2012 San Diego State Preview – Offense
San Diego State TE Gavin Escobar
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - San Diego State Aztec Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know:
The Aztec attack has some major rebuilding to do, but the production might not be all that bad after a little bit of time. Gone are QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman, but the backfield is full of quick options and should work more in a running back by committee approach. The quarterback situation has been whittled down to Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz and last year's backup Adam Dingwell with the starter getting a terrific receiving corps to work with. Gavin Escobar is one of the nation's best tight ends, while USC transfer Brice Butler upgrades the talent level of an experienced group. Even though the line has to come up with some major replacements after a terrific year, it'll be a quick and athletic front five that should be fine with a little bit of time.
Star of the offense: Junior TE Gavin Escobar
Passing: Adam Dingwell
0-1, 0 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Walter Kazee
74 carries, 339 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Colin Lockett
58 catches, 970 yds, 8 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB Ryan Katz and/or Sophomore QB Adam Dingwell
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Brice Quigley
Best pro prospect: Escobar
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Escobar, 2) C Alec Jackson, 3) WR Colin Lockett
Strength of the offense: Receiving Corps, Quickness
Weakness of the offense: Sure-Thing Quarterback, No Ryan Lindley or Ronnie Hillman
Gone is Ryan Lindley, the bomber who cranked out 3,154 yards and 23 touchdowns last year, and as the leader of the offense over the last few years, and now there's a battle for the starting job. Former Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz will likely be the one to rise up from the pack after showing a good arm and decent enough consistency in practices. Basically, the Beavers wanted to work around Sean Mannion and Katz was pushed aside after completing 13-of-25 passes for 104 yards with a score in limited time last year after throwing for 2,401 yards and 18 sores with 11 picks. At 6-1 and 215 pounds he isn't all that big, but he's a good passer with nice mobility.
Also a terrific all-around athlete is sophomore Adam Dingwell, with great size at 6-4 and 205 pounds and excellent quickness and mobility. The backup last year behind Lindley, he didn't get any time attempting just one pass and misfiring. A good recruit out of Texas he beefed up a bit over the last year and has been just good enough to battle for the starting job, but he's likely going to be the No. 2 man behind Katz unless he's fantastic in late summer practices.
It was a five-man battle for the starting job and three of the options well aside. 6-5, 225-pound junior Jake Bernards is a big passer who can push the ball deep with good mobility and a live arm. 6-2, 175-pound redshirt freshman Chad Jeffries is a smallish pro-style passer who has the best speed of the group. He had offers from some Pac-12 schools, but he'll try to move up the charts over the next few seasons and needs a little seasoning, while 6-2, 220-pound new recruit Matt Morin is a great-looking prospect with plenty of big-time potential. A pure pro-style passer with good running skills, all the tools are there to eventually be the main man.
Watch Out For … the deep backup job. It seems like it's a lock that Katz and Dingwell are way ahead of the pack, but the other options will be given several chances to show what they can do. The coaching staff might have to develop Dingwell a bit for the future, but Jeffries and Morin needs chances to see if there's upside.
Strength: Options and mobility. Katz is a decent enough runner to get by for a nice passer, and he might be the least mobile quarterback on the lot. All the Aztec quarterbacks are pro-style throwers and can take off when needed.
Weakness: The No. 1 quarterback. Lindley might have been a bit erratic and he might have been just as likely to throw a wormburner as he would hit a receiver in stride between three defenders, but he was a terrific baller. Yeah, the Aztecs have quarterback options, but there's a reason Katz wasn't the main man for Oregon State. There's no experience behind him.
Outlook: The passing attack will always matter at San Diego State, but as long as the quarterbacks are hitting on the third down throw and not turning the ball over they're doing their job. It was a deep pack pushing for the starting job and now it's whittled down to two options with Katz the likely No. 1 and Dingwell the backup. However, don't be shocked if this all changes by the time September comes around.
Unit Rating: 6
Sophomore Adam Muema is a smallish, quick back with phenomenal athleticism with 5-10, 190-pound size and blazing wheels. He can jump out of the stadium and cut on a dime, but now he needs more work after finishing third on the team with 253 yards and three scores with an 81-yard dash for a score against Boise state. With good hands he can be used more as a receiver, but he only caught two passes for thee yards and a score.
5-9, 175-pound junior Walter Kazee was a big part of the offense finishing second on the team with 339 yards and four scores before suffering a torn ACL and getting knocked out for the year. While he's not all that big and he's not built to take a pounding, he's ultra-quick with dangerous potential whenever he has the ball in his hands. Now he has to get back healthy after getting hurt.
with Kazee still trying to come back, 5-8, 200-pound redshirt freshman Chase Price will play a big role with good power and excellent lateral quickness. While he was wanted by Oregon and other BCS schools, he wants to be a star for the Aztecs and will get plenty of work right away. He's smart, athletic, and a workhorse who can become the main man for the ground game when needed.
5-11, 225-pound former walk-on Chad Young started throughout last year at fullback and worked into a great blocker and an occasional receiver. He got a little bit of short-yardage work running 16 times for 43 yards and two scores while catching 11 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. The coaching staff likes to add more power than the Brady Hoke staff did, and Young found a bigger role.
Watch Out For … Brandon Wright. The plan is for Kazee to be back by the start of the season, but it's still asking a lot for him to be ready to rock right away. The Aztecs need options and the 5-11, 185-pound Wright, a redshirt freshman who was one of the team's top recruits last season, will get every shot to show what he can do. He has speed and quickness with a natural feel for the ground game.
Strength: Quickness. San Diego State recruits to a type getting slippery backs who can zip through a line and bust out yards in chunks. The running game might have only averaged 4.9 yards per try, but the top three backs all had big years.
Weakness: Ronnie Hillman. The Aztecs relied on Hillman to carry the offense at times over the last few years running for 1,711 yards and 19 scores last season after taking off for 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman. The Aztecs have several nice, quick options, but it's asking a lot to find another Hillman right away.
Outlook: Rocky Long's offense always cranks out huge numbers on the ground. There isn't any power and Hillman might be missed, but several backs will get their chances to show what they can do with good holes to run through from an athletic line. Expect a step back in talent, but the production won't fall off the map.
Unit Rating: 6
The receiving corps was a plus and it has the potential to be even better if everyone comes through as expected. It all starts with the team's No. 1 target, 6-0, 175-pound junior Colin Lockett, a former cornerback who moved to the offensive side and was fantastic finishing with a team-leading 58 catches for 970 yards and eight scores averaging 16.7 yards per grab. Not just a fast deep threat, he's quick and tough for his size. Steady, he was good throughout the season and blew up late catching eight passes for 149 yards against Boise State and six grabs for 102 yards against Fresno State.
6-2, 210-pound junior Dyland Denso is a former walk-on who worked his way into a job last season finishing third on the team with 49 catches for 634 yards and three scores. With good size and nice toughness he's not afraid to go across the middle to make the tough grab and is a smart enough route runner to always be in the right spot. While he didn't have any huge games after making two scoring grabs in the season opener against Cal Poly, he was a nice complementary target.
The receiving corps was expected to be solid, but the addition of former USC star recruit Brice Butler could make it special. The 6-3, 195-pound senior suffered a shoulder injury, but before getting hurt he was dominant in practices and looked every bit the four-star prospect he was when the Trojans got him. He got a little bit of work in making 31 catches for 554 yards and three scores over his career, but now he'll soon be a top target at some spot even though he's going to start the year technically behind Lockett at the X.
6-1, 200-pound sophomore Ezell Ruffin was a top recruit for the Aztecs, but the coaches couldn't find a spot for him. Originally looked at as a running back, he moved back to receiver last season but didn't get any work. With good size and phenomenal speed he could've gone just about anywhere – turning down Notre Dame, Nebraska and Tennessee – it's time to use his 4.4 wheels to be a playmaker.
6-6, 245-pound junior Gavin Escobar is one of the nation's elite pass-catching tight ends following up a second-team All-Mountain West season by finishing second on the team making 51 grabs for 780 yards and seven touchdowns. With nice size and excellent speed he went from good to great improving as the season went on making eight grabs for 113 yards and two scores against Boise State and with six catches for 125 yards against Fresno State. While he can block a little bit, his real worth is as a receiver. 6-3, 210-pound sophomore Adam Roberts is another receiver with good size and nice hands. He only caught a pass for no yards last season, but he'll see a role in two tight end sets.
Watch Out For … Butler. The Aztecs are relatively set with Lockett and Denso, but Butler could be the best wide receiver in the Mountain West if he can come back healthy and stay on the field. The talent is undeniable, and now he needs to start being featured more.
Strength: Experience. A problem going into last season, now it's a major advantage with the top three targets returning and with Butler and Ruffin upgrading the overall talent level. Escobar is a special tight end.
Weakness: Quarterback? The situation is supposed to be fine with Katz and Dingwell each able to start and get the offense going, but neither one is as good as Lindley. There's a chance the quarterback situation could be far more inconsistent and the receiving corps could struggle.
Outlook: The receivers were supposed to be a concern before last season started and they turned out to shine. Lockett is now a true receiver and not just a converted defensive back, while Escobar is a special go-to target with NFL potential. If Butler gets healthy and builds on the big things he did this offseason, the sky is the limit for this group.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The offensive line came up with a phenomenal season finishing seventh in the nation in sacks allowed, and now it has to undergo some changes. The big move was taking big blocking tight end Brice Quigley, who came up with nine catches for 64 yards while serving as a hitter – and moving him to left tackle in place of Tommie Draheim. Quigley might not be that big, but he can move and has the potential to shine as a pass protector.
Trying to take over at right tackle for Kurtis Gunther will be 6-5, 285-pound sophomore Zack Dilley, a versatile blocker who was originally considered a center but was a nice recruit for the program as an offensive tackle. After a year of seasoning he should grow into the fine and be more than fine in pass protection if he can hang on to the job.
Senior Alec Johnson needs to be the anchor. A terrific recruit a few years ago and considered the star of the 2008 class, he became the quarterback for the line showing good versatility and quickness for a 6-3, 300-pounder. The former guard became a second-team All-Mountain West center with good smarts and sound technical ability. He needs to be healthy
- out this offseason with a foot problem - and has to be the star veteran who everything works around.
Johnson might be the star of the sow, but 6-4, 300-pound senior Nik Embernate is a good returning starter who got the call in every game but one last season. A 25-game starter over the last two years, he's a reliable consistent blocker in the passing game and is nice at walling off his man for the ground attack. Built like a tackle, he also moves like one and knows what he's doing. Staying healthy is a must with a shoulder problem this spring.
6-3, 290-pound junior Japheth Gordon worked as a backup left guard and has seen a little bit of time behind Emilio Rivera. Now the job is his with nice athleticism and good enough size to be a little bit of a pounder. Smart and athletic, he has been groomed to take over the job this season.
6-5, 310-pound senior Riley Gauld stepped in and started at right guard against Colorado State. The former JUCO transfer has excellent size and is built to work on the inside able to start at either guard spot if needed. He'll back up Embernate again, but he could move over to the left side.
Watch Out For … Quigley. The coaching staff wants an athlete at left tackle and needs Quigley to be great with a little bit of time and seasoning, and there isn't a No. 2 option at this point with 6-7, 240-pound redshirt freshman Paul Rodriguez still a bit green and still needing to fill out his frame.
Strength: Athletes. While Rocky Long's New Mexico lines were blot-out-the-sun giants, he inherited a quicker more athletic line at San Diego State and is sticking with it. The Aztec front five isn't going to throw defensive fronts into the fifth row, but it'll be technically sound and will be great on the move.
Weakness: Experience. Johnson is a great veteran to lead the line and Embernate is a terrific veteran. The rest of the line needs work, though, and needs a lot of time. This line is about timing and precision, and it needs the time to be precise.
Outlook: A major plus going into last season, now it's rebuilding time. Fortunately, the Aztecs have the coaches who know how to make an O line work. This is an athletic group that should do a nice job in pass protection and should be solid with a little bit of time. The experienced depth is lacking and the starting five – especially Johnson – have to be healthy. Depth, and a possible right tackle, might have to be unearthed this August.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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