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San Diego State Football: Young Aztec receivers embodying 'next man up' during Ezell Ruffin's absence

The young Aztec receiving group deserves a tip of the cap with their solid play of late. The loss of Ezell Ruffin still hurts, but the inexperienced wideouts are doing their best to fill the void.

Lance King

The San Diego State Aztecs have dealt with some bad hands so far this season. They were without some key pieces on defense earlier in the season, and in the last three weeks they've lost star senior wide receiver Ezell Ruffin with a broken Collarbone, linebacker Derek Largent with appendicitis, and their most experienced quarterback, Quinn Kaehlerwith a shoulder sprain.

With the loss of Ruffin, a lot of pressure has been placed on the inexperienced wide receiving corps to step up and produce, and they haven't been half bad. With freshman Nick Bawden penciled in to start next Friday against Fresno State, Aztec fans will pray for a seamless transition.

#81 Eric Judge

Sophomore Eric Judge has led the team in receiving in two of the three games he's played, and has proved to be an outside threat with Ruffin out. His most impressive performance came against North Carolina--the game Ruffin went down--catching three balls for 94 yards and a touchdown. Judge, who didn't play Saturday against UNLV, leads the team with 160 yards on ten catches. Judge is the only Aztec besides tight end Rob Craighead with a touchdown reception this year. Here's a video via ESPN of Judge's 56-yard score on a pass from Kaehler in the second quarter against UNC

#80 Larry Clark

Larry Clark continues to impress, going for 71 yards on four catches against UNLV in his second game filling in Ruffin's hole on the depth chart. His reception and yardage totals were both career highs. Clark also added a huge one-handed grab on Saturday to keep a big drive alive. The 6'4" 210-pound wideout has proved he can go up and get it with anybody, and will be a nice second option behind Judge should his progress continue. Clark now has 117 total yards on eight receptions through four games this season.

#82 Lloyd Mills

Lloyd Mills has been a nice surprise and has shown some pretty good athletic ability on the field. At 5'10" and 165 pounds, you wouldn't notice if Mills and running back Donnel Pumphrey switched jerseys. Mills started the season mainly returning punts and kicks but earned himself some action on offense. In a game against Oregon State where the SDSU offense was held to just 109 passing yards, Mills led the team with 35 of them on three catches. Mills' only catch against UNLV was on a 35-yard pass from Kaehler which was thrown short. Mills made a nice play to adjust his speed and come up with the ball just short of the goal line.

Jemond Hazely and freshman Mikah Holder, who caught his first career pass on Saturday, have produced as well, but probably won't be huge parts of the offense going forward.

Head coach Rocky Long said earlier in the season that he thought his group of wide receivers would be better than the group he had last year by the season's end. Now taking Ruffin out of the equation certainly changes things, but Aztec fans shouldn't be surprised if the current group makes substantial improvement. They have a great chance to be a large part of this team's revival.