#66 San Diego State Football 2012 Preview

San Diego State Aztecs

2012 Overall Rank: #66
#4 Mountain West
San Diego State College Football 2012 Team Preview
San Diego State Team Page


San Diego State had a fine 2011 campaign, winning eight games before being upset by Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl. The good news is the defense should only get better under second year head coach Rocky Long. But there is also plenty of bad news as quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman are off in the NFL.

2011 Record: (8-5, 4-3)
2011 Bowl: New Orleans Bowl vs. Louisiana (L 30-32)
Coach: Rocky Long (8-5 at San Diego State, 73-74 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Defensive Coordinator: Rocky Long

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Walter Kazee, RB, 339 yards
Passing: none
Receiving: Colin Lockett, WR, 970 yards
Tackles: Nat Berhe, LB, 67
Sacks: Josh Gavert, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: Nat Berhe, LB, 2; Leon McFadden, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: S Marcus Andrews, WR Dylan Denso, G Nik Embernate, TE Gavin Escobar, LB Jake Fely, LB Vaness Harris, C Alec Johnson, S Gabe Lemon

Key Losses: LB Miles Burris, OT Tommie Draheim, DE Larry Gibbs, OT Kurtis Gunther, RB Ronnie Hillman, LB Logan Ketchum, QB Ryan Lindley, DT Jerome Long, CB Larry Parker, G Emilio Rivera

Coach Long is a defensive minded coach and will get the Aztecs defense moving in his 3-3-5 scheme sooner or later. The longer they spend in the system the better and this was a decent enough defense as it was last season. However, with top tacklers Miles Burris and Jerome Long gone, there is some rebuilding to be done. The big issue will be on the defensive line. SDSU played well against the run last year, but that could change quickly if the line cannot replace Larry Gibbs, J.J. Autele and Jerome Long. But there are some experienced options waiting to make their mark and Coach Long should get strong play out of his new linemen. The linebackers are young, but Jake Fely is coming off of a fine freshmen campaign. Josh Gavert is another rising sophomore to keep an eye on. Nat Berhe plays the “Aztec” position, which is pretty much a linebacker/safety hybrid. Berhe burst onto the scene as a sophomore, tallying 67 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups and two interceptions. Leon McFadden is one of the best corners in the conference and should emerge as the leader of the secondary and the entire defense.

A strong offense helped cover the weakness of SDSU’s defense last year, but the situation may be reversed this year. Lindley threw for 3,153 yards and 23 touchdowns while Hillman rushed for 1,711 yards and 20 total touchdowns. Replacing those numbers will be impossible. Lindley was a four year starter and replacing him will not be easy. Ryan Katz, a transfer from Oregon State is the likely starter in 2012, but Adam Dingwell and Chad Jeffries will provide some competition. Helping Katz and company will be a very experienced group of wide receivers. Colin Lockett was Lindley’s favorite target last season, leading the team with 58 receptions for 970 yards and eight touchdowns. Dylan Denso is a big 6-2 target and tight end Gavin Escobar is 6-6 and caught seven touchdown passes a year ago. Add USC transfer Brice Butler to the mix and this is a very talented group. The running back situation is a little more muddled. Adam Muema, Walter Kazaee, Brandon Wright and De'Saan Hardwick will all be in the mix and one of them needs to emerge as the go-to-back. With some talent returning to the offensive line, led by guard Nik Embernate and center Alec Johnson, the ground game should not take as big of a step backwards as many would think in Hillman’s absence.

The Bottom Line:
San Diego State has the potential to make some noise in the Mountain West. The schedule is not easy with road trips to Fresno State, Nevada, Wyoming and Boise State, but this could be a pretty good team by November. There are some major holes to fill and the defense needs to carry their weight, but Coach Long will have his defense ready to fill the void while the offense adjusts to life without Lindley and Hillman.

Projected Bowl: New Mexico Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 184.46 (30th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 242.92 (49, 2)
Total Offense: 427.38 (32, 4)
Scoring Offense: 29.77 (46, 4)
Rushing Defense: 169.54 (78, 3)
Pass Defense: 221.69 (55, 5)
Total Defense: 391.23 (68, 4)
Scoring Defense: 25.00 (57, 3)
Turnover Margin: .92 (9, 1)
Sacks: 2.23 (36, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 0.85 (7, 3)