2011 Opponents: San Diego State

Submitted by Tim on August 10th, 2011 at 3:11 PM

This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.


The Offense

San Diego State Offense 2010
Category Raw Rank
Yards Per Game 456.69 16
Points Per Game 35.00 19
Yards Per Play 6.86 9
Yards Per Pass 9.01 8
Pass Efficiency 148.14 20
Yards Per Rush 4.78 29
Playcall Distribution 1.03 Rush:Pass

So, uh, this is actually gonna get a little awkward, and I think you know why: San Diego State's offensive coordinator from 2010 will be coaching the offense on the Michigan's sideline (OK, in the press box) when these team meet up in Ann Arbor.

Al Borges's scheme last year has a reputation for pass-heaviness. With a new offensive guru, we may see something just a bit different this year. The big surprise? The Aztecs actually ran more than they passed last year (even adjusted for sacks - of which they gave up very few - they passed only 1.01 times for each rush). They were a more balanced offense than many realize.

With the change in coordinators, we were likely going to see an adjustment in offensive scheme anyway, but as we shall see, some personnel changes may add to that.


Ryan Lindley was second-team All-MWC last year. He'll try to repeat that feat as a senior (little chance of unseating new conference-mate Kellen Lewis, no?). Last year's backup, Jake Bernards, returns for his redshirt sophomore season, so the personnel here is not changed at all.

San Diego State QBs 2010
Name Comp Att % Yds Yds/Att TD Int
Ryan Lindley 243 421 57.72 3830 9.10 28 14
Jake Bernards 1 1 100 10 10.00 0 0
San Diego State QBs Rushing 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Ryan Lindley 19 -31 -1.63 0

Grade: 3/5. Although Lindley was very efficient last year, his completion percentage and interception percentage were not all that impressive. That leads me to believe he's decent-at-best making decisions, but his wideouts helped him a lot last year. We shall see how he performs without a pair of NFL wideouts to rack up the yardage, and under a different offensive coordinator. With no experience in the stable behind him, this unit is strong up top, but drops off quickly. [Ed: Respectfully disgree. 9.10 YPA is a lot of YPA. I heard you like YPA, number people.]


Running Back

Ronnie Hillman (right) was a lightly-recruited true freshman last year... who just so happened to finish in the nation's top ten in rushing yardage. He'll try to repeat that feat this season, but don't be surprised if carries are a bit more spread out. It's tough for a guy to take a beating like that two years in a row. Walter Kazee should see an increase in his carries, and the Aztecs will look for viable 3rd and 4th options to take some pressure off.

San Diego State RBs 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Ronnie Hillman 262 1532 5.85 17
Walter Kazee 67 320 4.78 3
Davon Brown 30 144 4.80 2
Brandon Sullivan (FB) 40 124 3.10 7
Chad Young 2 4 2.00 0


San Diego State RBs Receiving 2009
Name Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD
Brandon Sullivan (FB) 26 383 14.73 3
Ronnie Hillman 9 68 7.56 1
Walter Kazee 2 38 19.00 0
Davon Brown 3 30 10.00 0

Grade: 4/5. Though Hillman was a one-man show last year, it's tough to argue with his production. Despite frquent usage, he averaged nearly six yards per carry. As long as he doesn't get worn out he should be similarly productive this year, and Michigan gets him early. A new fullback and more depth are the only things holding this unit back from being rated even higher.


Here is where the Aztecs are likely to see a major step back this season. The last time SDSU lost any two players to the NFL was back in 2008 when four Aztecs went in the draft, and though they lost two receivers that season as well, both were late 7th-round picks. That's a vastly different situation than losing a third-rounder like Vincent Brown. So after losing 56% of their total receptions, SDSU is going to have to rely on some young blood to step up.

Unfortunately, redshirt frosh Jay Waddell and junior Dominique Sandifer were expected to be starters, but both are out for the season with injury. That means a mere 6 receptions(!) return from last season's wideouts. To compensate, the Aztecs might go with a two-TE base set to capitalize on their experience (Alston Umuolo was a returning starter who missed almost the entire season with injury). Redshirt freshman Ezell Ruffin and... uh... Dylan Denso? will likely start out wide.

San Diego State Receivers 2010
Name Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD
Vincent Brown 69 1352 19.59 10
DeMarco Sampson 67 1220 18.21 8
Gavin Escobar (TE) 29 323 11.14 4
Dominique Sandifer 23 263 11.43 0
Bryce Quigley (TE) 5 66 13.20 1
Dylan Denso 4 39 9.75 0
DJ Shields 2 29 14.50 1
Alston Umuolo (TE) 3 19 6.33 0
Josh O'Brien (TE) 1 10 10.00 0


San Diego State WRs Rushing 2009
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Dominique Sandifer 1 14 14.00 0
Doug Deakin 1 13 13.00 0
DeMarco Sampson 4 11 2.75 0
Vincent Brown 1 -13 -13.00 0

Grade: 1/5. Graduation and injuries have ravaged the wideouts, leading to a whole lot of question marks. However, I'll give Alston Umuolo the benefit of the doubt, as he was expected to be a big contributor last year. He and Escobar form a formidable TE pairing. Phil Steele has Escobar on his 2nd-team All-Conference projections, FWIW. There is zero expectation for the wideouts.

Offensive Line

San Diego State returns four offensive linemen who started every single game last year, with C Trask Iosefe the only loss. Redshirt senior Mike Matamua [Ed-M: What names!] or redshirt junior Jimmy Miller will step in to fill his shoes (possibly at guard, moving a returning starter to the more-complicated position of center), but the other players return intact. Alec Johnson was last year's left guard, and if he doesn't move to center, will repeat that role. The other non-senior returning starter is junior right guard Nik Embernate. The tackles are both fifth-year players, with Tommie Draheim in his third year at left tackle and Kurtis Gunther in his second season on the right.

Grade: 5/5. Last year's offensive line was an impressive one, with SDSU doing an excellent job moving on the ground (even against TCU, the nation's best defense, RBs got 3.6 yards per carry), and giving up one of the lowest sack totals in the conference. Though center may be the most important position on the OL other than blindside tackle, there's so much experience in this unit that I have a hard time predicting anything other than an exceptional performance.

The Defense

San Diego State Defense 2010
Category Raw Rank
Yards Per Game 353.77 43
Points Per Game 22.08 36
Yards Per Play 4.85 22
Pass Yards Per Game 205.00 38
Pass Efficiency 113.45 20
Yards Per Pass 6.24 t-23
Sacks Per Game 2.15 47
Rush Yards Per Game 148.77 57
Yards Per Rush 3.71 t-36

Unlike the offense, San Diego State's defense isn't expected to change schemes. Former defensive coordinator Rocky Long is now the head coach. One of the pioneers of the 3-3-5 defense, expect more of the same out of Long.

The Aztecs were near the middle of the pack or better in just about every defensive category (funny how successful the 3-3-5 seems at every school other than Michigan) Though they played some good offensive teams (Missouri, TCU, Utah), that number also includes some moribund units in 1-AA Nichols State, Wyoming, and the awful New Mexico schools.

There's no obvious weakness in last year's numbers, though the pass defense was slightly better than the rush D. With a ton of roster turnover, expect to see a weaker squad this time around.

Defensive Line

San Diego State loses two of their three starters from last year's squad, but thanks to a healthy rotation, they have plenty of players available with some experience. Senior Jerome Long is the lone returning starter in the middle, with Neil Spencer and JJ Autele expected to step in at defensive end for the departed Ernie Lawson (by far the most explosive player on the front last year) and Jacob Tauanuu. Autele is undersized for a 3-man front, but Spencer and Long are both over 280 pounds.

Depth is lacking. Backup DT Perry Jackson was booted from the team this spring, and only a couple of players have seen experience in the lineup.

SDSU Defensive Line 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack
Ernie Lawson 30 9.5 1
Jerome Long 29 6 1.5
Neil Spencer 25 2 1
Jacob Tauanuu 20 4 1
BJ Williams 19 2 2
JJ Autele 15 3.5 1.5
Larry Gibbs 9 1.5 1
Frederick Trujillo 7 1.5 0
Jordan Thomas 2 0 0
Perry Jackson 1 0 0

Grade: 2/5. The defensive line was hardly dominant last year (sacking the QB was the weakest part of the SDSU defense last year), and losing the most productive player isn't going to help. As long as Autele's weight isn't exploited by opponents, the starting unit should be OK. The lack of depth is where the Aztecs are in big trouble unless some young guys make a big leap this offseason. SDSU could be susceptible to wearing down.



This unit has a lot more returning than did the defensive line, with only starter Marcus Yarbough out the door. Every other contributor from last season returns to the field.

Yarbough's spot in the middle will be filled by his backup Rob Andrews, who had nearly as many tackles (some on special teams) but didn't have the ability to get into the backfield. Of course, when you're playing alongside 5th-year SLB Miles Burris (at right), it's not so necessary to carry a lot of weight as far as getting into the backfield. Logan Ketchum will reprise his starting role on the weakside this fall. With nobody departing among the backups, there are plenty of guys who have seen the field. Demetrius Barskdale and Nick TenHaeff, specifically, should be ready to step in at a moment's notice.

San Diego State Linebackers 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack
Miles Burris 80 20 9.5
Logan Ketchum 52 2.5 0.5
Marcus Yarbough 42 4.5 2
Rob Andrews 36 1.5 1
Demetrius Barksdale 33 4.5 1
Nick Tenhaeff 30 3.5 2
Colin Shumate 7 0 0
Vaness Harris 4 0 0
Jacob Driver 2 0 0
Jake Fely 2 1.5 1
Chris Gordert 1 0 0

Grade: 4/5. This is a very strong unit, with an obvious headliner and a number of interchangeable parts playing alongside Miles Burris. As long as Andrews can fill in adequately for Yarbough, this unit should improve with another year of experience. Of course, if the defensive line can't help them out up front, it may not show on the box score.

Defensive Backs

Like linebacker, San Diego State returns almost all of its depth, but the Aztecs do lose starting pieces in rover ("Aztec") Andrew Preston and corner Darryn Lewis. Juniors Leon McFadden and Josh Wade will likely be your starting corners (Phil Steele likes redshirt frosh JJ Whitaker for the starting position opposite McFadden). The safety contingent consists of returning starter Brandon Davis, a redshirt senior, along with two new starters in Nat Berhe and Khalid Stevens. Outside of the starters, FS Marcus Andrews (who could also play a couple other positions), is the only one with any significant game experience.

San Diego State Defensive Backs 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack Int
Andrew Preston 78 4 0 3
Leon McFadden (CB) 55 7 1 2
Darryn Lewis 43 1 0 2
Nat Berhe (SS) 39 1 0 1
Khalid Stevens (Rov) 37 3.5 0 0
Brandon Davis (FS) 36 2 0 0
Marcus Andrews 33 1.5 1 0
Jose Perez 29 3 0 0
Josh Wade (CB) 26 1.5 0 1
Gabe Lemon 10 0 0 1
Colin Lockett 8 0 0 0
Rene Siluano 8 0 0 0
Romeo Horn 4 0 0 0
Dey Juan Hemmings 1 0 0 0
Ross Williams 1 0.5 0 0

Grade: 3/5. This looks like a strong unit with a lot of depth, but I'm hesitant to grade it any higher, as two of the top three tacklers (also the top two interceptors) from last year's team are out the door. The rover position and second corner seem a little weak, so unless Stevens can step up and impress, there are a couple exploitable areas in the D.

Special Teams

Brian Stahovich, who will be a 4th-year starter as a senior this fall, will continue to man the punting duties, and Abel Perez returns as the placekicking specialist.

San Diego State Kicking 2010
Name FGM FGA % Long XPM XPA %
Abel Perez 17 22 77.27 53 54 56 96.43
Bryan Shields 0 0 - - 2 2 100


San Diego State Punting 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att
Brian Stahovich 53 2406 45.40

Grade: 5/5. This is an excellent special teams unit. Both were All-Mountain West last year (Stahovich 1st-Team, Perez 2nd-Team), are are expected to repeat the feat this year. Stahovich was one of the most accomplished punters in the nation, a 4-year starter who was 8th nationally in yards per punt last year [Ed-M: But can he rule galaxies?]



August 10th, 2011 at 3:18 PM ^

Actually, their offense shouldn't change schemes this year at all. They hired another west coast guy (from UCLA, I believe), and they even went out and said that part of the reason they hired him was to make the transition easy by not switching schemes. He doesn't seem to be that good of an OC, but he wont change the scheme.


August 10th, 2011 at 3:26 PM ^

"(little chance of unseating new conference-mate Kellen Lewis, no?)". 

I'm guessing you mean Kellen Moore?

SD St.  looks pretty good on paper.  Even as a home game, this is going to be a tough one.


August 10th, 2011 at 8:57 PM ^

I've been saying for a while now that SDSU is a lot closer to a toss-up than most people think. It's going to be a fair match.

There are so many major changes happening in conference and out that pretty much everything is looking like a toss-up to me right now, with a few exceptions. This is how I imagine our schedule looking to me until I see the teams start play next season:

WMU - M favor
ND - Toss-up
EMU - M favor
SDSU - toss-up, M lean
Minn - M favor
NW - Toss-up, M lean
MSU - Toss-up, MSU lean
Purdue - M favor
Illinois - Toss-up, M lean
Iowa - Toss-up
Nebraska - N favor
OSU - Toss-up, OSU lean

Hopefully we can win all of our favors and leans and bag 1-2 even toss-ups and/or at least 2 rivalries for a solid season.


August 10th, 2011 at 9:41 PM ^

I think they are more like WMU v. 2009 (another "good" non-BCS conference team). Hiller was a "stud" QB destined for NFL greatness according to the media and they were going to put a serious scare into UM. Yeah, not so much.

UM will beat SDSU by at least 10 points. Personally, I'm predicting a 31-17 win for UM.


August 10th, 2011 at 4:01 PM ^

That YPA is huge; definately inflating his efficiency rating. Losing two NFL caliber receivers from the MWC was definately going to see a step back there even before the injuries.

The intpct isn't all that bad, but not great either. Same goes for completion pct.

This will be his fourth year as starter so he knows what he's doing out there, but he's pretty much as good as he's going to get. Barring a Stanzi-level improvment as a senior, I don't think Lindley *should* pose much of a problem.



August 10th, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^

Two WRs to the NFL, second team MWC with the QB, a tailback with 6+ yards per carry, stud TEs.  Anyone screaming "offensive dropoff due to MANBALL" should shut up now.  

Also impressive the staff's attention to depth.  Take away the two freak injuries to WRs and they return upperclassmen everywhere.  


August 10th, 2011 at 4:55 PM ^

In looking at this preview, I couldn't help but be impressed as to the structure of their team.  The WR's were dominant, the RB - a lightly-recruited kid - had 6+ per carry, and was complemented by a TD-scoring FB who caught passes, the TE was dominant, and the QB - again, a lightly-recruited kid - was highly effective. 

What this looks like to me is that Al Borges knows how to build an offense was a solid foundation.  No intent to encourage a "flame debate" about RR, but this offense is a direct contrast to our offense in that SDSU is balanced around maximizing performance out of so many diverse positions, and is less centered around the talent of one individual (although I do love that individual). 


August 10th, 2011 at 7:29 PM ^

Guys not named Denard Robinson rushed for 1,404 yards last year for Michigan and scored 21 TD.  Guys not named Ronnie Hillman accounted for less than half that yardage for SDSU and 9 fewer TD (not to mention the guy named Denard outgained Hillman).

SDSU had five guys gain over 68 yards receiving.  Michigan had seven guys gain over 130 yards receiving. 

When you look at the numbers, Michigan had a much more balanced offense last year.  SDSU just threw the ball to their fullback a lot and their QB didn't happen to be the most talented ball carrier in the country (or even the best on his own team).

As for the lightly recruited thing, you are correct insofar as they ended up at SDSU so they weren't turning down offers from major powers.  However, Hillman and Lindley were both 3-star recruits (guys ranked that high usually make up less than half of the class at a school like SDSU).  Rivals had Lindley as the #34 QB in the country.  The guys immediately ahead of him in the rankings were Nick Foles (committed to State, now starter at Arizona), Kellen Moore (Heisman candidate at Boise State), and two guys who committed to Wisconsin and Arkansas respectively.  For a middle of the pack MWC (i.e. not BYU) school those guys were about as close to blue chip prospects as you can get without finding major grade/behavior issues.

That being said, Borges is one of the very best offensive coordinators in the country and his unit is going to melt faces this year. 

Michael Scarn

August 10th, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

Holy crap, check out Jake Bernards' completion percentage! I wonder what defense that completion was against last year.  Don't tell me....but we didn't even play...yea...it was us wasn't it? 


August 10th, 2011 at 5:27 PM ^

We should run the ball a lot against them, especially with our bigger backs. That DL will get worn down and all those sub-200lb DBs will just get blown back by McColgan, Hopkins and Rawls.

The worst thing for them is they don't even have the personnel to switch to a four man front for half the game. I bet we grind this one out to victory.

G Money

August 11th, 2011 at 3:43 AM ^

...Lindley was 6th! in the nation in YPA. Guys above him: Newton, Moore, McElroy, Mallet, and Tolzien.


You can't be a 3/5 with numbers like that. His INT's dropped him all the way down to 21st in the nation in passer rating...21st out of...116.


3 is a bit harsh.


Of returning qb's, he is 2nd in the country in YPA.

Mr. Yost

August 11th, 2011 at 10:28 AM ^

Sorry, no pun intended...but a fortunate/unfortunate (never want to see a kid hurt) break is that they have no WRs.

Remember UConn last year with all the drops and misreads?

Our secondary should be able to build some confidence because they have a VERY good quarterback. He'll challenge them for sure.

And we'll definitely be stacking the box to stop Hillman.


I think our DEFENSE leads us to victory in this game:

Michigan - 28
SDSU - 20


August 16th, 2011 at 1:53 PM ^

I am pumped for this game!  This will be the first of 2 games that I will be attending in the 2011 regular season, with Purdue being the other.

That being said, I hope our team comes out ready to play.  After witnessing, in person, sluggish starts over the past three years (against Wisconsin last year and in 2008, and Penn State in 2009), I'd like to see us put some points on the board early against these guys. 


My prediction, Michigan 30, San Diego State 13.   Go Blue!