2014 SDSU Preview: What You Need To Know
San Diego State WR Ezell Ruffin
San Diego State WR Ezell Ruffin
Posted Jul 23, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About San Diego State (Getty Images)

2014 San Diego State Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 San Diego State Preview 
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The offense that needed a little while to ramp things up, and was strangely inconsistent at times, should be more explosive and more efficient now that Quinn Kaehler is firmly established as the starting quarterback and with some terrific skill weapons to work with. The running back combination of Donnel Pumphrey and Marcus Stamps should improve the ground game behind a big line that should be stronger and tougher. Can the turnovers slow down? The mistakes have to be kept to a minimum, and the big yards and points have to come in shootouts – the Aztecs will get into some fun games with lots of big plays. Led by Ezell Ruffin, the receiving corps will be there to make it happen.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense had better be ready to ramp up the secondary and the pass defense in a big hurry. There are several strong, dangerous passing games to deal with, and now four starters have to be replaced in the back five after allowing 255 yards per game through the air. The run D gets a big boost with the return of star linebacker Jake Fely, who’s back after suffering a broken leg, and with the addition of USC transfer Christian Heyward and the return of Sam Meredith from injury. This might not be the Mountain West’s best defense, and it’s going to have some rough spots where it gets lit up – it has to get stronger in the red-zone and needs to come up with more key stops in big moments.

Players You Need To Know

1. LB Jake Fely, Sr.
The star of the defense and the linebacking corps two years ago, the 5-10, 220-pound veteran loaded up with 90 tackles and a team-leading seven sacks with 11.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles as a huge hitter and playmaker. While he’s undersized for the position in the middle, he hits like a ton of bricks and plays very, very fast – he’s shot out of a cannon when he gets a line on a ball-carrier. Durable throughout the first part of his career, he suffered a broken foot early on last season just four games in after making 20 tackles with a sack. Healthy again, he should be on the Mountain West all-star short list and should put up huge numbers. His return is a really, really big deal for a defense that has to replace seven starters.

2. CB J.J. Whittaker, Sr.
The only returning starter in the secondary, Whittaker needs to be an all-star with so many good passing teams on the schedule. The 5-10, 180-pounder was a great recruit who never did much thanks to a slew of injuries, but last year he was finally right and showed what he could do earning All-Mountain West honors making 32 tackles with a team-leading three picks and 11 broken up passes. Very smart and very quick, he’s healthy after the knee and shoulder problems that took away the first part of his career. This year he’s the anchor of the defensive backfield.

3. QB Quinn Kaehler, Sr.
It was supposed to be Adam Dingwell who came into last season as the main man after waiting his turn, but Kaehler turned out to be the better option. The 6-4, 215-pound JUCO transfer stepped in completed 60% of his passes for 3,007 yards and 19 touchdowns with nine picks. He stepped in after not seeing time in the opener against Eastern Illinois and threw for 200 yards or more in every game, and bombed away against Fresno State for 337 yards. He’s not going to run, but he has a big arm and has the accuracy to do even more. He threw for 4,044 yards and 38 touchdowns at Diablo Valley College, and while he won’t hit those numbers, expect more 300-yard games.

4. WR Ezell Ruffin, Sr.
Dangerous, Ruffin grew into a bigger part of the passing game leading the way with 68 catches for 1,136 yards and three scores. A top recruit for the program, the 6-1, 210-pounder was brought in as a possible running back, but he turned himself into a receiver catching 17 passes for 319 yards as a deep threat and blew up last year with four 100-yard games including a ten-catch, 181-yard performance against Fresno State and seven catches for 165 yards and two scores against New Mexico. With size, toughness, speed and deep ball ability, he can do it all for the receiving corps that loses Colin Lockett.

5. RB Donnel Pumphrey, Soph.
A fantastic get for the program, the 5-9, 170-pounder out of Las Vegas has the speed and versatility to do a little of everything out of the Aztec backfield. He did a nice job in his first season finishing second on the team with 752 yards and eight touchdowns with three straight 100-yard days with 167 yards against NMSU, 112 against Nevada and 117 against Air Force. However, he gave way to Adam Muema as the season went on and didn’t get much work late in the year. Even so, as a runner and a receiver, catching 22 passes for 234 yards and two scores, he’ll once again be used in a variety of ways. The 2012 Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year is really, really fast – he was a state champion-level sprinter.

6. OT Terry Poole, Sr.
The 6-5, 310-pound JUCO transfer dominated at Monterey Peninsula College before coming in and starring right away at right tackle. Very big and great for the ground game, now he’ll make the move over to left tackle where he should be an all-star caliber blocker who grows into a terrific pass protector. Athletic for his size, he grew into a better player at the JUCO level, and it should show – he’s ready for a huge final year.

7. RB Marcus Stamps, RFr.
At 6-1 and 210 pounds, he’s more of a tough, powerful back than Donnel Pumphrey, and he’s ready to break out as the right fit for Rocky Long’s offense. A tough player who dominated as both a linebacker and a running back in high school, he can also run for big yards, averaging 10.9 yards per try as a high school senior while finishing his career with 238 tackles and 17 sacks. Incredibly athletic, he was originally considered a safety prospect, but now he’s going to be a key part of the ground game, showing what he could do rushing for 73 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in the spring game.

8. OG Darrell Greene, Jr.
The 6-4, 315-pounder is a blaster of a blocker who turned into a starter early last year and became one of the most consistent linemen. With his size and strength, he’ll be the main man on the right side and should grow more and more into one of the key guys everything works around inside. He might not move around all that well, but he’s great in a phone booth.

9. DE Sam Meredith, Sr.
A great combination of size and quickness, the versatile 6-4, 290-pound veteran has seen time both inside and out, working mostly at end throughout last year. An All-Mountain West performer two years ago, he was a mainstay on the D line before suffering a torn labrum and missing most of the second half of the season, making 16 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss before getting hurt. He beefed up in a big way since arriving on campus, but he maintained his quickness and ability as an interior pass rusher – he’ll do more this year when he’s healthy.

10. DT Christian Heyward, Jr.
A fantastic recruit for USC, he was considered a great option for the interior and a great all-around tackle prospect. After redshirting, he suffered a shoulder injury and ended up coming back home. The San Diego native first considered the Aztecs before going up to L.A., where things just didn’t work out. Now he should be one of the team’s best defensive lineman, and even though he’s not huge, he should be able to hold his own inside and camp out in the backfield from time to time.

- 2014 San Diego State Preview