Preseason camp is underway atop Montezuma Mesa. While these first two pad-less practices haven't told us a whole lot about the 2014 squad, several position questions will be answered as the summer weeks progress.
Although practices were light, there has been quite a bit of intensity from players and coaches. The light trash talk between offense and defense suggests that the boys are eager to strap on the pads and get after it. Even Head Coach Rocky Long wouldn't mind fast-forwarding through these first few walk-through type practices.
"I don't really like these kinds of practices," Long said following Monday's practice. "They make you wonder what type of football team you have. You're putting a lot of young guys in there that are making a lot of mistakes. It looks sloppy, it looks slow... It's fun to get started but it's not my favorite day."
Quarterback Quinn Kaehler has looked confident throwing the ball, but his accuracy hasn't quite been at the level it needs to be. The senior missed spring workouts recovering from elbow surgery, and admitted he still had a bit of rust following Tuesday's practice. Again, it's only the second day--even wide receiver Ezell Ruffin let a couple of short passes bounce off of his hands during Tuesday's practice.
In Friday's season-opening press conference, Rocky Long labeled the safety group, backup running back, and kicker as areas of concern for the Aztecs, so those will be position battles to watch closely in the coming weeks.
The safety group is faced with the tough task of replacing two 2014 NFL Draftees; the New York Giant's Nat Berhe, and Eric Pinkins of the Seattle Seahawks. Two of the three starters at safety got their first snaps in Long's 3-3-5 defense this week. Sophomore transfer Na'im McGee will take over at "Aztec Safety" while redshirt freshman Trey Lomax and sophomore Malik Smith will patrol at "Warrior." Learn more about the safeties, and the rest of the Aztec team, as we continue our position-by-position preview of the 2014 SDSU Football Team.
The backup tailback job has not been announced, but coach Long has a good idea of who he thinks will earn it. However, the coaching staff will continue to evaluate their options throughout camp until they come to a clear consensus. Donnel Pumphrey, Chase Price and Marcus Stamps all got first team reps in 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday. Pumphrey's reps in contact practices will be scarce, so whoever makes the most of their reps will earn the No. 2 spot.
With middle linebackers Jake Fely and Josh Gavert out while recovering from injuries until the fourth week of the season, senior Derek Largent will take over the "Mike," or middle linebacker position. His vacancy of the strong-side linebacker position opens the door for red shirt freshman Fred Melifonwu, who won defensive scout team co-player of the year last season. The first three games of the 2014 season will be great opportunities for Melifonwu to showcase his skills and earn playing time off of the bench when Fely and Gavert return.
Backup quarterback is also still up for grabs. With no clear-cut winner emerging out of spring ball, the coaching staff will continue to evaluate at the position until there is a favorite.
Look for more camp updates from Mountain West Connection as the first week comes to a close on Friday.