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.
|San Diego State Offense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||456.69||16|
|Points Per Game||35.00||19|
|Yards Per Play||6.86||9|
|Yards Per Pass||9.01||8|
|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|
|San Diego State QBs Rushing 2010|
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.]
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|
|Brandon Sullivan (FB)||40||124||3.10||7|
|San Diego State RBs Receiving 2009|
|Brandon Sullivan (FB)||26||383||14.73||3|
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|
|Gavin Escobar (TE)||29||323||11.14||4|
|Bryce Quigley (TE)||5||66||13.20||1|
|Alston Umuolo (TE)||3||19||6.33||0|
|Josh O'Brien (TE)||1||10||10.00||0|
|San Diego State WRs Rushing 2009|
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.
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.
|San Diego State Defense 2010|
|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|
|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.
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|
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|
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.
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|
|Leon McFadden (CB)||55||7||1||2|
|Nat Berhe (SS)||39||1||0||1|
|Khalid Stevens (Rov)||37||3.5||0||0|
|Brandon Davis (FS)||36||2||0||0|
|Josh Wade (CB)||26||1.5||0||1|
|Dey Juan Hemmings||1||0||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.
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|
|San Diego State Punting 2010|
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?]