Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN San Diego
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2008 SDSU Offense
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What you need to know: The offense last year was Kevin
O'Connell, Kevin O'Connell, and Kevin O'Connell. His departure
leaves a gaping hole at quarterback where three untested
prospects will battle it out for the job, with Ryan Lindley the
most likely winner. Quarterback is the least of the problems.
The running backs and receivers have little overall experience,
but they're extremely promising and will be good if the other
parts of the puzzle are fine. The big issue is a line that was
awful last year and now will throw four new starters to the
wolves with three of them redshirt freshmen. Basically, the
offense has to find something it can do well without O'Connell.
Passing: Kelsey Sokoloski
10-15, 119 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon Sullivan
58 carries, 220 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Darren Mougey
32 catches, 368 yds, 2 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB Brandon Sullivan
Player who has to step up and become a star: The entire
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Davon Brown
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Darren Mougey (as a tight
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sullivan, 2) Mougey, 3)
WR Vincent Brown
Strength of the offense: Youth, potential
Weakness of the offense:
Offensive line, experience,
A good recruit for the program two years ago, 6-3, 205-pound
redshirt freshman Ryan Lindley has started to show signs
of becoming the quarterback of the program for the next few
years. He made several mistakes this spring, and wasn't
consistent, but he was able to do just enough to be the lead dog
in the starting quarterback race. He has a big arm and the
smarts to read defenses in a hurry, but he's not going to be a
runner like Kevin O'Connell was.
Projected Top Reserves: Entering into the mix is
JUCO transfer Drew Westling, a former Tulsa Golden
Hurricane who got into school early and is deep in the hunt for
the starting job. A smart, accurate passers, the 6-2, 220-pound
junior has to be consistent, and he has to start moving the
offense better in practice, to overcome Lindley's upside.
After serving as the prime backup last year, 6-2, 195-pound
sophomore Kelsey Sokoloski completed 10 of 15 passes for
119 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Unlike the other
quarterback options, Sokoloski can move a bit running for 20
yards in his limited appearances and adds a rushing threat the
offense will be missing. He's also the holder on special teams.
Watch Out For ... a three-way battle for the
starting job throughout the early part of the fall. None of the
three took the starting job by the horns this off-season. It's
there for the taking.
Strength: Potential. Even with the overall lack of
experience, there isn't a bad mix of talents to work with.
Lindley is the future and he needs some seasoning, Westling is
the mature JUCO transfer, and Sokoloski has been in the system
long enough to know what he's doing.
Weakness: Production. None of the three options did much
this spring to inspire any confidence. There were some decent
moments here and there, but there wasn't much in the way of
Outlook: Last year the Aztecs had Kevin O'Connell
(who graduated and is off to the NFL), Kevin Craft (who
transferred to UCLA), and Darren Mougey (who became a key
receiver). Now the quarterbacks are starting from near-scratch
and there isn't a sure thing in the bunch. Normally, the job
would be Lindley's and the team would live through the mistakes,
but Chuck Long doesn't have that kind of time. That might mean a
case of musical quarterbacks to try to find some steady
Sophomore Brandon Sullivan saw plenty of action in the
rotation and got three starts, but he didn't do too much
finishing with just 220 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
However, he turned into a nice receiving threat out of the
backfield catching 18 passes for 119 yards. At 5-11 and 220
pounds, he has good power and a good burst once he gets into the
open. He has the starting job by a hair going into the fall, and
showed enough this spring to carry the workload, but he'll at
the very least be part of a rotation.
6-0, 220-pound senior Tyler Campbell, the son of Texas
legend, Earl Campbell, is a former JUCO transfer who's
used as a fullback whenever the offense calls for one. Primarily
a blocker, he ran for six yards and served as a key special
teamer. He won't see the ball, but he'll be one of the team's
best all-around special teams performers.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Atiyyah
Henderson is a speed back who led the team with 764 yards as
a freshman. Last year he was lost in the shuffle and only ran
for 183 yards and a score, but he became more of a receiving
threat with 27 catches for 202 yards. At 5-9 and 185 pounds, he's
a speed back in the mix with the
shake-and-bake ability to create his own room. Now he has to be
100% after having problems with an ankle injury this spring.
The biggest plus out of spring ball was the play of sophomore
Davon Brown, a 5-9, 175-pound mighty mite who has 4.4 speed
and phenomenal athleticism. More than anything else, he showed
this spring that he has the ability to pound it between the
tackles when needed. Tougher than his size, he could grow into
the team's most dangerous runner after only gaining 20 yards,
with a touchdown, and averaging 1.7 yards per carry.
who'll see time is 5-9, 175-pound redshirt freshman Davon
Brown, who has 4.4 wheels and tremendous potential. He's too
good an athlete to keep off the field and could eventually see
time as a defensive back.
Watch Out For ... Brown. Hurt early this
off-season, Brown came on late and looked like the best back of
the bunch by the end. With his home run hitting ability, he'll
be too good to not get the ball in his hands at least ten times
Strength: Potential. Somewhat quietly, this will be a
good group of backs with Brown and Henderson adding speed and
flash to the pounding and potential of Sullivan. Now they need
some blocking to give them a chance.
Weakness: Proven production. It's not like these guys tore it up
when they got their opportunities. For all of their talent and
athleticism, they haven't done much yet and have to show from
day one that they can balance out the offense. They have to
produce from the start with so many concerns at quarterback.
Outlook: Former quarterback Kevin O'Connell led
the team in rushing last year and he only gained 408 yards. The
Aztecs gained a mere 1,247 yards averaging 104 yards per game
and 3.5 yards per carry, and that can't happen again. There's
good promise with Sullivan and Brown playing well in spring ball
and Henderson a decent veteran who can carry the ground game for
stretches, but not for a full season.
The offense desperately needs a number one target to emerge, and
sophomore Vincent Brown could be it. The 6-0, 175-pounder
finished fourth on the team with 31 catches for 349 yards and
two touchdowns as a true freshman and also turned into a nice
kickoff returner. With good flash and home run hitting ability,
he can play the X position but will start at the R, an inside
spot in the Aztec offense.
At a combination of tight end and receiver is Darren Mougey,
a quarterback by trade who made the successful transition to the
receiving corps making 32 catches for 368 yards and two
touchdowns. He was a steady, tough target over the first half of
last year before getting hurt. At 6-6 and 225 pounds, he's a big
receiver who knows what he's doing and could go back under
center in an absolute hurry. While he's not a blazer, he does
enough to get down the field.
5-10, 175-pound junior Mekell Wesley could be the team's
breakout target after catching just one pass for 17 yards in a
disappointing year. One of the team's fastest receivers and a
good kickoff returner, he needs to start stretching the field
and become the playmaker who changes games.
The Aztecs like to employ two tight end sets all the time
meaning there's plenty of work for junior Matthew Kawulok
and junior Tony DeMartinis. Kawulok suffered a torn
pectoral muscle and was limited throughout last year making just
one catch in seven games. At 6-2 and 235 pounds he's built like
a fullback but is a receiver. DeMartinis is a former defensive
end with 16 career tackles, and now he'll bring his athleticism
and toughness to the offense.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 210-pound junior Roberto Wallace
was supposed to be a major factor last year with Mougey still
getting his feet wet, but it didn't happen. With just six
catches for 72 yards, and 6-4, 215-pound Wallace didn't do
nearly as much as he should've, and now he needs to push for
time at the outside X position behind Wesley.
Also trying to get back in the mix is 6-2, 210-pound junior
DeMarco Sampson, a superstar high school talent who has
never quite been healthy. Appearing to be ready to breakout as
the team's star last year, he suffered a foot problem and he's
finally getting back in the mix. If he's right, he's the star
the receiving corps desperately needs.
Until DeMartinis is ready at tight end, 6-3, 220-pound sophomore
Alson Umuolo will see time as a veteran target who caught
six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. While still raw, he's
physical and has tremendous upside.
Watch Out For ... the corps to be solid. There
might be some major losses from last year's good corps, but the
new starters appear to be ready to shine. This should be the
strength of the offense in time.
Strength: Speed and potential explosion. Wesley and
Brown should be able to stretch the field and is Sampson and
Wallace can get on the field, they'll push the passing game
deep, too. Mougey will make plays all over the place.
Weakness: A proven number one. This will work itself out in a
hurry, but losing the combination of Brett Swain and Chaz
Schilens isn't a plus. These two were one of the team's bright
Outlook: With all the issues at quarterback and
the inexperience in the running game, the good-looking receivers
have to play up to their potential from day one. Brown, Mougey
and Wesley might not be too scary on paper, but they'll be
effective. If Sampson is healthy, and if he's half as good as
his prep hype, and if Wallace can use his measurables to create
a matchup nightmare, this could be a dangerous corps that makes
the quarterback shine.
Senior left guard Mike Schmidt started every game last season and
was serviceable, if not impressive. The 6-2, 310-pound former walk-on is
versatile enough to move anywhere on the line and is one of the team's
most physical blockers. As the only returning starter, he'll have to be
Taking over for Will Robinson at left tackle will be 6-4, 280-pound
redshirt freshman Mike Matamua, an athletic pass blocker who
slipped out of Hawaii's grasp and will now be in a battle for the key
spot on the line. Replacing Robinson won't be easy, but Matamua was one
of the team's top recruits last year and has the talent to quickly
become a major producer.
Stepping in for Mike Kravetz and right tackle will likely be Kurtis
Guenther, a 6-8, 270-pound redshirt freshman who showed good promise
right away and has the athleticism and skills to become a fixture for
the next few years. He was almost thrown to the wolves last year, but
took a redshirt.
The anchor of the young line will be 6-4, 275-pound redshirt freshman
Tommie Draheim at center. Of all the newcomers to the starting
spots, he was the one who looked most like a seasoned veteran with good
toughness and consistency. Now it all has to translate to the regular
Amidst all the redshirt freshmen, junior Ikaika Aken-Moleta is an
older starter as he takes over at right guard. At 6-2 and 325 pounds,
he's a huge blocker who saw a little time last year as a reserve and
could grow into a key road grater for the running game. With a
tremendous blend of size, quickness and strength, he has all the tools.
Now he has to use them.
Projected Top Reserves: An interesting prospect at
right guard, behind Aken-Moleta, is senior Lance Louis, a top
tight end prospect who tore his ACL and was out last year. At 6-3 and
285 pounds, he'll be tried out on the line where he'll bring tremendous
athleticism, but can he be physical enough?
Pushing for the starting center job is sophomore Trask Iosefa, a
6-0, 300-pound athlete who started every game last year with mixed
results. He has experience and he's a good athlete, but Draheim is the
future at the position.
While Gunther is an option for both tackle jobs, 6-7,
320-pound redshirt freshman Kellen Farr is a right tackle
who'll fill in if needed. With excellent size, he looks the
part, but he's likely a pure reserve this year or a fill-in if
Watch Out For ... a year of major transition. At
least three redshirt freshmen will be starting with everyone
trying to figure out what they're doing. It might take a while,
but the payoff could be huge ... in two years.
Strength: Size. If nothing else, this is a big line with
good girth on the inside and good athleticism on the outside.
The line was a major recruiting focus over the last few seasons
and now it has to show.
Weakness: Experience. The one starter who'll get the nod this
year, Schmidt, isn't exactly a world-beater. This group will
have to take several major lumps before it starts to jell.
Outlook: Uh oh. The line was full of veterans last
season and was supposed to be the wall the entire offense could
work around. It didn't happen with no run production and
problems in pass protection. Now this could be the team's most
glaring weakness until the young players grow up in a big, big
hurry. While this could be a stepping-stone season to a strong
future, the line could be a total disaster this year.