of sync with his receivers. By the way, congrats to Dominic Benson (2/22) and Nolan Givan (1/14) for their first Aztec catches. Watching Daniel Bellinger’s (5/53) involvement in the passing game was long overdue. All of this offense scored 1 touchdown. Boo.

Of course, the Aztec special teams were tremendous. Given the above scores by Mr. Byrd and Mr. Busbee, the kickoff return team averaged 43 yards per return while the punt return efforts finished with an average of almost 39 yards per return. Yet, all that above average to great starting points eluded our offense and ended in three Matt Araiza field goals of 40, 21 and 38 yards.

As usual, less the second quarter, the Aztec defense was spectacular. Both Darren Hall and Tayler Hawkins picked off passes in the fourth quarter to hush any prolonged CSU drive. 11 tackles for loss registered 38 yards including 2 sacks. Defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix continues to impress.

4-3/4-2. Go, Aztecs.

Our offense is best described as procrastinating.  We wait and wait.  Score enough to hang around.  Wait some more.  You know what is fun?  Three downs and a punt.  Let’s do that a few times.  Wait.  Then we finally score enough to win.  Rocky’s brain must want to explode.  I sometimes wonder if Jeff Horton turns complete beach on Rocky and whispers, “Dude, we’ll get there.  I totally promise.”

Down 9 points with ten minutes remaining had me leaning towards the unthinkable loss at Albuquerque.  This cannot be.  And, thankfully, was not as the Aztec offense tumbled, rolled and generally fell forward for 17 points via Kahale Warring’s 19 yard catch, John Barron’s 32 yard field goal and Juwan Washington’s 50 yard td run.  Thank you, one and all.

Speaking of Mr. Washington, welcome back to both he and Christian Chapman.  Mr. Washington had a tidy line of 95 yards for 8.6 ypc.  Mr. Chapman was 13/19 without an interception.  As economical as ever.  Though, I’m not complaining.

The Aztec defense was once again superb.  Kyahva Tezino had a fantastic night:  12 tackles including 2.5 sacks.  The Aztec defense dropped the Lobos quarterback 6 times.  They held the Lobos running backs to an average of 2.7 yards per rush, 4.6 yards per completion (now that is impressive) and Lobo offense to only 142 total yards.  Tayler Hawkins enjoyed his first start at the Warrior position while Luq Barcoo made his first pick of the year.

Other first time starts belonged to Isiah Macklin and Elijah Kothe at the wide receiver spots.  Well done.  Tim Wilson had 3 catches for 63 yards leading the way for all Aztec receivers who caught a total of 17 balls for 240 yards.  Not bad.

The winner of this week’s who-can-catch-and-advance-a-punt contest was Garrett Binkley.  He caught 4 for 54 yards which is lightyears ahead of all other efforts not involving Juwan Washington.

Who was the guy on the LSU campus with the John Barron for Heisman sign?  Best moment of the year on ESPN’s national pre-game show.

Three games remain.

7-2/4-1.

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.