NEW ... 2010 San Diego State Preview
San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley
San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley
Posted Aug 9, 2010 2010 Preview - San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State Aztecs

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Brady Hoke
2nd year: 4-8
8th year overall: 38-46
Ten Best San Diego State Players
1. WR Vincent Brown, Sr.
2. QB Ryan Lindley, Jr.
3. WR DeMarco Sampson, Sr.
4. OT Tommie Draheim, Jr.
5. P Brian Stahovich, Jr.
6. LB Miles Burris, Jr.
7. WR Dominique Sandifer, Soph.
8. DE B.J. Williams, Sr.
9. LB Marcus Yarbrough, Sr.
10. S Andrew Preston, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Nicholls State
Sept. 11 at NMSU
Sept. 18 at Missouri
Sept. 25 Utah State
Oct. 9 at BYU
Oct. 16 Air Force
Oct. 23 at New Mexico
Oct. 30 at Wyoming
Nov. 6 Colorado State
Nov. 13 at TCU
Nov. 20 Utah
Nov. 27 UNLV

San Diego State hasn't had a winning season or a bowl appearance since 1998, hasn't won more than four games since 2005, and hasn't been any sort of a factor in the Mountain West race since the league has started. For a school in place with such perfect weather, its football program has been a black hole.

Can the Aztecs ever be a factor? Head coach Brady Hoke was able to do far more with far less at Ball State, and now that he's in the second year of the building job, the hope is there for things to finally, finally turn around.

Hoke is a strong coach who might be off to bigger and better things in a hurry if he has any success (although why anyone would want to leave San Diego for anywhere is a mystery), and he has flanked himself with some fantastic assistants including offensive coordinator Al Borges and defensive coordinator (and former New Mexico head man) Rocky Long. Everything is there now to succeed, but long-suffering Aztec fans have heard it all before.

It's one thing to be bad, but it's another to be boring bad. San Diego State won't win the Mountain West, and there might be too many issues to get to a bowl game, but its games are going to be fun and exciting with a great passing game, led by the dynamic receiving tandem of Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, and a defense that should be better, but will give up just enough points and big plays to make games into wild shootouts. While the team might be worth watching, it has to start winning.

The Aztecs have never beaten TCU and haven't beaten BYU and Utah since 2005. That win over the Utes was the only victory over a team that finished with a winning record since 2003 spanning a stretch of 71 games. They've had innovative head coaches, good offensive minds, a few strong defensive squads, and just enough good athletes to get by, but nothing has worked. Hoke might finally have the right recipe to change all of that.

The coaches are good, 19 starters are back, the skill positions are strong, the offensive line gets four starters back after being great in pass protection, there are several options at defensive end, there's speed and athleticism in the back eight, and Brian Stahovich might be the Mountain West's best punter. Is the formula finally there to be above-average? Maybe, but it's going to be a fun ride no matter what happens.

What to watch for on offense: The play of the offensive front. There's decent talent and plenty of experience to be far better. Tommie Draheim is a nice left tackle and Trask Iosefa is a solid veteran center, and now they have to lead the way to some semblance of a running game. The pass protection was excellent last season and it should be strong again with a nice scheme to go along with the good veterans. However, after getting in better shape and with a bit more athleticism, the line has to open up some holes for the speedy backs.

What to watch for on defense: The 3-3-5. The quirky defensive alignment has good athletes at linebacker and five big, veteran defensive backs who should be all over the field, but the play of the front three needs to be better. With three seniors back in B.J. Williams, Ernie Lawson, and Jacob Tauanuu for the ends, the line has veterans with time logged in to not make a slew of big mistakes, but they have to start doing something at a high level. With eight starters back overall, there's no reason the D can't start to be tighter and come up with a little more help for the offense.

The team will be far better if … Win the turnover battle. SDSU simply isn't good enough to not own the turnover margin, and it showed last year. The Aztecs finished 111th in the nation, and last in the Mountain West, in turnover margin with 25 giveaways and just a mere four fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions. After coming up with three takeaways in the opening day loss to UCLA, the Aztecs picked off two passes or more in four games, and none in the other seven. In those four, SDSU won three of them and lost once in a tight battle with UNLV. In other words, over the last two years, SDSU is 0-14 when it doesn't come up with a pick.

The schedule: If the Aztecs have any hope of coming up with a big season, they have to rock in September with home games against Nicholls State and Utah State along with a winnable road to New Mexico State. The date at Missouri will likely be a loss, but a 3-1 start wouldn't be bad. Consider it a major success if SDSU wins one of the three big conference road games at BYU, Wyoming, or TCU, but getting Air Force and Utah at home is a plus. Three of the last four games are at home, and there can't be misses at home against UNLV and Colorado State.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Vincent Brown. The 6-0, 195-pound playmaker was having a special year before getting hurt and missing the second half of the season. Unstoppable with 123 yards or more in five of the first six games last season, he was ripping up everyone before breaking his thumb. Healthy again, he'll combine with DeMarco Sampson to give the Aztecs the Mountain West's strongest receiving duo.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Miles Burris. The defense will be far better if end B.J. Williams or MLB Marcus Yarbrough turns in a big year, but Burris is the veteran who'll be the solidifying force in the linebacking corps after finishing second on the team with 58 tackles with six tackles for loss. He's 6-2 and 240 pounds with range and the ability to do far more in the backfield.

Key player to a successful season: Freshman RB Ronnie Hillman. Originally considered a receiver, the 5-10, 175-pounder will get time at tailback and could be one of the team's top weapons. The offense desperately needs a dangerous runner, and he's a speedster with good power for his size with good cutting ability. The Aztecs have other rushing options, but Hillman has the potential and the ability to take control of the attack.

The season will be a success if … the Aztecs win six games. The experience and talent are in place to aim higher, but there's a reason the program hasn't come up with a winning season in over a decade. There can't be any mistakes against the mediocre teams in the conference and a 3-1 start is a must with wins over Nicholls State, New Mexico State, and Utah State, and it's going to take an upset along the way to finally get back to a bowl game.

Key game: Oct. 16 vs. Air Force. If the program is ever going to make a statement in league play, this will be the game. With three conference road games in a four week stretch, the Aztecs have to come up with a win over the Falcons after losing the last three games in the series. Assuming a loss to BYU to start the conference season, and with road trips to New Mexico and Wyoming to follow, the Aztecs need to establish themselves at home.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing Yards: Opponents 2,598 – San Diego State 1,159
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:13 – San Diego State 27:47
- Kickoff Return Average: Opponents 25.1 – San Diego State 19.9

- 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