#56 San Diego State Football 2015 Preview

San Diego State Aztecs

Overall Rank: #56
#3 Mountain West

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By San Diego State’s recent standards, a 7-6 season and a loss to Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl was a disappointing season. The Aztecs expect better under Coach Rocky Long. In big games, SDSU just could not get the job done in 2014. Their seven wins came against Northern Arizona, UNLV, New Mexico, Hawaii, Idaho, Air Force and San Jose State. Air Force, at 10-3, was the only FBS team among them that even came close to having a winning record. This year could be very telling. Was that the start of a bad run for the Aztecs or did they simply not quite have enough to beat the good teams on their schedule in 2014?

2014 Record: 7-6, 5-3
2014 Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl vs. Navy (L 16-17)
Coach: Rocky Long (32-20 at San Diego State, 97-89 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Horton
Defensive Coordinator: Rocky Long

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Donne Pumphrey, RB, 1,867 yards
Passing: Nick Bawden, QB, 147 yards
Receiving: Eric Judge, WR, 471 yards
Tackles: Calvin Munson, LB, 78
Sacks: Calvin Munson, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Calvin Munson, LB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Chase Price, WR Lloyd Mills, K Donny Hageman, S Trey Lomax, S Na’im McGee, S Malik Smith, CB J.J. Whittaker, CB Damontae Kazee, DT Alex Barrett

Key Losses: QB Quinn Kaehler, WR Ezell Ruffin, LB Josh Gavert, OL Terry Poole

One thing is for sure; the San Diego State defense will give opposing quarterbacks nightmares. This unit will not tally a ton of sacks, but the unique 3-3-5 scheme with blitzes coming from anywhere is very difficult to prepare for and has been proven to be successful. Linebacker Calvin Munson should again be the leader of the team. He totaled 78 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, 4.0 sacks and four interceptions last season. The return of Jake Fely helps too. The linebacker was granted a sixth year of eligibility and, if he can stay healthy, will be another big time pass rushing threat. The secondary returns all five starters. J.J. Whittaker was also granted a sixth year of eligibility and will team up with Damontae Kazee at the cornerback spots. Malik Smith, Na’im McGee and Trey Lomax were all underclassmen last year and will only be better now. The problem is on the line where the lack of size causes problems in short yardage situations and in the red zone.

A passing game that ranked 106th in the nation and 10th in the Mountain West must find a new leader. Quinn Kaehler is gone after throwing for 2,157 yards and nine touchdowns and SDSU does not have an obvious player ready to step into the starting quarterback spot. The most likely option is Kentucky transfer Maxwell Smith. He has starting experience in the SEC and plenty of potential to turn the inconsistent passing game of 2014 into a strength in 2015. The other options are Oregon transfer Jake Rodriguez and redshirt freshman Drew Anderson. Eric Judge is expected to turn into the top receiving threat, but he caught just 24 passes last season. Lloyd Mills is the other top returning receiver after catching 22 passes for 310 yards and one touchdown as a sophomore. But how much time will the new quarterback have to operate? Thanks to some graduations and some offseason dismals, the San Diego State offensive line is a massive work in progress.

The Bottom Line:
The questions on the line will also affect what San Diego State wants to do the most on offense…run the ball. Running back Donnel Pumphrey had a huge sophomore season, rushing for 1,867 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is a little back who can work his way through the smallest holes. And with this offensive line, the holes may be very small. Overall, San Diego State should be able to win eight or nine games this year and compete for a MW West title. They get Fresno State at home and the road slate is full of winnable conference games. This team went 1-5 on the road in 2014, but that was mostly because those were the games against the better teams. With the better teams now at home and plenty of winnable road games on the schedule, San Diego State has the potential for a big turnaround.

Projected Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 216.1 (26th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 178.4 (106, 10)
Total Offense: 394.5 (71, 8)
Scoring Offense: 25.0 (88, 8)
Rushing Defense: 153.9 (48, 4)
Pass Defense: 178.5 (10, 2)
Total Defense: 332.5 (16, 1)
Scoring Defense: 19.8 (13, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (43, 4)
Sacks: 2.00 (74, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.77 (42, 4)


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