2010 San Diego State Preview – Defense

Posted Aug 9, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - San Diego State Aztec Defense

San Diego State Aztecs

Preview 2010 - Defense

- 2010 San Diego State Preview | 2010 San Diego State Offense
- 2010 San Diego State Defense | 2010 San Diego State Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: Former New Mexico head coach Rocky Long was known for putting together tough, aggressive defenses, and now he has the experience to work with to make the 3-3-5 alignment shine. The front three is big and has to be more consistent against the run after being gouged way too easily. The linebacking corps has the potential to be strong with Miles Burris and Marcus Yarbrough expected to combine for close to 150 stops, but the playmakers on the defense have to be in the secondary. The corners are suspect, but they're experienced, but the three safeties can move. Everyone has to be more disruptive.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Miles Burris, 58
Sacks: B.J. Williams, 2.5
Interceptions: Vincent Camarda, 2

Star of the defense: Junior LB Miles Burris
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Jerome Long
Unsung star on the rise: Senior S Andrew Preston
Best pro prospect: Burris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Burris, 2) DE B.J. Williams, 3) S Andrew Preston
Strength of the defense: Experience, Safety
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Sacks

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Aztecs have to find a pass rush somewhere in the front three, and senior B.J. Williams is likely to be the best option. He only came up with 2.5 sacks, but that was enough to lead the team while also making 32 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. With 151 career stops and 7.5 sacks, he's a good veteran with 6-3, 250-pound size and tremendous speed. While the alignment isn't great for his skills, he'd be better in a 4-3, he has to produce.

Working on the other side after starting every game last year is Ernie Lawson , a 6-3, 285-pound senior who's built to be an end on a three-man front. The biggest problem has been his inability to stay healthy, missing all of 2006 hurt and being limited in 2008 with an ankle injury and an illness. Able to stay on the field last year, he came up with 22 tackles with two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

Junior Jerome Long was a key backup last season and now he has to become a steady starter. At 6-5, 290 pounds, he has the bulk and he has the strength, and now the hope is for him to become a rock for the next two years. Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, he's now 40 pounds bigger and has maintained his quickness as a potentially dangerous interior pass rusher. He made 23 tackles last year and has made 60 stops in two years, and now he'll be a key run stuffer.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-1, 260-pound senior Jacob Tauanuu sat out all of 2008 after transferring from UAB, and he ended up starting most of the year making 23 tackles with two sacks and five tackles for loss. He made 48 tackles with two sacks for UAB after coming in as a do-it-all defender in the JUCO ranks, and now he'll work more as a pass rushing specialist in a rotation with B.J. Williams.

Junior Neil Spencer got a start and plenty of playing time as a true freshman making 28 tackles, but he missed all of last year with academic issues. At 6-2 and 285 pounds he's a big block on the inside and has the potential to be a starter if the line goes to a 4-3. A top recruit, he can be used at any of the three spots with just enough quickness to get into the backfield.

After seeing time as a true freshman and getting some starting work, junior J.J. Autele had a rocky time getting back into the mix after suffering a torn up knee in 2008. He made 12 tackles and even got a few starts late in the season, and now the 6-1, 245-pounder will see time again in a rotation with Ernie Lawson.

Watch Out For … Spencer. Arguably the team's most talented lineman, he's fresh and ready to go after the problems with his studies last season. He's a backup tackle at the moment, but if he can put it all together, he can be a force on the inside.
Strength: Ends. The Aztecs have a tackle in Lawson working as an end, and that only beefs up the depth and adds to the options in the SDSU defense. Three senior starters will rotate around with Autele to keep everyone fresh.
Weakness: Run defense. Mediocre throughout last year, the front three has to use its bulk to hold up better against the more physical lines. This group got beaten up way too often.
Outlook: There are plenty of veterans and plenty of options for the three man front, but there needs to be more production. Williams has to be better at getting to the quarterback, while the entire line has to keep from getting shoved around against the better offenses.
Unit Rating: 5


Projected Starters: The linebacking corps has to replace two key players, but the one returning starter, junior Miles Burris is a nice one to build around. The 6-2, 240-pounder is built for the inside, but he has just enough speed and range to be special on the outside finishing second on the team with 58 tackles with 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. An excellent athlete and a good strongside defender, he should be the leader of the front six and the top playmaker.

Replacing Luke Laolagi in the middle will be senior Marcus Yarbrough , a 6-2, 230-pound rock who hits like a ton of bricks either on the strongside or the middle. He doesn't have top range, but he doesn't miss anything that comes his way making 41 tackles with three tackles for loss as a reserve.

The biggest loss on the defensive front six is the departure of the team's leader in both tackles and tackles for loss, Jerry Milling. Taking over on the weakside will be junior Logan Ketchum , a 6-3, 225-pound athlete who made 14 tackles in his limited action. Fast enough to be like a big safety, he moves extremely well, but he has to stay healthy after missing time in 2008 hurt.

Projected Top Reserves: Both Colin Shumate and Nick Tenhaeff will push for playing time on the weakside after strong springs. The 6-2, 210-ound Tenhaeff, a redshirt freshman, was a star high school running back who has quickly grown into a possible option after being all over the place in practices Recruited by USC, Oregon State, and Stanford, he's smart, fast, and should be a factor. The 6-2, 220-pound Shumate, a sophomore, didn't do anything last year, but he has the speed and quickness to step in right away if needed and to be a big part of the rotation.

6-2, 220-pound Rob Andrews plays bigger than his size bringing a nice pop to his tackles (at least in practices) and excellent potential. Very quick and with excellent cutting ability, he can play any of the three linebacking spots and will start out behind Marcus Yarbrough in the middle.

Junior Demetrius Barksdale is a safety playing outside linebacker. The 6-3, 210-pound speedster made 11 tackles as a reliable reserve, and he has the smarts and the wheels to be a disruptive specialist in a rotation with Miles Burris. The coaching staff can use him in a variety of ways.

Watch Out For … Ketchum. He's in the right spot to shine on the Aztec defense and should be one of the team's leading tacklers if all goes to plan. He'll be pushed for playing time by some promising prospects, but the job is his to lose.
Strength: A good blend of size and speed. While many of the linebackers will look like beefed up safeties, there's enough thump in the 240-pound Burris and a few 230 pounders to be more physical. This will be an active group.
Weakness: Big plays. The Aztec linebacker made a lot of stops, but they weren't difference makers. The corps has to be far better in the fourth quarter and needs the inexperienced options around Burris to be reliable.
Outlook: The pressure is on in the Aztec 3-3-5 alignment for the linebackers to rock, and this group needs to use its athleticism and its quickness to swarm around the ball. Burris is a good one and Yarbrough and Ketchum will come up with their share of stops, but there will be times when the linebackers get steamrolled over.
Unit Rating: 5


Projected Starters: In one of the more interesting moves of the offseason, linebacker Andrew Preston was moved from an outside position to the Aztec, a hybrid role that's part linebacker and part safety. The 6-1, 215-pound senior didn't get any starts, but he still finished sixth on the team with 46 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss and three broken up passes. One of the team's most experienced playmakers, he has 200 career stops and 14.5 tackles for loss. He's a great hitter and the athleticism to handle the job.

Back at one corner will once again be Leon McFadden , a 5-10, 180-pound sophomore who came to the program as a possible receiver but was needed more as a corner. With good speed and nice tackling ability, he made 25 tackles and picked off a pass, but he didn't come up with any broken up passes despite getting six starts.

Trying to be the No. 1 corner will once again be Jose Perez , a big, physical defender who was a star high school wide receiver and was a star baseball player spending three years in the New York Yankees farm system before joining the Aztecs. 25 once the season starts, the 6-1, 180-pounder is mature, and now he has to use his experience to do more after making 27 tackles without an interception last year.

Trying to get back from an ankle injury is senior Dey Juan Hemmings, a starter at one of the Warrior positions making 34 tackles with a pick last year. A star special teamer earlier in his career, he became a factor last season as a 5-11, 210-pound big hitter and playmaker who has grown into a nice run defender.

6-2, 190-pound junior Brandon Davis will get every shot at taking back his W job after starting eight times making 33 tackles with a sack and a team-leading five broken up passes. Big and fast, he's a tall, rangy defender who was one of the team's top recruits in 2007 and is just now starting to show off his potential. The size and speed are there to not only be a top pass defender but to also get a few carries and a little bit of work on offense.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Eric Pinkins was the team's top recruit two years ago and he was able to get on the field over the second half of last year making ten tackles. At 6-3 and 200 pounds with track star speed, he's a perfect fit for the defense and will push hard for one of the safety jobs. He'll start out behind Andrew Preston at the Aztec, but he'll move around where needed with the potential to eventually be an all-star before his career is up.

Junior Vincent Camarda spent last year as a key reserve making 19 tackles with two picks, and now he'll get a shot to take over one of the Warrior safety jobs. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he's a big player who isn't afraid to hit and is good around the ball. While he's decent as a pass defender, he'll put up the big numbers against the run once he gets healthy after being banged up this offseason.

Senior Darryn Lewis didn't get any starts, but he came up with a nice year making 33 tackles with three broken up passes as a key backup. The walk-on is a smart, experienced defender who isn't all that big at 5-9 and 165 pounds, but he's always working and he's good on special teams.

Watch Out For … Preston. A nice all-around defender with size and experience, he should flourish in the Aztec role. With room to roam around and the hitting ability to come up with the big play, he should be among the team's top tacklers.
Strength: Experience. Four starters are back in the secondary and they'll all be allowed to do more. The Aztec defense relies on the five defensive backs to make plays all over the field, and now the DBs know what they're doing in the system.
Weakness: Big plays. The team only came up with 11 picks and five of them came in the first two games. The defense went seven games without coming up with an interception.
Outlook: In the 3-3-5 alignment, the defensive backs have to be all over the field, and this group did a decent job last year. Now they should be even better with several good veterans and some nice tacklers. There isn't any star power to rely on, but this will be a solid, mid-level secondary that will hold its own against most Mountain West passing games.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Bryan Shields will take over for Lane Yoshida, who hit 10-of-17 field goals but showed good range. Shields, a transfer from Utah State, can handle both the punting and kicking duties if needed, but he'll spend all his time concentrating on field goals. He only hit 2-of-4 field goals for the Aggies, but he has a good enough leg to be used from around 45 yards.

Junior Brian Stahovich came up with an all-star caliber season averaging 43.8 yards per punt putting 13 inside the 20 and forcing 15 fair catches. With a booming leg, he has been able to improve the Aztec punting game mostly by himself, but he was helped by more a more consistent punt return unit.

Watch Out For … Daniel Ortega. The senior walk-on is being given every chance to win the starting placekicking job. Yoshida will have to really screw up to be out of a job, but he also needs to hit more shots inside the 40.
Strength: Stahovich. Call him a godsend for an inconsistent offense and a defense that needs opponents to try to go on long drives. He's an all-star with the potential to be the best punter in the Mountain West.
Weakness: The return game. The kickoff coverage unit was hardly a prize allowing 25.1 yards per try, but the bigger problem was a return game that did nothing. It averaged 8.2 yards per punt return and 19.9 yards per kickoff return, and now the coaching staff will wait until fall to find the right options.
Outlook: The coaching staff is doing what it can, but it needs to get more consistency out of the placekickers, could stand to get more from the return game, and needs better play from the coverage teams. At least Stahovich is fantastic.
Unit Rating: 4.5

- 2010 San Diego State Preview | 2010 San Diego State Offense
- 2010 San Diego State Defense | 2010 San Diego State Depth Chart
- San Diego State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006