What you need to know ... The Spartan defense improved
immensely last season partially because of the new coaching
staff and partially because it was a senior dominated crew. Now
the D is starting from almost scratch with only three returning
starters, no size whatsoever at linebacker, a shaky secondary
that's replacing a crew that finished 116th in the nation, and a
defensive line that will have to learn on the fly. All is not
completely lost with great all-around quickness and athleticism,
but the actual football talent is questionable.
Tackles: Matt Castelo,
Matt Castelo, Jarron Gilbert, 3
Interceptions: Chris Veder, 1
Star of the defense: Junior LB Matt Castelo
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
CB Ellis Jones
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Justin Cole
Best pro prospect: Sophomore DE Jarron Gilbert
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Castelo, 2) SS
Christopher Vedder, 3) CB Christopher Owens
Strength of the defense: Quickness
Weakness of the defense:
All four starters need to be replaced up
front after a solid year. Stopping the run will be vital early on with
Freddy McCutcheon, Josh Pulu, and Kalvin Cressel
needing to play like veterans early on. There should be
more of a pass rusher with 210-pound Justin Cole and speedy option on
the other side of Jarron Gilbert. Work needs to be done with all the new
starters, and even more needs to be done to develop some quality
The key to the unit: The production can't slip from last year
even with four new starters.
Defensive Line Rating: 4.5
- DE Justin Cole, RFr.
At only 6-3 and 210 pounds, Cole has to shine right away as a pass
rusher. He might be light, but he's an interesting option with track
star speed and tremendous athleticism on the outside.
- DT Freddy McCutcheon, Sr. - 10 tackles, 5.5 TFL
At 6-2 and 295 pounds, McCutcheon is the biggest player on the line and
one of the most experienced tackles. The former JICO all-star and San
Diego State Aztec is good at getting into the backfield and big enough
to be a solid space-eater.
- DT Josh Pulu, Jr.
The former JUCO transfer redshired last year and now will battle with
Kalvin Cressel for a starting spot. At 283 pounds, he's bigger than
Cressel and needs to be effective right away against the run.
- DE Jarron Gilbert, Soph. - 22 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 2 broken
The line's most experienced player got plenty of work as a redshirt
freshman as a good playmaker in the rotation. He was one of the team's
top pass rushers and needs to be steady from the start. At 6-5 and 240
pounds, he's the team's biggest end.
- DT Kalvin Cressel, RFr.
The 275-pound Cressel will be the first man off the bench in the
rotation if he doesn't win the starting job outright over Josh Pulu.
He's a true defensive tackle and will spend this year working into a
stronger run defender.
- DT Shane Lapka, Sr. - 17 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2.5 TFL
Able to play tackle or end, the 265-pound senior saw most of his time
last year on the inside and will be a key backup behind Freddy
McCutcheon. He's not going to be a rock against the run, but he can get
into the backfield.
Uh oh. Outside of Matt Castelo in the middle,
there's little to rely on around him. Dick Tomey's defense is all about
speed and all-around playmaking, but there's no size whatsoever with the
top three starters averaging around 195 pounds. The only
linebacker-sized linebacker is 222-pound Demetrius Jones, and he's
mostly a special teamer.
The key to the unit: Hold up. There needs to be a
strong rotation to keep all the small defenders fresh.
Linebacker Rating: 4
- Chris Reese, Soph. - 6 tackles
Only 5-9 and 195 pounds, Reese will be expected to grow into a pass
rusher on the outside. The distant cousin of Snoop Dogg saw a little
time on defense as well as on special teams. He's not going to be a big
hitter, so he has to make plays in the backfield as well as against the
- Matt Castelo, Jr. - 91 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 TFL, 2 quarterback
Able to play inside or out, the undersized 5-10, 200-pound junior is the
team's best defensive player finishing second on the team in tackles and
was a strong pass rusher with three sacks. He has great range and is at
his best helping out on stops rather than being a sure-thing one-on-one
- Dimitrous Chattman, Soph.
Originally a safety, Chattman moves over to linebacker where he'll use
his speed and talents as a pass defender out the outside. At only 6-0
and 190 pounds, he's not going to be a tough run defender against the
bigger teams, but he's going to be a disruptive all-around playmaker
with a little bit of time.
- Damaja Jones, Sr. - 25 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The former safety is decent enough to start and will be a key reserve at
both outside spots. The 6-1, 191-pound former walk-on saw time last year
on special teams as well as on defense.
- Demetrius Jones, Jr.
Jones will be a top backup in the middle behind Matt Castelo and on the
outside behind Chris Reese. At 222 pounds, he's the team's biggest
linebacker and will be used early and often in the rotation.
The secondary was one of the worst in America
last season allowing 296 yards per game 21 touchdowns while allowing
quarterbacks to complete 63% of their passes. Three starters need to be
replaced and the potential is there to be even worse early on until
Ellis Jones figures out what he's doing at one corner and Jason Evans
and Kevin Jurovich can figure out the free safety spot. Christopher
Owens and Christopher Vedder are decent blocks to build around, but
they're not going to make any All-WAC teams.
The key to the unit: Be better on third downs. This
group will get lit up like a Christmas tree against the better passing
teams, but it needs to be better than last year's secondary on key
Secondary Rating: 4
- CB Ellis Jones, Soph. - 1 tackle
Jones saw a little bit of special teams work as a true freshman and
worked on the position change going from wide receiver to corner. He's a
great athlete with the potential to be a strong defender, but he's still
raw and he still needs work.
- FS Jason Evans, Sr. - 2 tackles
Mostly a special teamer so far, the 6-1, 185-pound senior will get his
first shot at doing something on defense. He's a former walk-on who'll
be in a battle with Kevin Jurovich all fall for the starting job.
- SS Christopher Vedder, Sr. - 56 tackles, 1 interception, 5
broken up passes
The former JUCO star had a huge first season finishing fifth on the team
in tackles and was one of the team's leaders in broken up passes. As one
of the most experienced players in the secondary and one of three
returning starters, he needs to make more big plays and be a leader.
- CB Christopher Owens, Soph. -
35 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 broken up passes
Owens had a nice true freshman season as a top reserve and a decent
ball-hawk. He's strong enough to hit like a safety and has the ball
skills to grow into the team's top pass defender with a little more
- FS Kevin Jurovich, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Able to play either safety position, Jurovich came to San Jose State
as a corner before switching positions. He got some good experience as a
true freshman and should be a key nickel back as well as a main player
in the rotation behind Christopher Vedder.
- CB Trae Jackson, Sr. - 10 tackles, 1 sack
Jackson has been a reserve over the last two seasons as
both a safety and corner after starting out his career at BYU. He's one
of the team's fastest players clocking in at 10.83 in the 100 meters.
The kicking game should be among the best in the WAC if
Jared Strubeck can be a little more consistent. Punter Waylon Prather
doesn't have the biggest leg around, but he's great at putting it inside
the 20. The return game needs more work after averaging a mere 5.39
yards per punt return and mediocre 20.89 yards on kickoff returns. James
Jones will handle the punt returns with an open call out for kickoff
The key to the unit: More
pop on the returns and more consistency on field goals.
Special Teams Rating: 7
- PK Jared Strubeck, Soph. - 11-18 FGs, 28-30 extra
Strubeck had a solid freshman season, but he needs to be more consistent
after missing four kicks inside the 40. He has good range nailing three
of six shots from beyond 40 yards and has been excellent on kickoffs and
- P Waylon Prather, Jr. - 74 punts, 2,908 yds, 39.3 yards per
kick, 27 inside the 20
Prather was a big boost for the punting game last year and was
tremendous at putting it inside the 20 and forcing fair catches. His net
average was fine, but it's misleading because he was so great at placing