San Diego State Preview 2006 - Defense
Posted Aug 7, 2006

San Diego State Aztecs Preview 2006 - SDSU Defense

What you need to know ... The defense had a hard time coming up with consistent production last season, but it should be better with eight returning starters and a great cornerback combination in Terrell Maze and Donny Baker. Overall, better run defense is a must after finishing next-to-last in the Mountain West allowing 185 yards per game. End Antwan Applewhite is one of the Mountain West's best pass rushers, but the defense needs to produce more than the 17 sacks of last year. The linebacking corps could quickly turn into something special if Andrew Shantz shines as the new starter in the group.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Reggie Grisgsby, 90
Sacks: Antwan Applewhite, 5.5
Interceptions: Terrelll Maze, Brett Storm, 3

Star of the defense: Senior CB Terrell Maze
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DT Frederick Amano
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Andrew Schantz
Best pro prospect: Maze
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Maze, 2) DE Antwan Applewhite, 3) CB Donny Baker
Strength of the defense: Cornerback
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush from someone other than Applewhite

Defensive Line
This could be a sneaky-good line if another pass rusher develops to help out Antwan Applewhite. Jonathan Bailes is a nice tackle to build around, while JUCO transfer Frederick Amano has to be a rock against the run. Nick Osborn has the experience as a tackle, and now he has to prove he can be a consistent pass rusher. The depth is young, but has a little bit of experience.
The key to the unit: The rest of the line has to be effective enough to take heat off of Antwan Applewhite. .
Defensive Line Rating: 5

Projected Starters
- DE Antwan Applewhite, Jr. - 56 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 2 broken up passes, 3 recovered fumbles
Applewhite went from being a pure pass rushing specialist to a great all-around end who earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors. He's a fast 6-3 and 235 pounds who's great at getting around the corner with excellent finishing ability.

- NT Jonathan Bailes, Sr. - 38 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL
Bailes was expected to grow into the rock of the line last year, and he didn't disappoint with his best year yet against the run. Despite dealing with constant double teams, he was a steady tackler and showed enough quickness to occasionally get into the backfield. This is his fourth year as a starter and he should start to receiver more recognition.

- DT Frederick Amano, Jr.
The JUCO transfer brings size up front. At 6-3 and 300 pounds, he'll be expected to shine right away as a big clogger in the middle next to Jonathan Bailes with the strength to play nose or tackle.

- DE Nick Osborn, Jr. - 47 tackles, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL
Osborn has to take advantage of playing on the other side of Antwan Applewhite. At 255 pounds, he's the team's biggest defensive end option and is a solid athlete. He's strong enough to play tackle, which he did for all 12 games last year, and now he has to show off his pass rushing ability.

Top Backups
- DT Jonathan Soto. Soph. - 11 tackles
Undersized at only 265 pounds, but tough, Soto started as a true freshman late in the year and was a consistent reserve in the rotation. He wasn't able to do anything in the backfield, but he has the quickness to grow into an interior pass rusher.
- DE Siaosi Fifita, Soph. - 10 tackles
Fifita had a nice true freshman season showing good promise on the end. He's a tall, linebacker-like end with good strength. Now he needs to prove he can get into the backfield.
- DE Kwan Howard, Sr. - 3 tackles
Part linebacker, part defensive end, the 215-pound senior hasn't been able to see the field as anything more than a special teamer. With his quickness and athleticism, he needs to be a factor behind Antwan Applewhite.

The linebacking corps was a pleasant surprise after losing Kirk Morrison, Matt McCoy and Heath Farwell. This year it has to overcome the loss of leading tackler Freddy Keiaho, but starters Russell Allen and Joe Martin return along with rising star Andrew Schantz on the strongside. There's decent depth led by undersized, but productive, Brett Martin.
The key to the unit: Get in the backfield. Last year the linebacking corps was just trying to keep its head above water. Now it has the experience to start being more productive.
Linebacker Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- Russell Allen, Soph. - 61 tackles, 2 interception
Allen does a little bit of everything well on the weakside. He has a very nice true freshman season finishing sixth on the team in tackles showing good quickness and the toughness of a middle linebacker. He's a pure tackler who should be in the hunt for all-star honors over the next few years.

- Joe Martin, Sr. - 81 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, 4 TFL
The former walk-on created a role for himself as a strong backup early in his career, and then he did a little of everything last season finishing third on the team in tackles earning honorable mention All-Mountain West honors. He saw time at all three linebacking positions last season and grew into the leader of the defensive front seven after the loss of stars Kirk Morrison and Matt McCoy.

- Andrew Schantz, Soph. - 29 tackles, 4 TFL
The high-motor sophomore is the newcomer to the starting linebacker mix. He saw time in every game as a redshirt freshman. With defensive back speed in a 6-2, 235-pound body, he should emerge as a top tackler..

Top Backups
- Brett Martin, Jr. - 30 tackles, 1 interception, 2.5 TFL
Martin has the talent and intensity, but he doesn't have the size at only 6-0 and 215 pounds. Even so, he proved to be a strong reserve weakside defender last season with the potential to be a good starter if needed.
- Marc Hill, Jr.
Hill has been a special-teamer so far, but he ahs too much speed and potential not to be used on defense. He'll combined with Trevor Parrington on the strongside.

Defensive Backs
The Aztec secondary was excellent at times last season finishing 22nd in the nation in pass efficiency defense and second in the Mountain West in pass defense. Three starters return including the ultra-productive corner combination of Terrell Maze and Donny Baker. The one big loss is at one of the safety spots with Marcus Demps to be replaced by the combination of Brett Sturm and T.J. McKay. The big problem is with experience at backup corner, but the redshirt freshmen are speedy.
The key to the unit: Make even more big plays. This was a ball-hawking group last year, and now it should be dangerous.
Secondary Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- CB Terrell Maze, Sr. - 59 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 TFL, 12 broken up passes, 2 forced fumbles
An honorable mention All-Mountain West performer last season, Maze will be in the hunt for bigger things this year now that he has a reputation. He's great with the ball in the air with excellent makeup speed and great open-field tackling ability. He's can be a number one cover-corner against any receiver in the Mountain West.

- LS Brett Sturm, Sr. - 26 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 broken up pass
The former quarterback has grown into a nice defender. He was the top reserve behind Marcus Demps and ended up making big plays whenever he was on the field finishing third on the team in interceptions. He's a good special teamer who should grow into one of the team's top tacklers.

- RS Reggie Grigsby, Sr. - 90 tackles, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes, 1 TFL
He was a superstar recruit for the program a few years ago, and he played like it last year. While he's average against the pass, he's a whale of a tackler finishing second on the team last season and seventh in the Mountain West on his way to honorable mention All-Mountain West honors.

- CB Donnie Baker, Sr. - 60 tackles, 1 interception, 12 broken up passes, 2 TFL
While not all that big at 5-9 and 165 pound, he has great ball skills with 25 broken up passes over the last two seasons thanks to his outstanding speed. While he's not a big hitter, he's a good tackler and is a willing run defender.

Top Backups
- LS T.J. McKay, Soph. - 19 tackles, 1 interception, 1 broken up pass
McKay isn't a big safety at 6-0 and 195 pounds, but he proved he can play showing nice range as a backup free safety. He wasn't able to show what he can do this spring after undergoing surgery for a shoulder injury, but he should be in the hunt for a starting job on the left side when he returns.
- CB Kwincy Edwards, RFr.
While only 160 pounds, Edwards has next-level speed and is a good hitter. He'll push for time behind Terrell Maze.

Special Teams
It'll be a shock if the kicking game isn't among the best in the nation with placekicker Garrett Palmer and punter Michael Hughes coming off huge seasons. The big question is in the return game needing to replace Michael Franklin, but he was mediocre last year. The coverage units could stand to be stronger.
The key to the unit: More is needed from a kickoff return game that averaged a mere 16.4 yards per try.
Special Tams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK Garrett Palmer, Soph. 15-17 FGs, 36-38 extra points
Palmer got much, much better going from hitting 12 of 21 field goals in 2004 to 15 of 17 kicks last year including four of five from beyond 40 yards. He doesn't have the biggest leg around, but it's good enough from inside 50 yards.
- P Michael Hughes, Jr. - 67 punts, 3,003 yds, 44.8 yards per kick, 19 inside the 20
One of the league's best punters while also a reliable backup placekicker, Hughes has a huge leg upping his game in a big way going from averaging 38 yards per kick in 2005 to 44.8 yards per boot last year. He went from being a liability to a weapon helping the Aztecs finish first in the Mountain West in net punting.

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