Preview 2017: San Diego State Aztecs

Preview 2017: San Diego State Aztecs


Preview 2017: San Diego State Aztecs


Preview 2017: San Diego State Aztecs

Previewing and looking ahead at the San Diego State Aztecs season – and what you need to know.

Contact @PeteFiutak

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2017 San Diego State Preview: Three Straight MW Titles?
– 2017 San Diego State Schedule Analysis
San Diego State Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The San Diego State Offense

You know what you’re about to get. San Diego State under head coach Rocky Long likes to run, run, and pound the running game some more.

Donnel Pumphrey is gone after finishing his great career fourth on the all-time NCAA rushing list – and yes, enough with the delusion, he’s fourth behind Ron Dayne, Tony Dorsett and Ricky Williams – but Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington should roll if they get a little room to move.

The O line is never really an issue under Long, but it has to replace four starters including Nico Siragusa. That’s not going to be too big of an issue for the ground attack – it’ll work – but the pass protection has to be better.

QB Christian Chapman is efficient, but he’s not going to be asked to bomb away even with WR Mikah Holder and TE David Wells two of the best targets in the Mountain West.

Biggest Key To The San Diego State Offense

The O line has to come together fast. And it has to be better at keeping Chapman upright. The Aztecs only threw 256 passes, but gave up 28 sacks on the season. Keeping defenses from teeing off against the run was a problem, too, allowing a whopping 86 tackles for loss. All turned out fine for a rushing attack that came up wth almost 3,700 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per pop, but with all the new parts, the line might be the key to the season.

What You Need To Know About The San Diego State Defense

Last year was when it was all supposed to come together with veterans, stars, and depth, and it all worked, finishing 11th in the nation in total D and sixth against the run. The Aztecs will be great again, but it’ll require some work.

The front three has suffers the biggest losses, but Noble Hall is a decent, versatile presence and there’s just enough size to survive at tackle. Will the pass rush kick in? It’ll have to be manufactured from several spots.

Even without leading tackler Calvin Munson, the linebacking corps will be outstanding again, starting with Ronley Lakalaka on the outside. S Damontae Kazee might be irreplaceable at one safety spot, and Malik Smith will be missed, but three starters return in the defensive backfield in the 3-3-5 alignment. Parker Baldwin will put up huge numbers at one safety spot.

Biggest Key To The San Diego State Defense

Keep the pressure in the backfield going. The Aztecs lost their top three players in tackles for loss and four of their top six. Those three – Alex Barrett, Kyle Kelley and Calvin Munson – were also the top three sackers, along with Austin Wyatt-Thayer, who’s gone, too. The Aztecs have the style and system defensively to be disruptive, but the production has to follow the all-stars to rely on again.

San Diego State Will Be Far Better If …

The Aztecs don’t beat themselves. Of course everyone does better when they win the turnover battle, but for a team that lives off of time of possession, defense, and ball control, that all goes haywire if the offense screws up. The Aztecs lost the turnover margin just three times last season, and lost two of those games to South Alabama and Colorado State. When the Aztecs won the turnover battle they were 8-0. To take this one step further, they’re 17-0 over the last two years when they’re on the plus side.

Best San Diego State Offensive Player

RB Rashaad Penny, Sr. – Next. Donnel Pumphrey might have gotten all the love for his 2,133-yard season, but Penny was pretty good, too, running for 1,018 yards and 11 scores, averaging a ridiculous 7.49 yards per carry. The 5-11, 220-pounder is a special kick returner averaging over 31 yards per try with two scores last season, he can catch out of the backfield, and he can carry the load if needed. Expect massive all-purpose numbers.

2. QB Christian Chapman, Jr.
3. WR Mikah Holder, Sr.
4. PK John Baron, Jr.
5. TE David Wells, Sr.

Best San Diego State Defensive Player

LB Ronley Lakalaka, Jr. – The leading returning tackler, the 6-0, 235-pounder has beefed up a little bit, but he can move on the outside. He’s not used a whole lot as a pass rusher, but he managed to get in on just about everything with two picks – taking one for a score – and 73 tackles with a sack. While he might not be the most disruptive force, he’s rock-solid and consistent, joining Ryan Dunn as the main men for the linebacking corps.

2. CB Kameron Kelly, Sr.
3. S Parker Baldwin, Jr.
4. CB Ron Smith, Soph.
5. DE Noble Hall, Jr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

DE Noble Hall, Jr. – If the San Diego State defense is going to be as nasty as it’s been over the past few seasons, the pass rush has to kick in from the outside without Alex Barrett around anymore. The 6-3, 265-pound Hall got his feet wet early on as a quick tackle, and did a nice job last season with 26 tackles with three sacks and six tackles for loss. Now, as the only returning starter up front, the pressure is on to be a dangerous playmaker in the backfield from the outside.

The San Diego State Season Will Be A Success If …

The Aztecs pull off a threezie. Getting Air Force and Boise State from the Mountain division isn’t a plus, but the Broncos have to come to San Diego. Going to Hawaii will be difficult, and Nevada won’t be a layup, but if this really is a team good enough to make it three Mountain West titles in a row, it should roll through this conference slate. And then, in terms of a national buzz, it might come down to what happens early …

Key Game To The San Diego State Season

Sept. 16 vs. Stanford – If the Aztecs are really Mountain West title-good again, there shouldn’t be any problems with the conference slate. However, when it comes to national attention and respect, that needs to come with wins over the Pac-12 teams early on. Beat Arizona State in Tempe, and follow it up with a win over Stanford at home, and all of a sudden, it’ll be time to dream really, really big.

2016 San Diego State Fun Stats

– Rushing Yards: San Diego State 3,680 – Opponents 1,480
– Field Goals: San Diego State 21-of-23 – Opponents 8-of-9
– 2nd Quarter Scoring: San Diego State 147 – Opponents 52

2017 San Diego State Preview: Three Straight MW Titles?
– 2017 San Diego State Schedule Analysis
San Diego State Previews: 2016 | 2015


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