Before SJSU head coach Brent Brennan’s third year at the helm, a number of Mountain West pundits projected a four-to-five win season and here we are today with the Spartans currently with a 4-6 record.
With a little insight and observation, it wasn’t much of a stretch to forecast.
Brennan’s record the first two years was 3-24. But in 2018, the Spartans had a legitimate chance for four or five wins last season, despite winning only one game. We’re just seeing some of that manifest now in 2019.
Reading the tea leaves
So projecting out into 2020, the simple basis for next season should also not be too hard to read:
- 18 seniors are slated to depart with 39 freshman, 20 sophomores and 27 juniors currently on the roster
- Robust recruiting continues
- Brennan is keeping the team young and playing the team young
In particular, freshmen are significantly in the mix this season than the last two seasons and they’re helping make the difference in what many consider a viable 2019 season.
Key Spartan freshmen stats to date:
- WR Isaiah Hamilton: 35 receptions, 550 yards and 4 TDs
- QB Nick Nash: 3 rushing TDs, 255 yards rushing, 133 yards passing
- WR Andre Crump: 4 receptions, 108 yards receiving, 1 TD
- WR Isaiah Holiness: 15 receptions, 145 yards receiving, 1 TD
- WR Jermaine Braddock: 5 receptions, 66 yards receiving, 2 TDs
- RB Kairee Robinson: 33 rushes, 133 yards rushing, 2 TDs
Looking further into the current season, the Spartans were a twist-and-a-turn from a 7-3 record. Purely hypothetical at this point, of course, but there were three wins that could have been: Nevada, Hawaii and either Boise or even San Diego State. If SJS could adequately stop the run, need I say it, there could have been four additional wins instead of just three. So now, we’re talking 8-2? Again, purely hypotheticals, but more potential that compounds into 2020.
Stop the run, be the run
A huge, obvious key to sustain success will be tempering back opponents’ run games; personnel-wise and scheme-wise. This is on Brennan and the staff to fix. Surely, this will be at the top of the menu next season, along with improving the run game.
In the run game, it looks like the need for speed will do the deed. This is also clearly on the Brennan staff to ultimately frame up and fix. We’ll likely continue to see smaller, quicker backs aim to solve this big problem. And they’re going to get some help from the offensive line that should still be formidable in 2020.
“I expect left tackle, Jack Snyder, to carry the torch for the Oline. He has the second-most experience behind me right now and is primed.” said senior offensive linemen Troy Kowalski. “He’s a really good leader and he’ll be a senior next year and he’s ready to lead the group. He’s not a big talker outside of football, but he’s ready. With the younger guys, Tyler Stevens, our starting right guard, sticks out. He’s got the potential to be a good player here too.”
“On the defensive line side you have Cade Hall as well.” Kowalski added. “He’s a very vocal leader and a young kid who works hard and constantly gives it everything he has. He’s just a good player, simple-as-that.”
More to consider
Fifth-year senior and cornerback Zamore Zigler contributed further player insight.
“I see sophomore corner Nehemiah Shelton, who’s a good young player too, who’s good for this program and who’s gonna move this program forward. He’s doing incredible stuff on the defensive side of the ball.” said Zigler. ”He’s still learning the game and growing and you can see him becoming more of a leader and getting wiser out there. He’s trusting his technique more and really believing in himself and you see him bringing other guys along. Him believing in himself is what you gotta do to start to be a leader and he’ll be there for sure.”
Zigler added, “Crump also came in as a walk-on and it was shocking to me, because most walk-ons just try to fit in and buy into the team to try to get on the team and not get cut. He came in with the full intention that he wanted to play and prove it. It’s amazing to me how he came in, adapted to us and helped us get some good wins. Once he gets on scholarship, I feel like he could dominate the offense and I think he’s still only 17-years-old.”
Here it comes
Looking two to three seasons out and assuming all of the above-mentioned trends, the confidence, logic and trajectory should continue. Add in the sophomores, juniors and JUCOs, it seems a clear attempt to maintain a balancing act of year-in, year-out consistency.
At this point next year, more winning should not be a surprise to anyone.