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When news came that San Diego State’s offense would go to a spread formation for the 2019 season, there was no happier group than SDSU’s wide receivers and no happier staff member than their position coach, Hunkie Cooper.
“First and foremost it will help me in recruiting,” Cooper said after practice this week. “(We’ll) take some guys that we couldn’t take with the 21 personnel stuff (two running backs formation) we were doing. You’ve still got to be tough. You’ve still got to be physical. You’ve still got to be able to win against man coverage and protect the football.”
On the field, Cooper expects his young receivers group — nine of the 12 receivers are redshirt freshmen and sophomores — to be more comfortable in the spread. “This is what they’re used to,” he said. “They’re used to being in the spread. They’re used to looking to the sideline and changing plays and checking plays. It’s their wheelhouse.
“It gives us more energy in the (wide receivers’) room and gives us something they’ve experienced before, so progress will be more rapid.”
Tight end Kahale Warring led SDSU in receptions (31) last season. Wide receivers Fred Trevillion and Ethan Dedeaux were next with 22 catches apiece, followed by Tim Wilson Jr., with 19. No other receiver had more than nine receptions.
Trevillion, a senior last season, is the only receiver who is not returning this year. His deep-threat capabilities will need to be replaced.
Moving to the front of the receivers group are 6-foot-2 Kobe Smith (9 catches, 113 yards in 2018) and 6-4 Elijah Kothe (7 catches, 78 yards), a pair of sophomores who showed enough promise last year that they were not redshirted.
Cooper has been impressed by their continued progress. Smith, in fact, had a standout performance in last week’s Spring Game, with four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Kothe, who missed a week of spring practice after suffering a concussion, is among the most sure-handed receivers the Aztecs have had in years.
“Both of those guys came in together, they worked together, have high GPAs and they love what they do,” Cooper said. “I think that gives you the best opportunity to have success when you have guys who love what they do and want to be here.
“They’re low maintenance guys. You don’t have to worry about them socially doing dumb things and that’s what you want.”
Cooper said that if the Aztecs had a game today, then Smith, Kothe and Dedeaux, who is also a sophomore and emerged last season as a reliable target, would be his starting receivers.
Junior Isiah Macklin and sophomores BJ Busbee and Isaiah Richardson would be in the mix as well and redshirt freshman Jesse Matthews also could get an opportunity.
Macklin suffered a shoulder injury midway through spring practice, but played in Saturday’s Spring Game before having surgery on Monday to repair the injury.
“He didn’t ask to be taken out of spring ball,” Cooper said. “He wanted to play in the spring game. That tells me where his mind’s at. He wanted to be here. He finished it up and then he went and had surgery. That’s the one thing he said, ‘Coach, I don’t want to set myself back.’ ”
Added Cooper: “We’re finally seeing the things I thought we could see with him, making contested catches on jump balls, the physical part of it, starting to put his face on people.”
A name noticeably absent from those Cooper mentioned was Wilson. A lingering foot problem, which bothered Wilson late in the regular season and required offseason surgery, has prevented the junior from participating in spring practice.
“I try to focus on who’s here,” Cooper said when asked about Wilson. “I’m not in the medical profession. All I know is after the (Frisco Bowl in December) he was running and he was healthy and we ain’t played a game since then.
“So from my old school mentality and mind set, I thought he should have been here for spring ball. That’s where you get the most opportunity to grow, especially when you missed a couple of games during the season. You can’t get this back.”
Wilson also had back and rib injuries last season, although he still played in 11 of 13 games. “He’s got a great skill set and he’s really fast,” Cooper said. “But at the end of the day, if he’s not durable, I can’t use him. I can’t build a depth chart on maybes. “If he gets healthy and he makes it and he comes to work and brings something to the unit, then he will have an opportunity to play.” Surgery for several players
Two Aztecs players had surgery on Monday and four more were scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday, according to SDSU head coach Rocky Long.
Macklin was joined Monday by defensive lineman Josh Bringuel, who had reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
Bringuel was injured two weeks ago during a scrimmage, but had to wait until swelling subsided before having the procedure.
Wednesday’s surgeries, all for various shoulder injuries, include defensive lineman Connor Mitchell, linebacker Seyddrick Lakalaka, cornerback Luq Barcoo and Dedeaux.
Bringuel will require 8-10 months for recovery for an injury that damaged three different ligaments, but Long said the other players should be healed in time to participate in the team’s lifting and conditioning program in June.
What determines whether to have surgery before or after spring practice?
“It’s a doctor’s choice,” Long said. “If he doesn’t think they can go through practice with it, he does it as early as he can. If he does think they can go through practice with it, then he leaves it up to them.
“Some kids choose to go through practice and some kids don’t.”
Junior offensive lineman Keith Ismael had shoulder surgery during the offseason, but should be out of a sling within the next two weeks and be able to begin rehab.
Junior offensive lineman Zach Thomas, who had knee reconstruction surgery last fall, was not cleared for spring practice but did do conditioning on the field and is expected to be cleared before fall camp.
San Diego State running back Juwan Washington looks forward to healthy senior season, large role in Aztecs' success
San Diego State running back Juwan Washington, like his SDSU teammates, is all too eager to put last season behind him.
Injuries to Washington added to the insult of the Aztecs finishing 7-6 in 2018 after a 6-1 start.
Washington entered last season with an eye on joining D.J. Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny as SDSU’s third straight 2,000-yard rushing back. He was nearly on pace early, leading the nation with 151 yards a game rushing after three games.
But it all went awry when a fractured clavicle sidelined Washington for nearly five full games in midseason.
Washington needed 130 yards against Ohio in the Frisco Bowl to extend SDSU’s streak of 1,000-yard running backs to nine straight seasons. He reached the milestone with a 5-yard run midway through the fourth quarter that gave him 1,002 yards. But — and how appropriate was this the way things went in the 27-0 loss? — Washington got one more carry on the final drive. It went for a 3-yard loss — leaving him with 999 yards.
Washington, a preseason all-Mountain West selection, is focused on the future as SDSU opens fall camp Friday. Here are five questions with the senior from Fort Worth, Texas: Practice, especially fall camp, can be a grind, but you seem to be the life of the party, dancing, singing and cracking wise with your teammates during workouts. Where does that enthusiasm come from?
It’s just to keep the energy high. You never want to be out there wishing you weren’t out there, so you might as well make the best of it.
You can’t change it, so if you keep your energy high, it helps in practice. You’re not worried about being tired. You’re thinking about something else.
And it kind of helps the other guys, too. If they see you happy and excited, then it might help them out when they’re having a tough practice. Did finishing with 999 yards instead of reaching 1,000 stick with very long you after the season ended?
It didn’t stick with me too much because it was the last game of the season, so you’re not really focused on what happened too much. You just want to move forward, especially the way we ended last year. I just kind of left that in the past. It leaves a lot of room for improvement. I just want to get better. What’s your take on the new spread formation?
I think it’s going to create a lot more big plays. Last year, our biggest thing was (lack of) big plays.
That’s what we made a lot more of in the past. Big plays. It was two- or three-play drives instead of long drives, 10-play drives. A lot of times when we score it’s not going to be a long drive. That’s rare in football to have a long drive, so big plays play a big part of that.
We’ve got to break off more big plays, you know, finishing and making passes down field. We kind of showed glimpses of that last season. We’ve got to do it more consistently. Coach Rocky Long said it still will be a run-first offense. Do you expect to get 25 carries a game this season (he averaged 22 last year)?
I’m not sure. It really depends on how the game goes. A lot of games it’s going to be where we need to throw it more and a lot of games where we need to run it more. It really depends on how the situation goes that day.
Coach has been talking about getting the running backs out more (in the passing game) and making opportunities in different ways than normal, so that’s going to be good for us. Do you expect to play special teams (he has three kick return TDs in his career) in addition to your responsibilities at running back?
I’ve liked that since I’ve been here, getting to be in on special teams.
That’s a big momentum switch, if you can make a big play on special teams. I remember when we had both Rashaad and me back there, we had two kickoff returners with a touchdown in the game.
We need to get back to that. That’s one thing we kind of fell off on last year, making big special teams plays. We’ve shown glimpses of that, too. We’ve just got to stay consistent.
I’ll do as much as I can. It just depends on what Coach Long will let me do. Hopefully, he will let me catch a few punts (in addition to kickoff returns).
SDSU works to improve play in the red zone on both offense and defense after last season's struggles there
San Diego State spent seemingly half Saturday night’s scrimmage in the red zone.
It wasn’t because SDSU’s offense was particularly productive. It was because officials hired to work the scrimmage were instructed to keep placing the football at the 20-yard line.
The red zone is a point of emphasis — for both the offense and defense — in fall camp following the Aztecs’ struggles there last season on both sides of the ball.
The offense produced just one touchdown on the evening, so, apparently, the defense is ahead of the offense.
“We’ve got the same team out here,” SDSU head coach Rocky Long said. “Maybe it wasn’t that the offense didn’t play good but that the defense did play good. ... Got a long way to go. You always anticipate the first scrimmage is going to be ragged, and that’s what it was.”
SDSU ranked 94th in the nation (out of 129 teams) last season in red zone offense and 107th in the nation in red zone defense. This, after ranking 72nd and 19th, respectively, in those categories the previous season.
The Aztecs ranked 11th out of 12 teams in the Mountain West in both categories. It was especially disconcerting for a defense that was No. 1 in the conference in the red zone a year earlier.
So that sets the scene for all the red zone work.
Six trips there produced a missed 41-yard field goal, makes from 37, 32 and 32 yards a 17-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Jordan Byrd.
Oh, and a 95-yard interception return by junior safety Tayler Hawkins for a touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Agnew impressively gave chase for 75 yards and seemed to be closing the gap before Hawkins shook him with a zig-zag maneuver 10 yards from the end zone.
The 16 points were fewer than the Aztecs would prefer to produce given such opportunities.
Blame the offense or compliment the defense? A little of both, actually.
Failed third-down passes, a sack, a bad snap and offensive penalties were part of the problem, although mixing and matching of personnel — especially at quarterback — throughout the exercise didn’t help matters.
Hawkins’ score came after plucking a deflected end zone pass out of the air at the 5-yard line. Senior safety Kyree Woods had the defense’s other big play, knocking away a third-down pass in the end zone.
There was an upside to the offensive struggles. It gave redshirt freshman kicker Matt Araiza more opportunities to test himself (with punter Brandon Heicklen as his holder) in simulated game conditions.
Araiza, who was 3-for-5 on kicks, had a 57-yard attempt go wide right. That miss was wiped away when the defender knocked into him for a penalty.
“That’s really stupid that someone would do that,” Long said. “A 57-yard field goal, and we’re going to go rough the kicker? That’s really dumb that someone did that.”
One of Araiza’s makes tumbled over the crossbar after hitting the right upright.
Speaking of tumbling, Araiza tumbled to the turf while trying to make a midfield tackle during a kickoff return. While a dedicated effort, it seemed ill-advised to some observers, given the Aztecs have not identified a backup kicker.
“What do you expect when a guy breaks a tackle, tell him not to go tackle the guy?” Long said. “He saved the touchdown. He made the guy stumble and fall out of bounds. ... He’s got to practice it. He’s got to play like it’s game day, and today was game day.”
Long also identified another reason for Araiza — who is replacing three-year starter John Baron II as kicker — to make a tackle.
“It just proved to us that he can, and he proved to the rest of the team that he’s willing to,” Long said. “Kickers have the hardest time earning respect. So if he went over and was a baby about it, not even trying to tackle him, he wouldn’t be one of the boys. ... The best kickers have to be one of the boys”
Some other observations:
— The backup quarterback competition remains up for grabs among junior transfer Jordon Brookshire, sophomore Mark Salazar and redshirt freshman Carson Baker.
“Every once in a while one of them will do something and you think, ‘Oh, yeah, OK,’ ” Long said. “Then all of the sudden he does something else and you go, ‘Oh, my gosh.’
“So the three of them are still fighting it out. I think they’re on even footing right now.”
— Byrd was the most impressive of the running backs with two first-down carries — dragging a couple defenders with him on one of them — in addition to the TD run.
Senior running back Juwan Washington watched from the sidelines, the customary spot for SDSU’s starting tailback during fall camp scrimmages.
Sophomore running back Chance Bell also missed the scrimmage, although Bell was absent because he is currently in concussion protocol.
— Like Washington, starting tight end Parker Houston was an interested observer rather than a participant. Houston turned an ankle slightly before the scrimmage began and was held out of the scrimmage and Sunday’s practice as a precaution. Starting linebacker Kyahva Tezino was in for a couple series before joining them on the sidelines.
— Wide receivers Elijah Kothe, Koby Duru, Dominic Benson and Brionne Penny all made some good grabs.
The 6-foot-4 Kothe, who has the best hands among the receivers, could be a handful for DBs this season. Defenders were flagged twice while trying to stop him.
Is there a deep threat on the roster? Don’t know yet. SDSU never really tried stretching the field more than 15-20 yards.
— Officials were quick to whistle a play dead whenever a defender got within spitting distance of the quarterback, so it was difficult to gauge how effective the pass rush was up front.
— Several players were rotated among three safeties spots as coaches search for the best fit at each position.
“We’ve got about five of those safeties that are playing all three spots,” Long said. “We don’t know where they fit exactly the best yet. So they’re playing them all. Consequently, I’m sure there were some mistakes tonight that there wouldn’t have been if all they were playing was one spot.
“We’ll do that for another week before we lock it in who we think our best five are.”
SDSU Releases Football Stadium Renderings
In San Diego we aren't all that good at building stadiums. But we sure can produce stadium renderings!
On Saturday afternoon the San Diego State University Athletics Department released renderings of what they hope the 35,000-seat stadium they want to build in Mission Valley is going to look like.
SDSU Football Stadium Rendering1
In 2016 voters awarded SDSU the ability to redevelop 132 acres of land where SDCCU Stadium now sits. Part of that plan is a new home for SDSU's football program.
SDSU Football Stadium Rendering2
The Aztecs want to have it ready by the start of the 2022 college football season and are hoping to lure professional soccer, concerts and major NCAA events.
SDSU says part of the stadium plan does include potential expansion to 55,000 seats if a National Football League team ever returns to San Diego.
SDSU offense produces three touchdowns, three field goals in highest-scoring scrimmage in years
SDSU offense produces three touchdowns, three field goals in highest-scoring scrimmage in years
Apparently, scrimmages are in the eye of the beholder.
The SDSU football team played its annual Fan Fest scrimmage Saturday evening at SDCCU Stadium.
It has been a defense-dominated affair for the past several seasons, but SDSU’s offense produced three touchdowns and three field goals on this evening.
The defensive highlight was a fumble forced by senior safety Kyree Woods, whose scoop and score resulted in a 45-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“It’s awesome getting back in this environment and getting a feel of the stadium,” SDSU quarterback Ryan Agnew said. “You’ve got the lights on, some fans cheering you on. It’s a different feeling than on the practice field. ...
“I think (the offense) came out with a different attitude. We’re tired of getting beat up by the defense. We had more than one or two guys making plays out there. You saw multiple people catch the football, you saw multiple people making big runs, you saw multiple people making good throws.”
SDSU head coach Rocky Long saw things differently.
“I was underwhelmed by the entire performance,” Long said. “We didn’t play very good defense and the offense was really sporadic.
“We fumbled a ball that the defense picked up and ran back for a touchdown.
“Am I supposed to be happy for the defense? No. We can’t be doing that. We can’t be turning the ball over.”
Long did offer some praise.
“I thought (backup running back) Kaegun Williams ran hard,” Long said. “I thought Ryan Agnew threw it pretty good. I thought he did a nice job.”
Beyond that ...
Asked what he thought of the defensive line: “They have a long way to go. They didn’t play very well. It was unimpressive.”
Asked about a 28-yard run up the middle by junior transfer quarterback Jordon Brookshire: “You don’t hit the quarterback (in a scrimmage).”
Asked for his biggest takeaway: “I’m glad we didn’t play tonight.”
The season opener is Aug. 31 against Weber State.
“If we were playing Weber State today, we’d have got beat bad,” Long said.
The scoreboard read: Black 30, Red 6.
Long even questioned that.
“It was two different offenses out there,” he said. “If you look at it as a game, each offense scored 15 points, which is nothing (added emphasis on the word nothing).”
Finally Long was asked: “Anything good about tonight?”
“Yeah, it was a beautiful night,” he said. “I don’t know what the temperature is, but it’s probably 75 degrees and it’s nice and cool and we had a nice breeze. Gee, whiz, you can’t beat that.”
• Agnew (6-for-13, 76 yards) played three series in the first quarter, then stepped aside so Brookshire (13-for-21, 123 yards), redshirt freshman Carson Baker (6-for-12, 46 yards, INT) and redshirt sophomore Mark Salazar (1-for-4, 3 yards) could continue their competition for backup quarterback.
Baker came out with the second team, followed by Brookshire. Salazar’s first appearance came 4 1/2 minutes into the third quarter.
Brookshire’s long midfield run late in the second quarter came moments after a 25-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Isiah Richardson in the back right corner of the end zone.
A nice throw and catch.
“That was a good catch, if it was in,” Long said. “Some defensive backs said it was not. Too bad we don’t have instant replay.”
• Williams, who carried nine times for 41 yards, had a nice 23-yard run early in the first quarter before picking up some tough yards near the goal line. His 1-yard TD run midway through the first quarter was the first scoring play and stirred a gathering estimated at 2,000 people.
True freshman running back Justin Dinka (9 carries, 71 yards) appeared stopped near the line of scrimmage on a third-quarter run, then broke free and ran down the left sideline with everyone else chasing him on the way to a 74-yard touchdown.
Redshirt freshman Zidane Thomas had a scrimmage-high 16 carries for 72 yards and Chance Bell had seven carries for 40 yards.
Senior Juwan Washington did not play, as is customary for the starting running back in these exhibitions.
Junior Chase Jasmin also was absent, apparently still unable to shake a high ankle sprain.
• New kicker Matt Araiza, a redshirt freshman from Rancho Bernardo High, was perfect on three first half-field goal attempts, making good on kicks of 44, 33 and 39 yards.
• Wide receivers Ethan Dedeaux, Jordan Byrd and Dominic Benson took turns fielding punts. They were limited to fair catches. More importantly — after last year’s struggles — there were no flubs.
• Junior safety Tayler Hawkins is under concussion protocol and did not play. Scrimmage stats RUSHING TOTALS (carries - yards - touchdowns)Zidane Thomas 16-72-0, Justin Dinka 9-71-1, Kaegun Williams 9-41-1, Chance Bell 7-40-0, Jordon Brookshire 3-16-0, Jordan Byrd 4-8-0, Dominic Benson 1-0-0, Carson Baker 3-(-18)-0. TOTALS 52-230-2.
PASSING TOTALS (completions - attempts - interceptions, yards, touchdowns)Jordon Brookshire 13-21-0, 123, 1; Ryan Agnew 6-13-0, 76, 0; Carson Baker 6-12-1, 46, 0; Mark Salazar 1-4-0, 3, 0.TOTALS 26-50-1, 248, 1.
RECEIVING TOTALS (number - yards - touchdowns)Isiah Richardson 6-64-1, Kobe Smith 4-28-0, Chance Bell 3-27-0, Kaegun Williams 3-27-0, Jesse Matthews 2-39-0, Chaz Collins 2-26-0, Zidane Thomas 1-9-0, Elijah Kothe 1-8-0, Nash Devan 1-7-0, Parker Houston 1-5-0, Alex Wilson 1-5-0, Justin Dinka 1-3-0. TOTALS 26-248-1.
Allan Mwata 4-4-8, Dwayne Johnson Jr. 2-6-8, Michael Shawcroft 1-7-8, Kaelin Himphill 3-4-7, Kyree Woods 5-1-6, Sammy Morrison 4-1-5, Trenton Thompson 0-5-5, Luq Barcoo 2-2-4, Kyron White 2-2-4, Eric Wilson 2-2-4, Jalil Lecky 1-3-4, Nolen Harris 2-1-3, Jonah Tavai 1-2-3, Adonis Brown 1-1-2, Darren Hall 1-1-2, Seyddrick Lakalaka 1-1-2, Shawn Nielsen 1-1-2, Daniel To’oto’o 1-1-2, Troy Cassidy 0-2-2, Caden McDonald 0-2-2, Patrick McMorris 0-2-2, Kyahva Tezino 0-2-2, Cameron Thomas 0-2-2, Jeffrey Blake 1-0-1, Nassir Sims 1-0-1, Cliffton Styles 1-0-1, Dylan Taylor 1-0-1, Noah Tumblin 1-0-1, Davaughn Celestine 0-1-1, Myles Cheatum 0-1-1, Josh Bornes 0-1-1, Garret Fountain 0-1-1, Sam Hines 0-1-1, Kahi Neves 0-1-1, Tariq Thompson 0-1-1. TOTALS 39-62-101.
TACKLES FOR LOSS
Kaelin Himphill 2.5-12, Myles Cheatum 1.0-7, Kyree Woods 1.0-3, Adonis Brown 1.0-2, Dylan Taylor 1.0-2, Michael Shawcroft 0.5-3, Patrick McMorris 0.5-2, Shawn Nielsen 0.5-2. TOTALS: 8-36.
Kaelin Himphill 1.5-8, Myles Cheatum 1-7, Michael Shawcroft 0.5-3. TOTALS: 3-18.
PASSES BROKEN UP
Lug Barcoo 1, Adonis Brown 1.Seyddrick Lakalaka 1, Allan Mwata 1, Noah Tumblin 1, Kyree Woods 1. TOTALS: 6
Sammy Morrison 1, Kyree Woods 1.TOTALS: 2
Kyree Woods 1-45, 1 TD. TOTALS: 1
Shawn Nielsen 1-0-0. TOTALS: 1-0-0
Matt Araiza 3-for-3: 43g, 33g, 39g.TOTALS: 3-for-3
PUNTS (number - yards (avg.)
Brandon Heicklen 5-243 (46.6); Matt Araiza 6-250 (41.7). TOTALS: 11-493 (44.8).
2019 SDSU Football Preview The Aztecs started off the 2018 season strong going 6-1 in their first seven games. Unfortunately, San Diego State would close out the regular season 1-4 in their final...
The Aztecs started off the 2018 season strong going 6-1 in their first seven games. Unfortunately, San Diego State would close out the regular season 1-4 in their final five games. Even with the struggles of closing out close conference games to end the season, the Aztecs would end up playing in the Frisco Bowl against Ohio. This final game would leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth as the Aztecs were blown out 27-0 by the Bobcats.
San Diego State fans should be excited as the 2019 season approaches. Head Coach Rocky Long will be returning for his 9th season and will be attempting to win 10+ games this year as he accomplished from 2015-2017. In addition to the consistency of a great coaching staff the Aztecs will also have an abundance of players returning to continue their college career. Most of these returning players playing skill positions in the offense should be able to learn from the collapse they had at the end of last season.
The Aztecs are projected to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Mountain West, but I believe they will exceed expectations for most people. Experience in the coaching staff and on the field will play a huge role in getting this team back to double-digit wins and landing another bowl game for head coach Rocky Long who could be in the running for his fourth coach of the year award in the Mountain West.
Reason for Optimism: Heading into the 2019 football season the Aztecs have most of their skilled positions filled by returning upperclassmen. More experienced players under head coach Rocky Long will only help this offense prosper. Ryan Agnew seems to have locked down the starting quarterback job considering his 6-1 record after being named the starter in the middle of last season. With consistency from the quarterback position, San Diego State could be a contender in the Mountain West this year.
Cause for Concern: The offensive line is the main cause for concern in 2019. Although the Aztecs have Keith Ismael starting at center, they still allowed 33 sacks last year. In an effort to fix this problem San Diego State now has Jacob Capra who has only allowed two sacks in his two years at Oregon.
Key Stat: 33. That is how many sacks the SDSU offensive line gave up last year which puts them at 89th out of 129 in the FBS. The Aztecs have their starting quarterback position filled, now all they need is to protect Agnew and give him more time in the pocket.
Wildcard: The one player that I believe can have the biggest impact on the success of the Aztecs next season is starting running back Juwan Washington. Washington is going to need to improve with 999 yards in 199 attempts. In comparison to the two backs before him, Donnel Pumphrey and Rashad Penny, Washington has huge shoes to fill. Both Pumphrey and Penny had single seasons with over 2,000 rushing yards, which Washington will attempt to accomplish this year in hopes of helping San Diego State regain the top spot of the Mountain West.
Reason for Optimism: The defensive line is the biggest strength to the defense for San Diego State. Although they have not produced the most sacks in the Mountain West, they only allowed an average of 103 yards rushing per game. Their opponents were only able to run about three yards per carry and this Aztec front seven were only responsible for 16 rushing touchdowns.
Cause for Concern: The inconsistency of the defense is a huge cause for concern. Last season the defense was to blame for the five losses in the last six games. In most of the games San Diego State would dominate the first half and then would look like a completely different team after halftime. The Aztecs should have a revamped defense for 2019 after last year’s disappointing bowl game.
Key Stat: 67. This is how many yards the defense was able to get after intercepting the football. Even though the Aztecs grabbed 10 interceptions on the season, they accounted for only 67 yards after the interception, which would lead to zero touchdowns for the year.
Wildcard: The biggest wildcard to the defense for San Diego State is their secondary. Tariq Thompson, who is the best defensive player on the roster, is third in FBS in interceptions per game at 0.27. The big question marks are Darren Hall and Luq Barcoo who will be lining up alongside Thompson. Both players have dealt with some adversity in their collegiate career, but have always stepped up and performed when called upon to play. If they can have a breakout season and consistently be effective on the field as they were when they came off the bench, then the San Diego State defense will be scary.
Saturday, August 31 vs. Weber State
Saturday, September 7 @ UCLA
Saturday, September 14 @ New Mexico State
Saturday, September 21 vs. Utah State
Saturday, October 5 @ Colorado State
Saturday, October 12 vs. Wyoming
Saturday, October 19 @ San Jose State
Saturday, October 26 @ UNLV
Saturday. November 9 vs. Nevada
Friday, November 15 vs. Fresno State
Saturday, November 23 @ Hawaii
Saturday, November 30 vs. BYU
Best Case Scenario: 10-2. The Aztecs can have a very successful season that will completely come down to the conference games. Last season they were 4-4 in conference play with almost every game decided by less than one possession. If they can bounce back from the shaky end of the 2018 season and find ways to win close games in the fourth quarter then this team could end up in the Mountain West Championship.
What’s Probably Going to Happen: 8-4. Looking at the schedule with a little less optimism, I think there will be a few games that the Aztecs will lose in the fourth quarter next year that will just barely leave them out of the Championship game.