It’s sometime a lonely quest to cover a team that’s not winning until they become a Cinderella. Otherwise, you get the Internet-infused trolls who are ever ready to bash you with the obvious.
But still...the Spartans deserve coverage. With this coverage, it buoys our overall Mountain West coverage to present the whole breadth of the conference.
...that said, this will be my last regular MWC post for the time being at least. I’ll now be covering the Spartans with the San Jose Mercury News. This move was largely due to the opportunity provided to me by Mike Wittmann this past year and the coverage I was allowed to do being a part of this team! So, a big thanks and appreciation to him and the great MWC team of writers. Thank you!
(Vic was kind enough to write this before officially transitioning over to the Mercury News. Please continue to follow him and his great coverage of SJSU sports)
The San Jose State Spartans start season two of the Brent Brennan era full of promise and energy - like every single team in the history of sports on earth.
The Spartan digital media blitz is doing its thing and really is one of the better digital brand campaigns in the conference - having hired and actually recently announced two new digital marketing and multimedia guys. And thanks in large part to the coordinated media coverage, you might be hearing and seeing more Spartan players and coaches in all the best light along with all the safe, polite niceties.
Week 1 practices also kicked off the 2018 season for the Spartans and we’re going into week 2 in August with more that we need to see. The first week saw split practices with the experienced upperclassmen segregated from the incoming players for the sake of everyone getting reps and coming to speed quicker. The Spartans had full pad practices just a couple days ago with the defense leading the way and all of the team now practicing together.
Who’s going to be the QB?
For so many teams, this is almost always the million dollar question and anytime you hear “it’s a fluid situation”, “it’s up for grabs”, “someone has to take ownership” - well, it’s not the best thing to hear, except to know things are undecided and will be up in the air until the last moment.
Currently, the competition will be between Montel Aaron, Josh Love, Michael Carrillo, Terrell Carter and Chance LaChapelle. Sophomore Aaron is the QB favorite in most pre-season previews. The X factor will come out of the mind of first year offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven. On offense, it’s obvious what needs to be done and it’s the basics:
- Sustain drives: last season the Spartans were dead last in time of possession
- Greatly diminish turnovers: the Spartans committed 42 of them in 2017 far outpacing any other team in college football
- Score more: in 10 of the last 11 games last season, the Spartans were held to under 20 points a game
While McGiven was at Oregon State, the offensive didn’t do much, so there isn’t much to go on except he’s going to be comfortable working with Brennan and the rest of the former Beaver coaches on the Spartan staff.
So much hinges together on trusting the quarterback choice and making the offensive situation right. Perhap McGiven comes up with a two QB option with Aaron and Terrell Carter, who’s probably the most versatile of the QB arsenal. If the Spartans get this right or get close to getting it right, there’s a chance for a successful season and a successful season, at the least, could mean four to six wins. If this all happens, the running and receiving game will to fall into place nicely with what and who they have now in those departments.
Who’s going to show up on the defensive line?
Stopping the run is job numero uno.
The D line will set the tone for the entire defense. Last season, teams ran roughshod left and right on them. The Spartan defense simply could not hold off third down and even fourth down conversions even with the tackling machine, Frank Ginda, who’s currently trying to make his way with the Miami Dolphins. The Spartans basically had the second worst run defense in the nation.
This year it will be the likes of seniors Bryson Bridges, Owen “Boogie” Roberts and Sailosi Latu holding court for the Spartans in the defensive trenches. They’ll be the base of the primary 3-4 defense, but a number of promising underclassmen also come in with lots of that “freshmen energy” to take advantage of. Underclassmen Cameron Alexander, E.J. Ane, Sinjun Astani, Cade Hall and Jamaal Hardy are a few on the D line corps, who should go out of their way to give the seniors a run for their money.
If the D line can’t do their jobs, the season will fall away again. If they hold their own, the linebackers and secondary will also fall into place a bit easier. It really will start from the D line and collectively and in theory, the defense should more easily fill gaps to stop those runs. Jamaal Scott, Ethan Aguayo and Tysyn Parker will lead the way with the linebacking crew, but here too, they have some formidable underclassmen ready to make some noise with the likes of Junior Fehoko, Brett Foley, Kyle Harmon, Alii Matau, Jackson Burrill and Devon Calloway. The secondary is even younger with senior cornerback Dakari Monroe leading the way for first year defensive back coach, Aric Williams.
The season outlook
A good start will be a dominating win over the UC Davis Aggies in game one. The Spartans are expected to win, but they have to do it convincingly. If they get an “average” win, that will be a sign that the season will head down the southern path.
The next two games are against back-to-back PAC 12 teams on the road. The Washington State Cougars are in the midst of their own turmoil with new coaches and an undecided quarterback situation. Though the Cougars tragically lost their starting quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, earlier this year, expect the Cougars to show off their passing attack on the young Spartan secondary. The Oregon Ducks expect to show superiority all around. In both non-conference games, the Spartans aren’t expected to win.
They’ll more likely go 1-2 before meeting the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at home. Betting lines should place a win with the Spartans given the Rainbow Warriors travel schedule, a new offense, various off-field player issues and more importantly, the Spartans have a heart-breaking loss to avenge from last season, which was a game the Spartans should have certainly won. The next possible chance to win is the following week at the Colorado Rams, which could optimistically place them at 3-2.
After meeting Colorado, things start to look murkier from a preview perspective and the easy way out is to predict Spartan losses when you see teams like Army, San Diego, Wyoming, Utah and Fresno State, which leaves a projected 3-9 record. But things can look less murkier after the first part of the season and by then, we’ll know if we’ll need to already be talking about year three of the Brent Brennan era or sizing some glass slippers.