2012 San Jose State Preview

Posted Aug 8, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - San Jose State Spartans

San Jose State Spartans

Preview 2012

2012 San Jose State Depth Chart
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Mike MacIntyre
3rd year: 6-19
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 17, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best SJSU Players
1. LB Keith Smith, Jr.
2. DE Travis Johnson, Sr.
3. TE Ryan Otten, Sr.
4. RB De'Leon Eskridge, Sr.
5. LB Vince Buhagiar, Jr.
6. WR Noel Grisgby, Jr.
7. OT David Quessenberry, Sr.
8. S James Orth, Sr.
9. OG Nicholas Kaspar, Jr.
10. DT Anthony Larceval, Jr.

Unit Rankings
QB - 5.5
RB - 5
WR - 7
OL - 4.5
DL - 5
LB - 5
DB - 5
ST - 6.5
2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 at Stanford
Sept. 8 UC Davis
Sept. 15 Colorado State
Sept. 22 at San Diego State
Sept. 29 at Navy
Oct. 13 Utah State
Oct. 20 at UTSA
Oct. 27 Texas State
Nov. 3 at Idaho
Nov. 10 at New Mexico State
Nov. 17 BYU
Nov. 24 Louisiana Tech
Could it really be possible that the impossible program really and truly is turning a corner?

Former head coach Dick Tomey tried, coming up with a whopper of a 2006 season and decent years in 2007 and 2008, but then San Jose State went back to being San Jose State.

Enter Mike MacIntyre, who after two years appears to be the exact coach needed to make the program a continued success. He has a no-nonsense approach with no excuses and no sugar-coating what the team has done and what it can do going forward, and this season, he might have just the right blend to make a run at the WAC title before baling out for the Mountain West.

Considering that San Jose State football was hanging by a thread not all that long ago, that it's pushing forward with a bright future is a minor miracle. The program hasn't exactly been a model of success over the last few decades, but with a few good breaks, this year's team could be terrific.

The receiving corps has experience and talent led by Ryan Otten, one of the nation's best tight ends, and a nice wide receiver trio of Noel Grigsby, Chandler Jones and Jabari Carr to work around. Getting Minnesota transfer De'Leon Eskridge for the backfield should make up for the loss of top rusher Brandon Rutley, but there are other solid running backs to work around in a rotation.

A starting quarterback has to step up and shine in place of bomber Matt Faulkner, who led the WAC's second-best passing game, but there are several decent options fighting it out to step in. The problem could be an O line that has to replace three starters from a group that did a terrific job in pass protection last season. If the front five is fine, the offense should put up nice numbers.

The defensive front has a few outstanding playmakers to build around. Keith Smith is one of the WAC's top tackling linebackers, while Travis Johnson is one of college football's most dangerous pass rushing ends. MacIntyre and his staff have done a nice job of filling in the gaps where needed and have a potentially strong secondary with the return of safety James Orth and corner Ronnie Yell.

But will all the positives be enough? San Jose State could have easily have finished 2-10 last year instead of 5-7, winning three games by a grand total of seven points, but that's what the team has to do. It has to win all the close games against the mediocre teams and will have to pull off a few upsets to have any hope of battling Louisiana Tech and Utah State for the WAC title, but the foundation is being set.

What you need to know

Offense: The offense that was so good through the air last season loses bombing quarterback Matt Faulkner and has several options to play around with. JUCO transfer David Fales is the perfect fit for the attack, but he'll have to battle to be the main man. With Noel Grigsby and tight end Ryan Otten leading a loaded receiving corps, the passing attack should keep cranking out big numbers up top. The woeful running game gets a huge boost with former Minnesota top back De'Leon Eskridge ready to go after sitting out all of last year and with former Washington Husky Dalton Freeman returning from a broken arm, but only two starters – tackle David Quessenbery and guard Nicholas Kaspar – return up front from a line that was a rock in pass protection.

Defense: The defense did little to get into the backfield – finishing 100th in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss – and was awful against the run even with end Travis Johnson cranking out a huge 9.5 sack season. Keith Smith is one of the WAC's best linebackers, but he had to do way too much by himself for a corps that needs to develop more depth and has to get production out of two new starters. With little help from the pass rush the secondary had its problems, but it gets good-tackling safety James Orth back and should get a stronger year out of top corner Ronnie Yell.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The passing game turned out to be among the best in the WAC as it put up huge numbers as the schedule eased up. No one has grabbed the starting job by the horns this offseason, but last year's starter, Matt Faulkner, didn't shine last spring either. It will take a while to find the No. 1, and even then the job will still be up in the air. 6-3, 220-pound junior David Fales is a former JUCO transfer who originally signed with Nevada and has yet to see any FBS action, completing 62% of his throws for 4,635 yards and 37 scores for Monterey Peninsula College. 6-4, 217-pound junior Dasmen Stewart is an interesting option with the most experience and most mobility, but he has to be a stronger passer after completing 40% of his throws for 158 yards with a pick. Even though he saw limited action he finished second on the team with 111 yards and a touchdown. His 3-of-14 passing day against Nevada was enough to make the change, but he has speed, the athleticism to run the spread option, and a good enough passing arm to be used from time to time in a variety of ways. 6-4, 230-pound sophomore Blake Jurich is a pure passer who can move just enough to not be a sitting duck. With his size and accuracy he's being given every shot to take over. The arm is there to push the ball all over the field, but he has to be a stronger decision maker and has to be steady.

What to watch for on defense: Why isn't there more of a pass rush? Travis Johnson is one of the best defensive ends in the nation cranking out 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, but he was a lone playmaker behind the line with no one else generating more than one sack or five tackles for loss. After finishing 100th in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, and the stats against the run struggling because of it, the defense has to be far stronger and far more disruptive. Tackle Travis Raciti should be a solid interior pass rusher in time while David Tuitupou is a good-sized end who has to take advantage of everyone paying attention to Johnson on the other side.

The team will be far better if … The run defense has to show up. Stanford didn't need to do too much to win the opener, but for the most part, the other six Spartan losses came when the run defense was getting ripped up. SJSU was 1-5 when allowing 200 rushing yards or more with the lone win coming in the shocker over Navy. On the year the D allowed 26 rushing scores giving up two of more in every game but two, a win over Colorado State and a loss to BYU.

The schedule: This should be the best Spartan team in years, and it's going to have a bear of a time coming up with a winning season without beating Colorado State at home and pulling off a big upset against someone like Louisiana Tech in the finale. Beating Idaho and/or New Mexico State is a must and there can't be any misfires against the newbies UTSA and Texas State. A trip to Stanford to kick things off is the only sure-thing loss, but the Spartans have to find a way to own home field.

Best offensive player: Senior TE Ryan Otten. All of a sudden, when the San Jose State passing game started to work, Otten became the key part of the attack. He showed promise in the last two games of 2010 catching ten passes for 147 yards and three scores, and then last season he grew into a terrific playmaker with 52 catches for 739 yards and five scores in 11 games. Over a three-game midseason stretch he caught 21 passes for 318 yards and three scores, but he was productive throughout the year. At 6-5 and 245 pounds he has good size and terrific route running ability. He's like a big wide receiver working as one of the team's top targets.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Keith Smith. Smith got thrown into the fire as a true freshman and he was phenomenal, leading the team with 115 tackles with four sacks and 14 tackles for loss as one of the best all-around defenders in the WAC. Last year he ended up doing it all again with a team-leading 104 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. He's not huge at 6-1 and 229 pounds, but he's a phenomenal tackler with great range, and now he'll be turned loose even more on the outside and could be an even more dangerous pass rusher. More than anything else, though, he'll be the key factor against the run with ten double-digit tackling games in the last 17.

Key player to a successful season: Senior RB DeLeon Eskridge. The running game finished 110th in the nation last season and could use some help to balance out the attack. The rushing offense was Brandon Rutley or bust, but he's going making it up to former Minnesota tailback De'Leon Eskidge to try to take over right away. The 5-11, 215-pound senior from San Francisco is coming back close to home after running for 1,670 yards and 17 scores as the Gophers' two time leading rusher. Big and fast, he can crank out big yards in chunks if he gets a little room to move and he can catch a little bit. He might not be a power back, but he can provide a little bit of pop.

The season will be a success if … The Spartans go bowling. The team made the step up in the progression last season, and now it has to go even further in Year Three under MacIntyre. There are more than enough winnable games to get to six victories, even seven, with dates with UC Davis, Colorado State, Utah State and Texas State at home and UTSA, Idaho and New Mexico State on the road. It might take an upset or two to go bowling, and there isn't enough in the bag to win the WAC, but finishing second in the conference behind Louisiana Tech isn't out of the realm of possibility.

Key game: Oct. 13 vs. Utah State. Last season the Spartans lost a 34-33 heartbreaker giving up two touchdowns in the final 5:19 including the game-winning touchdown pass with :47 to play. This year, Louisiana Tech is far and away the class of the WAC, but the winner of this game should be second with San Jose State getting two weeks off to prepare for the homecoming showdown. Even though three of the next four games will be on the road, UTSA, Texas State, Idaho and New Mexico State are all winnable. The Spartans could go on a nice run with a win over the Aggies.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Red Zone Touchdowns: Opponents 29-of-48 (60%) - San Jose State 19-of-43 (44%)
- 3rd Quarter Scoring: Opponents 101 – San Jose State 59
- Penalties: Opponents 58 for 519 yards - San Jose State 40 for 378 yards
2012 San Jose State Depth Chart