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2011 San Jose State Preview
San Jose State RB Brandon Rutley
San Jose State RB Brandon Rutley
Posted May 30, 2011 2011 Preview - San Jose State Spartan Preview

San Jose State Spartans

Preview 2011

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Mike MacIntyre
2nd year: 1-12
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best San Jose State Players
1. S Duke Ihenacho, Sr.
2. LB Keith Smith, Soph.
3. DE Travis Johnson, Jr.
4. LB Vince Buhagiar, Soph.
5. WR Noel Grigsby, Soph.
6. S Bene Benwikere, Soph.
7. RB Brandon Rutley, Sr.
8. PK/P Harrison Waid, Soph.
9. LB Pompey Festejuo, Sr.
10. TE Ryan Otten, Jr.

Sept. 3 at Stanford
Sept. 10 at UCLA
Sept. 17 Nevada
Sept. 25 New Mexico St
Oct. 1 at Colorado St
Oct. 8 at BYU
Oct. 15 Hawaii
Oct. 29 at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 5 Idaho
Nov. 12 at Utah State
Nov. 19 Navy
Nov. 26 at Fresno State

The Mike McIntyre era didn’t exactly get off to a rousing start, but last year didn’t really matter and neither, to a point, does this year.

San Jose State is in the same boat as New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho, and Louisiana Tech as the land of unwanted programs by the Mountain West. Boise State bailed and Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada are giving a smell you later next year, leaving a gaping void in the conference that’s waiting to be filled. McIntyre is a young, emerging head coach, and this year he has to show that he has a young, emerging team ready to hit the ground running and rock in 2012.

But first, 2011 might not be too bad with the Spartans returning one of the nation’s most experienced teams. Injures devastated the team throughout last year, especially on defense, but now the problems should pay off as there’s depth, tons of returning veteran talent, and a lot of options for the coaching staff to play around with. And then there’s the positive side of throwing some young players to the wolves, as evidenced by the linebacking corps, when the banged up veterans return, but will have a hard time knocking out last year’s stars, Keith Smith and Vince Buhagiar, out of the lineup after tremendous true freshman campaigns.

So will this be the year when the Spartans start to show more of the promise that Dick Tomey’s teams showed a few seasons ago? There’s too much talent and experience to not have a better season, and it’ll be impossible to be any worse.

This was supposed to be a decent team coming into last year, but it only won one game – beating Southern Utah in a 16-11 grind – and lost to miserable teams like New Mexico State, Idaho, and even UC Davis from the lower level. To try to take away something positive, the Spartans were banged up and inconsistent all season long, had to face Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah, and Boise State, and ended up losing to UC Davis, NMSU, Utah State, Louisiana Tech, and Idaho all by a touchdown or less and by a grand total of 17 points. And yes, the Spartans gave the Badgers a major push and had their chances to pull off the whopper of an upset. It might not seem like much, but the team was a few plays away from not being that bad.

Now there’s depth to overcome any potential injury problems, but the quarterback situation is far from settled, the offensive line has to be night-and-day better, and the defensive line has to stop someone from running the ball effectively. With all the returning talent, this could be more than just a bridge to 2012, but for now, just getting a few wins and establishing the program as a possible major player in the near future would be enough.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. This is the biggest indicator for what the coaching staff wants to do with its season. Senior Matt Faulkner might be the safe choice because of his age and maturity – he was the No. 2 last year – but he didn’t exactly light it up this offseason. If he’s the starter, the coaches are playing it close to the vest and are trying to win now. If it’s sophomore Dasmen Stewart, the best runner of the lot, or redshirt freshman Blake Jurich, or true freshman Joseph Gray, the program is being built for the future. The key will be to find the best of the young options and plan on sticking with him thick or thin over the next few years.

What to watch for on defense: The return of the banged up linebackers. Keith Smith and Vince Buhagiar combined for 205 tackles as true freshmen, and now they’re the established stars of the front seven. On the plus side, former starters Kyler O’Neal and Pompey Festejo are back after missing most of last year hurt, and combining with the true sophomores and senior Tiuke Tuipulotu, the linebacking corps could be a major plus with great depth and lots of options.

The team will be far better if … The running game starts to work. The offensive line gets almost all the key parts back, has good size, and has good athleticism, but the production has to start to come after the ground game finished 119th in the nation. It’s one thing to get stuffed by Alabama and Wisconsin, but there’s no excuse whatsoever to run for just 70 yards against New Mexico State and 57 yards against Southern Utah. The line has to start controlling games and has to start giving a little bit of room for Brandon Rutley to fly through.

The schedule: After the killer schedule of last year with three games against teams with national title-level talent – Alabama, Wisconsin, and Boise State – facing Stanford, UCLA, Colorado State, BYU, and Navy is a LOT nicer of a non-conference slate. However, last year there were games against Southern Utah and UC Davis, and now there aren’t any games against FCS teams. In WAC play, the Spartans have to beat New Mexico State, Hawaii, and Idaho at home, and they have to pull off a win at Utah State to have any hope of a decent season. Getting Nevada at home isn’t necessarily a plus.

Best offensive player: Sophomore WR Noel Grigsby. The running mate to leading receiver Jalal Beuachman, Grisgsby came up with a consistent and productive redshirt freshman season catching 56 passes for 822 yards and averaging 14.7 yards per catch. He had a nice early game against Wisconsin, but didn’t start to rock until the second half of the season when he caught five passes or more in each of the final six games. Now he’s the No. 1 guy, and he has the hands and the route running ability to be a dangerous playmaker for the passing game. He has All-WAC ability , but the quarterback play has to be good enough to get him the ball.

Best defensive player: Senior S Duke Ihenacho. The Spartans have a star in the making in outside linebacker Keith Smith, who might be one of the WAC’s leading tacklers again, and defensive end Travis Johnson looks terrific as a pass rushing terror, but the return of Ihenacho from a foot injury is the big key to any defensive improvement. A guided missile of an all-star safety, he’ll put up a ton of big stats and will be a steadying force for a promising but unproductive secondary that didn’t do nearly enough last year.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Andrew Moeaki. The quarterback situation has to be worked out, and a blaster of a run blocking offensive lineman would be nice, but the defense has to get off the field and it starts with stopping someone’s running game. The 6-2, 295-pound Moeaki is the biggest body on the field and he needs to be more of a stuffer and an anchor for everything else to work around.

The season will be a success if … the Spartans win five games. This is one of the WAC’s most experienced teams, and the schedule is easier, but anything more than five games would make for a special season. There are still concerns on the line and the quarterback situation is a problem, but there are enough good players to make a move forward. After so many close losses last year, the Spartans needs to use the returning experience to start winning those battles.

Key game: Oct. 14 vs. Hawaii. The Spartans are 1-9 in the last ten games against the Warriors, but this year’s home game might be a must-win in the midst of a slew of road games. With trips to Colorado State and BYU coming before the Hawaii game, and with a date at Louisiana Tech after, a loss on a Friday in mid-October could make for a nasty month without a win.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Score after three quarters: Opponents 361 – San Jose State 131
- Rushing Yards: Opponents 2,641 – San Jose Sate 1,021
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 87-of-171 (48%) – San Jose State 45-of-172 (26%)

- 2011 San Jose State Preview | 2011 San Jose State Offense
- 2011 San Jose State Defense | 2011 San Jose State Depth Chart
- San Jose State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006