Like most changes of the season, there is good news and there is bad. The good news is that most of the receiving corps stars return for the 2013 season, along with star quarterback David Fales. The bad news is...well... where to start... Head coach MacIntyre who left for Colorado took coaching staff and several 2013 recruits with him. In addition, the Spartans lost their leading RB De'Leon Eskridge, starting tight end Ryan Otten and left tackle extraordinaire David Quessenberry. New HC Ron Caragher brings with him a young coaching staff, but one with multiple winning seasons with the San Diego Toreros. It's always a coin flip with new head coaches though, and it remains to be seen as to whether his system will help or hurt the Spartans. He has stated in multiple interviews that he will be running a west coast offense, but from practice and scrimmage reports the shotgun formation still features prominently.
In 2012, the Spartans finished the season ranked 6th in passing yards with an average of 332.7 yards per game. The running game vastly improved from 2011 to 2012, climbing up three places in the FBS rankings... From 112th to 109th ( Go Spartans! Rah Rah Rah!).
David Fales is the starter, no question. 2012 saw him pass for 4193 yards, with a 72.5 completion percentage and 33 TDs to 9 INTs. He's an old fashioned pocket passer, not one of those new-fangled mobile QB's. He makes up for his lack of mobility with great discipline in the face of pressure. Take for example the 2012 loss against Utah State. SJSU's offensive line was completely run over by the Utah State defense, giving up 13 (13!!!) sacks. Despite this, David Fales threw for 467 yards and 3 touchdowns. David Fales' deep ball is sometimes critiqued, but he's spent all offseason correcting his mechanics and SJSU fans thinks he's looking even better than before. At the scrimmage that I went to earlier this month he threw a beautiful 30 yard touchdown pass to Noel Grigsby, and I expect that play to be reproduced many times during the season.
Blake Jurich and Joe Gray are currently involved in battle for primary backup quarterback. Blake Jurich was used to provide a dual threat option in red zone and short yardage situations and will probably do the same this year.
Depth Chart: Fales | Jurich | Gray
About a half million coaches have said "It all starts with the offensive line" and then looked like they'd said something profound. For the Spartans, that proved true. They gave David Fales enough time to break multiple passing records in efficiency and yardage. SJSU lost just one starter in the offensive line, the now Houston Texan David Quessenberry. They did a good job of protecting Fales, and if you take out the Utah State game (oh how I wish I could...) they gave up just 13 sacks over the season. Reuban Hasani, Jon Meyer, Ryan Jones and Nicholas Kaspar all return in 2013 to fight the battles in the trenches. Wes Schweitzer will probably be taking over at the left tackle position.
The one knock against them is a big one though; they're a bit undersized and didn't bring a lot to the running game (aside from moving up to 109th in FBS rankings. Go Spartans! Rah Rah Rah!). If they can improve their run blocking ability and open some holes for the running game, the offensive line alone could give an immense boost to the SJSU offense. As it is, they should continue to provide a solid pocket from which David Fales can pick apart defenses.
OT: Schweitzer | Meyer
G: Jones | Kaspar or Hasani
C: Hasani or Kaspar
With the loss of leading RB De'Leon Eskridge, Tyler Ervin, the next leading rusher from 2012 looks to be the #1 RB. At 5' 10" 176lbs, Tyler Ervin rushed for 205 yards behind Eskridge before suffering an injury mid-season. prior to his injury, he looked like a good all purpose back with 126 receiving yards and a good kick-return ability.
Osirius Burke is a freshman who is also in the running (ha) for carries. At 5' 9", 209lbs he could potentially be a devastating change of pace back that will give opposing defenses conniptions trying to find him in the backfield. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Alvin Jelks in action. A 6' 1" 190lbs JUCO transfer, he was an all state rusher that looks to be a run between the tackles kind of guy. Ray Lomas IV also has looked good in practices. There's a lot of talent and speed at this position; I'm expecting the SJSU Spartans to climb at least another 3 places in FBS rushing rankings to 106th (Go Spartans! Rah Rah Rah!). But seriously, if the offensive line can open some holes for these guys, I expect a lot of home run touchdowns.
Depth Chart: Ervin | Jelks or Burke or Lomas IV
Tight end is an area of the SJSU offense that is lacking definitive answers. The departing Ryan Otten was David Fales' safety blanket, and was usually good for grabbing third down passes out of the air, garnering 742 receiving yards in the 2012 season. Peter Tuitupou the other starting tight end is also gone.
In 2013, only one tight end has had receptions in major college football,Travis Lorius. This factoid is made even less impressive by the fact that it was only 1 reception in 2012. Freshman Billy Freeman looks like he's a lock for starting tight end if only for his catching ability. Like the offensive line though, he'll have to perfect his blocking ability. Jordan Thiel is also looking for playing time, and like Freeman redshirted in 2012.
Depth Chart: Freeman | Thiel or Miller Or Lorius
Ah, at last one of those positions where there are no "things are okay, but..." sentences. The starting wide receivers all return in 2013, led by senior 5' 11" Noel Grigsby with 1307 yards and 9 touchdowns. Behind him are senior 5' 10" Chandler Jones with 691 yards and 11 TD and 6' Jabari Carr with 639 yards and 4 touchdowns. All three shine as precision route runners with quickness. Noel Grigsby averages at nearly 16 yards a catch and is really good at making defenders miss, so the MWC can look forward to a lot of Fales to Grigsby plays.
Receiver X: Carr | Nunn
Receiver Z: Grigsby | Jones