2009 CFN San Diego State Preview
San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley
San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley
Posted Jul 1, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State Aztecs

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

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- 2009 CFN San Diego State Preview | 2009 SDSU Offense
2009 SDSU Defense
| 2009 SDSU Depth Chart
- 2008S SDSU Preview |
2007 SDSU Preview
| 2006 SDSU Preview   

Head coach: Brady Hoke
1st year
7th year overall: 34-38
Returning Lettermen
Off: 20, Def. 19, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best SDSU Players
1. WR Vincent Brown, Jr.
2. DE B.J. Williams, Jr.
3. QB Ryan Lindley, Soph.
4. LB Luke Laolagi, Sr
5. DE Jonathan Soto, Sr.
6. RB Atiyyah Henderson, Sr.
7. LB Miles Burris, Soph.
8. S Nick Sanford, Sr.
9. RB Brandon Sullivan, Jr.
10. OT Tommie Draheim, Soph.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record:

9/5 at UCLA
9/12 Southern Utah
9/19 at Idaho
9/26 at Air Force
10/3 New Mexico State
10/17 BYU
10/24 at Colorado State
10/31 New Mexico
11/7 TCU
11/14 Wyoming
11/21 at Utah
11/28 at UNLV

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 2-10

8/30 Cal Poly L 29-27
9/6 at Notre Dame L 21-13
9/13 at San Jose St L 35-10

927 Idaho W 45-17
10/4 at TCU L 41-7
10/11 Air Force L 35-10
10/18 at New Mexico L 70-7
10/25 Colorado State L 38-34
11/1 at Wyoming L 35-10
11/8 at BYU L 41-12
11/15 Utah L 63-14
11/22 UNLV W 42-21

San Diego State continues to be one of the biggest mysteries in college football. How can a program in a place with perfect weather, a fertile recruiting area, and seemingly all the advantages that some of the other Mountain West programs are missing be so bad?

Not only has the program never gone to a bowl game, but it hasn't had a winning season since 1998 and hasn't even been close in years. Recently, there's been one glaring problem that hasn't been able to be solved: the coaching.

The Tom Craft era was defined by ridiculously bad luck in no consistency. One year the Aztecs had an unstoppable offense that couldn't overcome a porous defense, and another year the team had a brick wall of a D and the O couldn't move the chains a lick. And then came the three year disaster of the Chuck Long era, which saw the Iowa legend and offensive coordinator for some juggernaut Oklahoma teams fail in every way possible.

After all the problems and all the issues, who'd want to take the job? More importantly, who could San Diego State get that could be the right fit? Brady Hoke, and Merry Christmas.

If Hoke can create a MAC power in Ball State, one of the worst programs in America for decades, figuring out San Diego State's problems should be a breeze. No offense to the Aztecs, but Hoke was becoming a hot enough property that he was being talked about for much bigger gigs, and now he gets to take the next step up in his coaching ladder and move from Muncie to San Diego.

It's not just Hoke who should turn things around, he brought aboard some fantastic assistants. Offensive coordinator Al Borges wasn't as bad at Auburn as he was made out to be, and now he's looking to resurrect his career and become a hot name again by making the woebegone Aztec attack work. Defensive coordinator Rocky Long comes in after a long tenure as the head man of New Mexico. He knows the Mountain West in and out, and while he was a good head coach, he should be a fantastic coordinator who should whip one of the nation's worst defenses into shape.

The pieces aren't quite there to pull off a shocker and win a Mountain West title, but Long and his staff were able to bring in some decent athletes over the years. It all starts on the lines where the big, veteran offensive front has turn into a rock after spending years resembling a mushy, Jell-O like substance when it came to getting the running game going. The defensive line will be a three-man front now, and it should be a good one with Hoke overseeing a promising lot that has the potential to be solid with better coaching. It'll get better coaching.

Overall, the theme for the new coaching staff and the new era is toughness. While it might be hard to get too mean and angry when the weather is 73 and sunny every day, the Aztecs are going to be more about smashing  teams in the mouth, rather than try to run around them. The coach is in place, the program is starving for a winner, and the experienced players are just good enough to hope for an overall improvement. The Mountain West isn't going to have San Diego State to kick around anymore.

What to watch for on offense: More darkness before the dawn. The simple fact of the matter is that the talent isn't there. The line should be the strength with good veterans who do a decent job in pass protection, but the running backs are mediocre, there isn't a No. 2 receiver to help out Vincent Brown, and QB Ryan Lindley appears destined for one more erratic season before the light goes on. The attack isn't going to be worse than last year, there will be a running game, but it's not going to be the Ball State attack of last year quite yet.

What to watch for on defense: A very, very interesting season from the front three. The Aztec defensive front has done nothing against the run for the last few years and has struggled mightily to get into the backfield. Rocky Long's 3-3-5 alignment should help the cause with more fresh linemen and more attacking from different angles. B.J. Williams is the team's best pass rusher while Jonathan Soto is a far better fit as a three-man front end than one in a 4-3. Ernie Lawson is a nice piece to the puzzle in the middle, as long as he can stay healthy. This is the area that appears to have taken to the new coaching staff faster than any other, and it should show early on.

The team will be far better if … there's more defensive pressure. The trickle down effect is in high gear. The line didn't get to the quarterback, the opposing passing games had ten days to throw, and the secondary got picked apart. Worse yet, the run defense that got shoved around by everyone never made up for the problems by coming up with plays behind the line. SDSU was 100th in the nation in tackles for loss and 108th in sacks, and if this can be an immediate area of improvement, the entire defense will be far better.

The Schedule:
The Aztecs kick off the Brady Hoke era with an interesting date at UCLA as part of a run of three road games in the first four weeks. Fortunately for Hoke, the rest of the non-conference schedule is a joke with Southern Utah, at Idaho, and New Mexico State to deal with. The Mountain West slate starts out at Air Force, but five of the following six games are at home including showdowns against BYU and TCU, but the season closes out with a thud going to Utah and UNLV.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Vincent Brown. The best player needs to be QB Ryan Lindley, and that might happen if Brown repeats his 64-catch, 631-yard, five touchdown season. If a second target like Roberto Wallace or DeMarco Sampson can come through, then the speedy Brown might be able to hit more home runs and become an even bigger factor to open up the offense. He was a one-man gang for the passing game last year, and this season the coaching staff will make sure he has some help.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE B.J. Williams. The 6-3, 250-pounder is the team's best pass rusher by far. While he's better suited to a 4-3 alignment than the 3-3-5, he's good on the move and he should be able to find ways to make plays against the run. The big key to his game is getting behind the line; he's one of the only Aztecs with proven ability to be disruptive.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DT Ernie Lawson. There are several nominees here from Lindley to OT Tommie Draheim to the entire linebacking corps, but the season might hinge on the play of the defensive front, and the defensive front might hinge on the play of Lawson. He has been fine when healthy, and after playing six games last year, he has to stay in one piece and be the big anchor in the middle that everyone else can work around.

The season will be a success if ... the Aztecs win six games. It's a tall task and there can't be any mistakes against teams like New Mexico State, Idaho, and Wyoming, but with a new coaching staff, a veteran team, and a renewed energy, there has to be a goal of more than just surviving the first year of the Hoke era. Getting to .500 would be a monster accomplishment for a program that has won nine games in three years under Chuck Long.

Key game: Sept. 19 at Idaho. The Aztecs aren't likely to beat UCLA in the opener and they're supposed to beat Southern Utah, and while a trip to Idaho is hardly daunting, it could mean everything for the start of the Hoke era. After going 2-10 last year, a 2-1 start going into the Mountain West opener at Air Force wouldn't be anything to gloss over. This is a program that needs wins, and getting one early on the road would be a huge step even though last year's win over the Vandals was a 45-17 wipeout.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 146 - San Diego State 43
- Time of possession: Opponents 33:45 - San Diego State 26:14
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 247.5 - San Diego State 73.2

- 2009 CFN San Diego State Preview | 2009 SDSU Offense
2009 SDSU Defense
| 2009 SDSU Depth Chart
- 2008S SDSU Preview |
2007 SDSU Preview
| 2006 SDSU Preview