SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  San Diego St. Aztecs

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Tom Craft (2nd year, 4-9)
2002 record: 4-9
Mountain West finish: T-3rd
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 72.9 ypg
(8th in Mountain West, 114th in nation)
Pass: 330.9 ypg (1st, 5th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 171.2 ypg (6th, 83rd)
Pass: 239.7 ypg (7th, 91st)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
SE  Jermaine Moore  Sr. 
FL  88  Lonnel Penman  Jr. 
SL  85  Robert Ortiz  So. 
LT   79   Brendan Darby   Sr.  
LG  77  Shawn Dickie  Sr. 
C   72   Jasper Harvey   So.  
RG   77   Gerald Sykes   Sr.  
RT  74  Mike Kracalik  Jr. 
TE  81  Raleigh Fletcher  Sr. 
QB   14   Adam Hall   Sr.  
RB   4   Fred Collins   So.  
Defense (6)
DE   90   Ryan Iata   Sr.  
DT   99   Brook Miller   Sr.  
DT  46  Blake Lobel  Jr. 
DE  98  Brandon Rager  Sr. 
WLB  35  Beau Trickey  Sr. 
MLB   34   Kirk Morrison   Jr.  
SLB  45  Stephen Larsen  Jr. 
CB  15  LaVance Ray  Sr. 
CB   26   Jeff Shoate   Sr.  
FS   5   Marviel Underwood   Jr.  
SS   42   Josh Dean   Jr.  
Special Teams
Brook Emmanuel  Fr. 
Seth Santoro  Sr. 
KR  33  Freddie Keiaho  So. 
PR  20  Michael Franklin  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Eastern Washington 
Sept. 6  at Ohio State 
Sept. 13  at UTEP 
Sept. 20  Samford 
Sept. 27  at UCLA 
Oct. 4  BYU 
Oct. 11  at Utah 
Oct. 18  New Mexico 
Oct. 25  Wyoming 
Nov. 8  at UNLV 
Nov. 15  at Colorado State 
Nov. 22  Air Force 
A fourth consecutive losing season doesn't normally prompt optimism, but San Diego State actually is riding a wave of positive vibes heading into the 2003 season.

The Aztecs, one of the nation's most inept offensive teams in 2001, made dramatic progress in Tom Craft's first season as head coach. They also finished in a tie for third in the Mountain West Conference, the program's first upper-tier finish since the league was formed in 1999. Craft's methods also created a player-friendly atmosphere that kept the team from crumbling after an 0-5 start that included a horrid loss to Idaho.

With the return of quarterback Adam Hall and a friendlier non-conference schedule, there's hope for more improvement.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Hall flourished in Craft's wide-open attack, passing for 3,253 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing the final two games because of a concussion. His emergence was stunning, and Craft promises that Hall will be even better this fall. Hall played with a painful shoulder injury that required postseason surgery. He proved during spring workouts that the arm was fully recovered. "I think Adam Hall got better and better as the spring went on," Craft says. "I think he's going to have a terrific year if we can keep him healthy."

The Aztecs need to improve their ground game after rushing for just 948 yards in 13 games. Sophomores Michael Franklin (346 yards last season) and Frederick Collins (333 yards) head the returners. Incoming freshman Lynell Hamilton enters the program amid high expectations.

Question marks abound at receiver after the departures of wideouts J.R. Tolver and Kassim Osgood, who set NCAA records for receptions (236) and yardage (3,337) by teammates. The third starter, Ronnie Davenport (56 receptions), also needs to be replaced.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The Aztecs are deep at linebacker and in the secondary but lack depth on the defensive line. They allowed 31 touchdown passes last season, a figure that must improve.

Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison is a bona fide star. He was a first-team All-Mountain West pick in 2002, becoming the first SDSU sophomore to earn first-team all-conference honors since Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in 1997. Morrison's stellar season included 97 tackles, five fumble recoveries, three interceptions and three sacks.

Stephen Larsen also is a solid starter, with sophomore Matt McCoy and senior Beau Trickey battling for the other job.

The defense received a boost when senior defensive end Ryan Iata (20 career starts) was granted a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA. Brandon Rager is being counted on as the other starting defensive end. Brook Miller is a returning starter at tackle.

There are plenty of options in the secondary, which returns three starters in cornerback Jeff Shoate, a second-team all-conference pick last season, and safeties Josh Dean (strong) and Marviel Underwood (free).

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Senior Seth Santoro and true freshman Mike Hughes will compete to replace departed punter Brian Simnjanovski. The Aztecs also will feature a new placekicker in junior college All-American Clinton Arial-Ryan. Baker and Franklin factor in as kick returners, with either Baker or junior Kyle Conerly (15.7 average, one TD last season) handling punt return duties.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

The Aztecs would love to end a streak of four consecutive losing seasons. The Mountain West Conference is far from ferocious, and there are two Division I-AA foes on the schedule. There are questions, though. The Aztecs need to improve the running game, and despite a solid quarterback in Hall, the passing game is uncertain due to losses at receiver. Defensively, the Aztecs' linebackers and secondary rank among the best in the MWC. If the defense becomes stingier and the offense remains productive, the Aztecs could take steps toward removing their underachieving label.

Click here for complete index of 2003 team previews

To purchase the 2003 College Football Preview from Athlon Sports, click here.

 


 
CNNSI