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2010 San Diego State Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 9, 2010


CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - San Diego State Aztec Offense


San Diego State Aztecs

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 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: The Al Borges offense should be really, really interesting. The passing game might be the best in the Mountain West with rising star Ryan Lindley at quarterback throwing to the tremendous receiving duo of Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. The line gets almost everyone back, and while it was great last year in pass protection, it did nothing for the ground game. The backfield is full of quick veterans, but the rushing production has been non-existent over the last few years and isn’t going to blow up with the passing game carrying the load. The offense wasn’t consistent and didn’t do nearly enough against the defenses with a pulse, but now there’s no reason to only average 342 yards and 23 points per game again.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ryan Lindley
239-437, 3,054 yds, 23 TD, 16 INT
Rushing: Brandon Sullivan
154 carries, 558 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: DeMarco Sampson
62 yds, 851 yds, 8 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Vincent Brown
Player who has to step up and be a star: Freshman RB Ronnie Hillman
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Dominique Sandifer
Best pro prospect: Brown
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brown, 2) QB Ryan Lindley, 3) WR DeMarco Sampson
Strength of the offense: Wide Receiver, Experience
Weakness of the offense: Running Game, Backup Quarterback

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: A great recruit for the program a few years ago, junior Ryan Lindley is growing into one of the Mountain West’s top players. While he had a problem throwing picks, giving away 16 including two interceptions thrown in three of the final four games, he’s also a bomber who isn’t afraid to take chances. With a 459-yard, six touchdown day against Colorado State and 3,054 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season, he was among the league’s better passing quarterbacks and finished third in total yards. At 6-4 and 215 pounds he has the size to go along with just enough mobility to take off from time to time, but now, with two years of experience under his belt, he has to be more consistent.

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Ryne Clark isn’t a top talent, but the 6-2, 200-pound walk-on has been good enough in practices and has a strong enough arm to get a shot at the No. 2 job. While he might not have special skills, he’s an accurate enough throw to get by if thrown into the mix.

Redshirt freshman Jake Bernards might not have the most accurate arm, but he’s a 6-5, 210-pound passer with a live arm and good mobility for his size. Very smart and with good skills and nice athleticism, he has good upside to develop over the next few years.

Watch Out For … Lindley to become special. He might not get the publicity of some of the other Mountain West quarterbacks like TCU’s Andy Dalton or Utah’s Jordan Wynn, but he has the talent and the potential to be the best of the bunch.
Strength: Lindley and the receivers. Even if Lindley doesn’t take the next step in the progression to become a superstar, his numbers should be phenomenal with a loaded receiving corps full of fringe NFL talent. The passing game has the potential to explode.
Weakness: Backups. This is as shaky as it comes with a walk-on and an untested redshirt freshman backing up Lindley. Developing the depth is a major priority.
Outlook: If Lindley can stay healthy and can keep the mistakes to a minimum, the quarterback situation will be fantastic. If he gets hurt, all bets are off as the reserves aren’t ready for primetime. The coaching staff has to quickly establish the No. 2 man while making sure Lindley keeps progressing.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Back for what seems like his 13th year with the program is senior Brandon Sullivan, who led the team with 558 yards and four touchdowns as the most productive option in the mediocre ground game. The 5-11, 210-pound physical back can catch, can run in between the tackles, and has just enough quickness to get to the outside, but he has to stay healthy and he has to get help from the line. He ran for more than 100 yards against Southern Utah and Wyoming, and while the coaching staff is trying to make him a workhorse, he needs to take advantage of his chances as the fullback.

Getting his chance to take over the starting running back job right away is true freshman Ronnie Hillman , a versatile 5-10, 175-pound speedster who was originally considered a receiver recruit but will be used as a dangerous runner. He signed with the team two years ago but had academic question marks. That’s all cleared up now and he should be a gamebreaker who comes up with big runs when he gets some room to move. He’ll never power over anyone, but he’ll make people miss.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-9, 175-pound sophomore Walter Kazee stepped in as a true freshman and turned into the team’s second leading rusher cranking out 371 yards and two touchdowns averaging a team-best 4.3 yards per carry. Lightning quick and dangerous with the ball in his hands, he can be used more as a receiver as well as a speed runner.

Sophomore Anthony Miller was the star of the 2009 recruiting class and he got a little work right away running for 81 yards and a score, finishing third on the team in rushing. The 6-0, 220-pounder is physical and has the potential to tear off yards in chunks, but he needs a little room to move and he’s not going to be a home run hitter. He’s a workhorse type who’ll be a bigger part of the rotation working behind Brandon Sullivan.

Senior Davon Brown suffered a shoulder injury two years ago and hasn’t done too much since. He finished fourth on the team with 31 yards, but he only averaged 2.1 yards per carry and has to work now to get carries. The 5-9, 185-pounder is a 4.4 speedster with the home run hitting potential the offense has been dying for.

Watch Out For … even more of a rotation. Sullivan might be the No. 1 runner who’ll get most of the workload, but the speedy Kazee and the talented Miller will get more chances. The offense will try to find someone who can finally make the running game work.
Strength: Quick options. Sullivan cuts well for a thick back, while Kazee, Brown, and Miller can move. If the line comes up with any ability to push open some holes, there will be some big yards torn off in chunks. There’s no reason the athletic backs shouldn’t combine to average more than four yards per carry.
Weakness: Production. This has been a major problem over the last few years as the Aztecs haven’t been able to come up with anything on the ground. The line has been part of the issue, but the backs haven’t helped the cause.
Outlook: After finishing last in the league and 117th in the nation in rushing in 2008 averaging 73 yards per game, SDSU wasn’t any better finishing 116th averaging 78 yards per outing. There might not be a ton of yards cranked out this season, but the experience and the quickness are in place to do more.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: Senior Vincent Brown was on his way to an All-America season before suffering a thumb injury and missing the rest of the year. Over just six games of work he caught 45 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns cranking out games of 139, 142, 143, 123, 84, and 147 yards, and now he’s back and ready to be special again at the outside X. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s a speedy target who always found ways to get deep and always found ways to get open. He’s an NFL talent who should be in for a big season.

When Vincent Brown went down, senior DeMarco Sampson stepped up. He was having a good season as the No. 2 target, and while his production didn’t go through the roof as the main man, he came up with a jaw-dropping performance against Colorado State catching 15 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. While he finished with a team-leading 62 catches for 851 yards and eight touchdowns, all the scores came over a four-game midseason stretch. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he’s a big playmaker who should shine with all the attention being focused on Brown. Health has been his biggest issue, suffering a broken foot early in his career and hampering his development for two seasons, but he has all the measurables and the experience. On the plus side, the injuries allowed him to get a sixth year of eligibility.

6-4, 250-pound senior Alston Umuolo was good for a few catches a game finishing with 22 grabs for 243 yards and three touchdowns, and now the tight end will be expected to do even more. A good blocker who’s tough, physical, and quick, he won’t see too many passes his way with so many strong wide receivers, but he’ll be a chain mover with good short-range route running ability.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Dominique Sandifer had a good first season finishing fourth on the team with 26 catches for 298 yards and two touchdowns as he took on a bigger role as the season went on. A thin 6-0, 190-pounder with tremendous speed, he can be used on the outside but will start out at the inside Z position. A track star, doing big things on the move isn’t a problem.

At 6-3 and 210 pounds, redshirt freshman Osmond Nicholas is a big, dangerous target who was a nice recruit last year and now will be used in three and four wide sets as the key reserve behind Vincent Brown at the outside X. He’s still raw and he still needs time, but he has shown enough to eventually become a key target and a matchup problem around the goal line.

Sophomore D.J. Shields got in a little bit of work as a backup tight end making 11 catches for 109 yards. He’s not a deep threat, but at 6-4 and 250 pounds he has prototype size and tremendous smarts with great hands working behind Aulston Umuolo. Forget about him hitting anyone, but he’ll grow into a more reliable receiver.

Watch Out For … Sandifer. Brown and Sampson could end up each earning All-Mountain West honors, while Sandifer might fly under the radar as a very, very dangerous No. 3 target. He’s a home run hitter who should be a difference maker on at least two really big plays.
Strength: Brown and Sampson. It’s not like they’re going to be NFL starters, but they’ll each get very long looks from a next-level camp next year at this time. If they’re on the field, the Aztecs could have the Mountain West’s best passing game.
Weakness: Health. The air attack went on even when Brown went down, but he now has an injury history and Sampson has had several big dings. There’s nice talent waiting in the wings, but the offense and the team has to get big years out of the two stars.
Outlook: As long as Brown and Sampson are on the field, SDSU should have a fighting chance against anyone. The two form a deadly receiving tandem and should combine for well over 120 catches. The depth is decent and the tight ends should be bigger factors.
Unit Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: After missing all of 2008 with a shoulder injury, junior Tommie Draheim started six times last year while missing more time in the middle of the year hurt. When he’s healthy, the 6-4, 295-pound junior is the team’s best blocker with great athleticism and excellent pass blocking ability. A growing rock of a left tackle, he’ll be the centerpiece of the veteran line.

Junior Mike Matamua started every game but two last year after originally expected to be a key reserve. The 6-4, 300-pound veteran is a nice athlete for a left guard and is growing into the job. A top recruit who was taken away from Hawaii, he’ll combine with Draheim to form a strong left side.

Returning to his starting spot at center for with 36 straight starts under his belt is senior Trask Iosefa , a 6-0, 300-pound bowling ball who might not be a great run blocker, but is a strong, veteran pass protector who knows what he’s doing up front. A great athlete for his size and a durable anchor, he’s as reliable as they come as one of the Mountain West’s better centers.

6-4, 305-pound Emilio Rivera got in better shape and now will be one of the keys to the line at right guard. 330 pounds a year ago, he has a little bit of career starting experience and has been a part of the special teams blocking scheme, and now he has to use his bulk and girth to be a factor for the ground game. He could work at tackle if needed with good lateral movement.

One of the only unknowns on the line, the 6-8, 295-pound Kurtis Gunther needs to shine at right tackle. He has the frame and he has the ability as a top recruit who had several other offers, but he missed all of last year and hasn’t seen a lot of time used as a reserve in 2008. While he won’t blast away for the ground game, he’ll be good in pass protection.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-4, 295-pound sophomore Nik Embernate turned into a nice blocker starting seven times over the second half of last year at right guard. He could end up taking over the starting job once again, and at the very least he’ll be one of the most reliable reserves for somewhere in the interior. While he’s not built to be a guard, he moves well enough to be a strong interior pass protector.

Sophomore Alec Johnson was a great pickup for the program a few years ago and was considered one of the stars of the 2008 recruiting class getting offers from some Pac 10 schools and Kansas. He was able to step in last year as a nice mid-season fill in starting three games. The 6-3, 300-pound center is one of the team’s most versatile blockers able to play anywhere on the line, but he’s an interior blocker with the skill to play either guard spot when he’s not in a rotation in the middle. He’ll be the starter next year.

Watch Out For … Draheim. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be one of the Mountain West’s better pass blockers and a reliable blindside protector. He moves extremely well and has the potential to be an all-star if he can stay on the field.
Strength: Pass protection. Tremendous last year, the line did a great job of providing time for the passing game to click allowing just 16 sacks. Considering this is a big line, it manages to move well.
Weakness: Run blocking. A major problem over the past few years, all the line has to do is create a few small holes for the ground game to work in this attack. After finishing last in the Mountain West, and 116th in the nation, in running, the veteran line has to do more.
Outlook: If everyone stays healthy, this could turn out to be one of the team’s bigger strengths. Four starters are back and there’s promising depth, and the potential is there to get far better over the next two years with four projected starters coming back for 2011. This is a great group to build around, but the run blocking has to improve.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 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