San Jose State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Spartans, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About San Jose State’s Offense
The Spartans got the offense moving last year, but it mostly worked around running back Tyler Ervin. He’s gone, but the pieces are there to get the efficient attack going, thanks to one of the Mountain West’s strongest receiving corps and quarterback Kenny Potter.
Four starters return up front and enough talented runners are in place to help replace Ervin’s production.
Can the offense be more consistent? The yards were there, but the team never seemed to play the same game twice in a row.
Key To The San Jose State Offense
Really, how do you replace Tyler Ervin? Forgetting the return man aspect, he did just about everything for the offense, running for 1,601 yards and 13 scores and catching 45 passes for 334 and two scores. Quarterback Kenny Potter can run a little bit, but it’ll mainly be up to Thomas Tucker and Malik Roberson to pick up the slack after combining for just 251 yards last year. They’re both smallish, quick backs in the Ervin mold, and if they come through, everything else should be in place.
What You Need To Know About San Jose State’s Defense
Second in the nation in pass defense, partly because the run defense was giving up over 200 yards per game, the Spartans had a nice defense that showed flashes of excellence.
The pass rush needs to be stronger, and the potential is there to be far better with three starters returning to the front four and six of the front seven coming back.
The secondary that’s done such a good job – without the benefit of a top pass rush – gets back three starters and should be fantastic. It would help, though, if the front seven did its job a bit more against decent running teams.
Key To The San Jose State Defense
Will there ever be a San Jose State pass rush? In 2012, the Spartans came up with one of the top pass rushing seasons in the nation cranking up 42 sacks and camping out in the backfield. They’ve come up with 47 sacks in the three years since. There need to be more impact plays from the defensive front and there has to be more pressure coming in from the outside.
San Jose State Football Will Be Far Better If …
It always wins the turnover margin. The Spartans weren’t too bad when it came to giving up the ball, but they only won the turnover battle twice and won both games. They were even in seven games, and they lost the margin in four games and lost all four games. Granted, they came against Air Force, Auburn, San Diego State and Boise State – they probably weren’t winning those games, anyway – but they aren’t good enough to give up the ball. Over the last two years they’re 1-11 after being on the wrong side of the mistake world.
Best Offensive Player
TE Billy Freeman – Tyler Winston is the team’s best receiver – now that he’s healthy again – but Freeman is the team’s leading returning target, and he boasts the 6-2, 232-pound size, hands and the route-running ability to always get open. He came up with 48 grabs for 586 yards and six scores, and while he didn’t stretch the field too often, he was as reliable as any tight end in the Mountain West. He’s more than just a nice safety valve.
Best San Jose State Defensive Player
LB Christian Tago – The team’s leading tackler over the last two seasons – and the second-leading tackler three years ago – Tago is a hitting machine who also finds his way into the backfield. The Spartans haven’t been able to generate much of a pass rush from the outside, but Tago was able to try doing his part with a team-leading nine tackles for loss. There’s experience around him now, and as long as he can stay in one piece he’ll be a Mountain West all-star again.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Keenan Sykes – The Spartan run defense needs to be stronger and tougher in the interior while the hope is for the ends to come through on the outside. Tony Popovich is finished at one tackle spot, meaning the 6-3, 270-pound Sykes needs to do even more after making 28 stops. He might not be a big body in the interior, but he’s strong and experienced. As much as he can be, he needs to be an anchor.
San Jose State’s Season Will Be A Success If …
There’s a bowl appearance without needing any help to get there. There’s way too much experience and there are way too many positives to shoot for anything less than seven wins and a post-season appearance. Is there enough to fight for the Mountain West title? Not really, but if the Spartans can handle Portland State – not a given – Hawaii and UNLV at home, it’ll take a few upsets and a lot of breaks to get to seven wins. After coming up with six after the bowl victory last season, with this schedule, seven will be fantastic.
Oct. 1 at New Mexico. The Spartans might be good, but it’ll take a huge shocker to beat San Diego State or Boise State on the road. However, if they can get by New Mexico on the road in the Mountain West opener, they have a shot to get off to a hot start with Hawaii and Nevada to follow before the trip to SDSU. It’s a must-win for the Lobos, so if the Spartans can take this game that’ll be the litmus test showing they’re good.
Fun Stats From 2015
– Time of Possession: San Jose State 33:07 – Opponents 26:53
– Sacks: Opponents 38 for 230 yards – San Jose State 17 for 110 yards
– Fumbles: Opponents 16 (lost 3) – San Jose State 15 (lost 5)