The San Diego St. Aztecs open up their 91st football season on against the Eastern Illinois Panthers on Saturday August 31st, 5pm kickoff. This will be the third season under Head Coach Rocky Long and the second match between the two schools. The Aztecs and Panthers have met once before in October 2001 with the Aztecs winning the game 40-7 but that was 4,347 days ago. This year may have a different outcome since the opener features the two defending Conference Champions, San Diego State claimed a share of the Mountain West Conference while Eastern Illinois won the Ohio Valley Conference outright.
Panther, Aztec Connections
Eastern Illinois head coach Dino Babers is a San Diego native and Morse high school graduate and was the Aztecs wide receiver coach under Ted Tollner in 1994. Tom Freeman, the EIU defensive line coach Tom Freeman graduated from SDSU and was the offense line coach from 1981-1983 under Doug Scovil. He started as a graduate assistant under Don Coreyall way back in 1969. Lastly, current Aztec strength coach Adam Hall came off the bench to play quarterback in the Aztecs 40-7 victory over EIU in 2001. Hall was 4 for 4 and 107 yards passing with a touch down throw.
Aztec Game Notes
SDSU scored 427 points last season and average 32.8 points per game that was 3rd in the MWC and 36th nationally. The Aztecs return 7 starters on offense LT Bryce Quigley, WR Colin Lockett, FB Chad Young, RB Adam Muema, RT Zach Dilley, TE Adam Roberts and LG Japheth Gordon. Junior Adam Muema enters the campaign on the Doak Walker Watch List for the nation's top running back. He becomes the third different Aztec back to appear on the list in the last three seasons (Ronnie Hillman in 2011 and Walter Kazee in 2012).
On defense SDSU returns nine starters off a squad that continually gotten better under the direction of third-year head coach Rocky Long. Pair of Aztec defensive players is on preseason watch lists as the nation's top player at their position. Senior defensive back
Nat Berhe is on the Thorpe Award Watch List (best defensive back) and Lott IMPACT Trophy Award Watch List (impact on and off the field), while junior linebacker Jake Fely is on both the Bednarik Award Watch List (defensive player of the year) and Lombardi Award Watch List (top lineman).
Four Guys to Watch
1.Running back Adam Muema, a 5 foot 10 inch 205 pound busier who was last year's All-Mountain West second team selection rushed for 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns despite playing in a two-back system and sharing carries with senior Walter Kazee. The Aztecs don't have a clear number two back behind Muema but can go four deep at two.
2. Wide receiver Colin Lockett, the speedster is coming off a disappointing year only catching 20 balls for 293 yards, but that's because he shared time with now Oakland Raider, Brice Butler and the split end position. He has a chance to surpass his 58 receptions, 970 yards and eight touchdowns if he stays health in this system. "Rocket Lockett" torched the secondary for 227 yards and two TD's, all in the first half of the Aztec Red Black scrimmage and came close to scoring on his other two receptions as well.
3. Middle linebacker Jake Fely, undersized at 5 foot 10 and 215 pounds he is arguably the best linebacker in the Mountain West Conference. Last year he led the defense in tackles for loss (11.5), sacks (7) and forced fumbles (2) last season, and was second in tackles (90) and fumble recoveries (2). He is always in the right place at right time in the Aztecs blitz happy 3-3-5 defense.
4. Aztec Nate Berhe is the Mountain West's top returning tackler with 94 last year and because of the way Rocky Long likes to line him up all over the field, he can defend against the pass (two interceptions, five passes broken up last season) or come up in the box and play the run. Expect Berhe to be even better in his senior season, and he may even get more chances at interceptions if SDSU's cornerbacks are shaky and teams try to challenge the Aztecs through the air this year.