2011 Record: (8-5, 4-3 in MWC)
Head Coach: Rocky Long (8-5 at SDSU, 73-74 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 New Orleans Bowl: lost to Louisiana 32-30
Big Name Opponents: 9/1 at Washington, 11/3 at Boise State
Must Win: 9/15 vs North Dakota, 10/27 vs UNLV
Revenge: 11/24 at Wyoming
Stat to Cheer: 28 takeaways placed second in the MWC
Stat to Fear: allowed opponents to score on 86.49% of red zone possessions (next to last in MWC)
Phil Steele’s Returning Starters (Offense: 6; Defense: 6; Specialists: 0)
Key Defensive Returnees: CB Leon McFadden (46 tackles, 2 INT), LB Jake Fely (58 tackles), DB Nat Berhe (67 tackles, 2 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: WR Colin Lockett (58 rec, 8 TD), TE Gavin Escobar (51 rec, 7 TD), RB Adam Muema (253 yds rushing, 6.02 ypc), C Alec Johnson, OG Nik Embernate
Inside Scoop with Surf The Spear:
CFBZ: Rocky Long went 8-5 in his first year at SDSU. How did he do and what does he need to improve in his sophomore season?
Surf The Spear: In our mind, Rocky Long was in a lead up introduction to this year. Rocky came in during the summer recruiting phase and was placed into a predicament. He had to keep the athletes recruited under Brady. We have major issues with depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. For San Diego State Football fans, this will be Rocky’s first season. His first recruiting class is the main point. During his sophomore season, Rocky is going to have to get team chemistry implanted into these men. Rocky is dealing with the loss of some key offensive athletes and is going to have to replace his whole defense. If Rocky can do those things, he will be extremely successful.
CFBZ: The Aztecs must replace QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman. Who is waiting in the wings to replace them?
Surf The Spear: The Aztecs were placed in a good position this past spring in the quarterback battle. We had 4 men competing for the job. Adam Dingwell was first coming into spring ball as he was Ryan Lindley’s back up. That’s when the competition became interesting with the addition of a transfer, Ryan Katz from Oregon State. He came in looking to start and was able to beat out Adam Dingwell, within the 3 weeks of spring practice.
Ronnie Hillman is the second best running back in San Diego State history behind Marshall Faulk. He did suffer from some injuries during his last season at San Diego State. A redshirt freshman named Adam Muema stepped in to fill his spot. In his first game, Adam ran for over 125 yards against Boise State. The kid has great speed, and he has some bulk. He will be the starting running back for the Aztecs this coming fall. Walter Kazee will be the second down back, the same role he had behind Ronnie.
CFBZ: What is the one game on the schedule that Aztecs fans want to win more than any other (and why)?
Surf The Spear: San Diego State fans are anticipating 2 games but for different reasons. The younger generation of Aztec fans like me are especially jazzed about playing against the Boise State Broncos, in Boise on their blue turf. This game will show the nation that the Aztecs are no joke, and we can hang in with the big boys. The older generation of Aztec fans is looking forward to playing against the Fresno State Bulldogs. This is a rivalry that started when Fresno State was the first school in the Valley and San Diego State was the first school in the city. This is an extremely old rivalry that transcended leagues, from the Mountain West to the WAC and back. The series was called off due to conference changes and has now been reborn. This will be our first trip over to Fresno in a long time.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for 2012 and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Surf The Spear: My gut feeling about the final record is a bit shaky. I believe we have the chance to go undefeated, should the Aztecs beat the Huskies in Seattle. That “win” would give this young team a huge confidence boost. With the issues going on with Boise State and the fact, they lost about 13 guys to the NFL. We believe SDSU has a good chance to go in and beat the Broncos on their home turf. Should we lose that game, I believe the Aztecs will go 9 and 3,with losses to Washington, Boise State and Wyoming. The Aztecs could have problems with the Wolfpack (Nevada) and Fresno State, but believe those games are winnable. Final prognosis, the Aztecs will most likely end the season at 8 and 4 again.
Over the last two years, SDSU has seen a resurgence of their football program. Three straight years would make it a trend and put the program on solid footing heading into the Big East. Losing Lindley and Hillman is a big blow but it appears that the Aztecs have players that can fill some of the void left by those two departing stars.
One concern is the loss of the playmakers on the defense. The Aztecs lose their three leading sackers (total of 16 sacks between the three players) and their top interceptor (Larry Parker had seven picks last season). In their wins last year, the Aztecs averaged a +1.5 turnover margin. Developing new stars on defense will go a long way to deciding how this team competes in the MWC.
Another thing to look at is the Aztecs schedule. Their toughest games (with the exception of Air Force) are on the road and they get all the games they “should win” at home. The good news is that after Washington, the schedule is pretty light until the second half of the season. I could see this team winning eight or nine if they get on a roll but I think they take a small step back this year after losing a lot of senior talent.
2012 Prediction: 7-5
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