San Diego State football fans all shuddered together when their defensive leader limped off the field with a broken foot last September 28 at New Mexico State University. Jake Fely, a pre-season first team All-Mountain West linebacker selection, was forced to watch his teammates play the final nine games of the 2013-14 season from the sideline.
But according to GoAztecs.com, the NCAA approved Fely's appeal for a sixth-year waver request on Thursday. In other words, Fely's shortened 2013-14 season will be treated as a medical-redshirt season and he will enter the 2014-15 season as a redshirt-junior.
Fely was already going to play next season, so the NCAA's decision will have little impact on 2014-15 (except for that fact that Fely can play relaxed knowing he still has two years left at SDSU). The NCAA's decision does, however, go a long way to prevent a drop-off in defensive efficiency in the 2015-16 season--especially at the middle linebacker position. The Aztecs will primarily play four middle linebackers this year--Jake Fely, Cody Galea, Derek Largent and Josh Gavert--three of which are seniors. But SDSU has no upperclassmen MLBs with any letters behind these four on the 2013-14 depth chart. That means that, if Fely hadn't received his sixth year, the Aztecs would have started a completely new and inexperienced MLB core in 2015-16--not a good thing for a position so vital to Rocky Long's defense.
Thankfully for Aztecs fans, that won't happen. Fely will play his senior year as an Aztec and will be a needed source of leadership and experience in that 2015-16 defense.