San Diego State football's fall camp begins today at 3 p.m. Pacific Time. There are a lot of players and will be A LOT of action, but here are a few things to keep your eyes on--and we'll focus on these things in our camp updates.
1. Quinn Kaehler's post-surgery first-team reps
The excitement among fans to see Kaehler in his first full season is palpable. He grew better and better as last season progressed and his favorite target in Ezell Ruffin returns with him.
But Kaehler underwent offseason right elbow surgery in December to remove screws placed there during a high school surgery. So nothing major--just removing a few screws. In fact, Kaehler was able to play in the beginning of spring practice before he and SDSU's coaches decided to let him rest. However, Kaehler still hasn't had official first-team reps in a long time.
Kaehler now has 26 days before the Aztecs open the 2014 campaign against Northern Arizona. That's 26 days to get into a rhythm with his receivers--especially receivers other than Ruffin--and the first team as a whole. I don't anticipate any issues with this, but I'll definitely be watching how Kaehler progresses with the first team during camp.
2. The kickers--who will come out on top?
Junior Seamus McMorrow, junior Donny Hageman and freshman John Baron II will perhaps be the three most-watched players during camp. SDSU's kicking was nothing short of terrible last year, and players and fans alike are ready for improvement.
McMorrow went 0-4 on field goal attempts last year. But every year brings a new season, and the Mountain West gives a most improved player award for one simple reason: players improve, and McMorrow could do just that. He was a big-time kicking recruit, graduating from Saint Augustine High School as ESPN's 22nd-best 2011 kicker--so the skills are there.
The new recruits, Hageman and Baron II, have just as good a chance as McMorrow to win the starting job. Hageman specialized in accuracy at Mt. San Antonio College, nailing 19 of 20 field goal attempts in his second year. Baron II, on the other hand, specializes in having an absolute cannon for a boot. In fact, the ESPN scout who completed his ESPN scouting report wrote that Baron II had the strongest kickoff leg in the country.
So we get to see a college vet looking to redeem himself, a pin-point field goal specialist and a big boomer duke it out in camp.
3. Freshman wide receivers
Ruffin will be "the guy." There's no question about that. And right now, redshirt-sophomore Eric Judge, junior Larry Clark and junior Jemond Hazely are the projected two-through-four receivers. That's a solid corps with a high ceiling, especially if Judge can be a reliable second option.
But the Aztecs also have some highly touted receiver recruits coming in who could challenge for playing time. Oceanside High School's Mikah Holder enters camp as Scout.com's 85th best 2014 receiver. Parick Henry High School's Jabril Clewis stands 6'2" and can jump 31.8 inches. Dionte Sykes comes to SDSU from Chandler High School in Arizona. Sykes originally chose to play for UCLA, but decommitted in November and signed with the Aztecs. All good freshman receiver recruits, all with a decent chance to challenge for a starting spot.
4. Pearce Slater (6'7", 335 pounds) and Christian Heyward (6'3", 300 pounds)
SDSU picked up two transfer recruits who could provide immediate production at the line of scrimmage.
You've probably heard a lot about Heyward by now: a four-star defensive lineman recruit out of Point Loma High School in 2011, played on the Under Armour prep All-America team with Jadeveon Clowney, played only five games over two years at USC due to shoulder surgery. Now, fully healed and back home, Heyward returns to the football field as an Aztec. And SDSU fans everywhere hope that he can return to his four-star form and improve an already-strong defensive line.
Slater, a transfer offensive line recruit from Kansas University and El Camino College, has been with the team for a while now--he was on the spring roster. But with two of the five starting O-line jobs up for grabs, look for Slater to make a strong case during camp. He definitely has the size to be a great lineman, and Scout.com ranked him the 31st best offensive tackle in 2014.
Stay tuned for updates throughout SDSU's fall camp.