The program doesn't need the attitude
change most need when getting a new coaching staff, and it doesn't
need a major influx of talent to be better in Mountain West play. It
needs better overall defense while keeping the offense at the same
level it was at by the end of last season.
While he won't have nearly the same
talent he enjoyed as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Long has
pieces in place to build around and do big things with. Running back
Lynell Hamilton has next-level skills and can carry the offense if
needed. Quarterback Kevin O'Connell is a productive veteran who can do a
little of everything well. The cornerback tandem of Terrell Maze and
Donny Baker is one of the best in the league, and end Antwan Applewhite
has the potential to be the Mountain West's best pass rusher.
Can the run defense
stop someone with a pulse? Can someone else help out Applewhite and get
to the quarterback? Can the receiving corps overcome the loss of Jeffrey
Webb and Robert Ortiz? This is hardly a complete enough team to win the
Mountain West title, but it's more than good enough to be a major player
in the race as long as there's a stop to those annoying misfires.
Long was a bit of a hot commodity because of his name and his growing
reputation in the coaching circles. While former Oklahoma assistant
coach Mike Stoops went to Arizona a few years ago, Long took a lesser
job at San Diego State. Is this a stepping stone job for him? Aztec fans
can only hope to finally change things around to make the program good
enough to warrant calls from the big boys.
Schedule: The non-conference slate only has one killer, at
Wisconsin, but the opener against UTEP won't be a walk in the park.
Playing San Jose State and Cal Poly should help pad the record. The
Mountain West slate has a few breaks getting Utah and Colorado State at
home, but road dates at BYU, TCU and New Mexico should kill any
conference title hopes.
Offensive Player: Junior RB Lynell Hamilton. The only question is
whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season. The best back the
program has seen since Marshall Faulk has size, speed, power, and hands.
He's a tough back who has had a few bad breaks, but if he can stay 100%
for a full season, he has Mountain West Player of the Year capabilities.
Defensive Player: Senior CB Terrell Maze. Fellow corner Donny Baker
and end Antwan Applewhite will also be in the mix for the honor of being
the team's best defensive player. Maze is a big bigger than Baker and a
bit better a coverman. All three Aztecs are good players to build a
to a successful season: Junior WR Chazeray Schillens. He hasn't had
to be a top target in the offense yet with Jeff Webb and Robert Ortiz
doing most of the heavy lifting, but the Aztec offense needs him to be a
star early until the rest of the receiving corps comes around. Once
everyone gets their feet wet, Schillens will likely be lapped as a the
will be a success if ... the Aztecs win eight games. It's not that lofty a goal if the
new coaching staff can get a little more production out of the run
defense and more efficiency and consistency out of the offense.
Sept. 23 vs. Utah. The Aztecs stunned the Utes 28-19 in Salt Lake
City last year. A win in the Mountain West opener against one of the
preseason favorites for the title would set the tone for the rest of the
season. It also might be necessary to avoid an 0-2 conference start with
at BYU coming up two weeks later.
- San Diego State opponent first quarter scoring: 58 - San Diego State
opponent second quarter scoring: 119
- Rushing touchdowns: Opponents 30 - San Diego State 17
- Punt return average: Opponents 11.3 yards - Opponents 6.3 yards