As we enter a new decade I figured it was a great time to reflect on some of the stellar football players who have donned black and scarlet during the 2010s. The past 10 years were solid for the Aztecs: 5-5 record in bowl competition, three conference champions, and they were even able to finish the 2016 season ranked 25th.
There were a plethora of exceptional athletes that helped lead San Diego State to an impressive 90-42 record over that span. Without further ado, lets jump into the all-decade team. To make the list, heavy weight was put on multiple seasons of great play, but there will be a couple exceptions for truly dominant one year players.
First Team: Ryan Lindley
There was no debate to be had here, Lindley is by far the best SDSU quarterback of the decade and an argument can be made of all-time. The San Diego, California product holds the team’s all-time passing yards (12,690) and touchdown (90) records to this day. In the two seasons he played in the 2010’s (2010-2011), he completed 480 of 868 attempts for 6,983 yards and 51 touchdowns to 22 interceptions. He led his squad to a 17-9 record over his junior and senior season which helped put SDSU on the CFB map.
Honorable Mentions: Christian Chapman
First Team: Donnel Pumphrey
After the departure of Ryan Lindley, head coach Rocky Long decided to shift the focus of the offense toward the running game. The switch led to Pumphrey being able to make the case that he is the best football player in school history and one of the greatest running backs in the history of college football.
From 2013 to 2016, he ran the ball 1,059 times, gaining 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns. Not only are his yards and touchdowns school records, but he is the NCAA’s rushing yards leader and is 10th in rushing TDs. Pumphrey was also a threat in the passing attack, hauling in 99 receptions for 1,039 yards and another 5 scores. He helped carry the Aztecs to two of the university’s best seasons as they went 11-3 in 2015 and 2016.
Honorable Mentions: Ronnie Hillman
First Team: Rashaad Penny
Pumphrey took advantage of the transition putting up video game numbers, but Penny was right there with him. Unfortunately for Mountain West defenses, Penny and Pumphrey were just one recruiting class apart, building one of the most deadly running back duos of all-time. In their final season together, the dynamic backfield combined for 3,151 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.
The following year Pumphrey was in his rookie season in the NFL, leaving Penny as the lead back for 2017. In his increased role, he tortured opposing teams carrying the ball 289 times, picking up 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns. That was the fifth most yards in a single season by an RB in NCAA history.
Honorable Mentions: Adam Muema
First Team: Vincent Brown
Brown is one of the few players on the all-decade team that only started one season for the Aztecs during the same time frame. That is a testament to just how good his 2010 season was compared to all the other SDSU receivers that have come and gone through the years. It is no surprise that Ryan Lindley’s greatest statistical season coincided with that of Brown’s. The duo combined for a connection you did not want to miss, as Brown caught 69 passes for 1,352 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now, that is not a lot of receptions but that is a ton of yards, he averaged 19.6 yards per reception that year, the second-highest rate in the country.
Due to his ridiculous senior season, Brown would go on to be drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He did not reach the same level of success as he had in Southern California, but he is still the best receiver to come out of San Diego State in recent memory.
Honorable Mentions: Demarco Sampson
First Team: Mikah Holder
Unlike Brown’s one astronomical season in 2010 landing him on the list, Holder makes it from his consistency. He was able to post 400+ yards and 2+ touchdowns in an offense that was built on riding Pumphrey and Penny on the ground. He only saw action in four games as a freshman, but in his sophomore year he pulled in 25 targets for 439 yards and 6 touchdowns in 13 games played. The next year he only saw the field in 10 games but was able to reel in 27 receptions for 581 yards and 5 TDs. Neither season would match his final collegiate career, however, as Holder caught 46 balls for 602 yards and found himself past the pylon twice.
His 1,668 career yards are the most by any SDSU receiver in the past decade by nearly double the next closest receiver. He averaged 16.9 yards per reception and was able to rattle off yards after the catch with ease. He may not have posted super flashy numbers but he deserves the recognition for being reliable and playing well even in a run-heavy scheme.
Honorable Mentions: Colin Lockett
First Team: Gavin Escobar
Escobar became one of quarterback Ryan Lindley’s favorite targets quickly at San Diego State. He started every game as a redshirt freshman, posting 29 receptions for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns. The next year would be his best statistically, despite receiving just 6 starts in 13 games. He reeled in 51 receptions for 780 yards and 7 touchdowns. In his final season he was productive once again, registering 42 catches for 543 yards and 6 TDs.
The 6’6” 255-pound tight end would go on to be drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. With how little the Aztecs pass the ball, especially to tight ends, it is safe to assume Escobar will stay the most productive TE at SDSU for many years to come.
Honorable Mentions: Kahale Warring
First Team: Terry Poole
Poole did not start for the Aztecs until his final season in 2014, but when he took over the left tackle position he did not look back. Poole was dominant in both the pass and run blocking, leading the way for his running backs while also protecting quarterback Quinn Kaehler’s blind side.
At 6’5” 300-plus pounds it was easy for him to grab defenders and force them back into the second-level in the run game. He played a big role in Pumphrey’s elite 2014 season that saw him average 6.8 yards per carry and smash into the end-zone on 20 different occasions. He did allow a few sacks but was consistent in pass sets and had solid movement speed for a man his size.
Honorable Mentions: Kwayde Miller
First Team: Nico Siragusa
The best offensive lineman in SDSU’s history is easily Siragusa. He started three seasons at left guard for the Aztecs from 2014-2016, playing a pivotal role in the success of both Pumphrey and Penny. As a redshirt sophomore, he ran out of the gates on fire as a big mauler upfront. He had no problem creating holes for his running backs and put the Mountain West defenders on notice.
He struggled a bit in pass protection as he would sometimes over pursue pass rushers but would progress in this aspect of his game each season. As a senior, he proved he was not only a great run blocker, but a great pass blocker as well, earning the attention of NFL scouts and ultimately getting him drafted fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
Honorable Mentions: Daishawn Dixon
First Team: Keith Ismael
Ismael was a three-year starter for the Aztecs, playing all over the interior of the offensive line. His versatility was necessary for the team to be successful during his time on the roster, as he bounced from left guard, to right guard and to center due to injuries. He was not a big mauler like his o-line counterparts on the list, but his play strength was just enough to handle Group-of-5 competition.
He isn’t the biggest or strongest lineman and he was not superior in the run game, but he possessed great footwork and knew how to stave defenders off using leverage and his hands. In pass protection, the former Aztec was tremendous, rarely allowing his QBs to be sacked or even pressured. It will be fun to see what he can do in the NFL as the Washington Redskins drafted him in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
Honorable Mentions: Arthur Flores
First Team: Darrell Greene
Greene started every game in 2014 and only the second half of the season in 2015, but it was enough for him to make an immense impact. In his first season as starter, he proved to be stellar as a pass blocker, allowing zero sacks all year long. He was decent in the running game, but it was nothing like his redshirt senior season. Greene obliterated defenders upon returning from a team issued suspension. Not only did he not allow a single sack once again, but he proved to be one of the best run blocking guards in the entire nation.
Honorable Mentions: Antonio Rosales
First Team: Daniel Brunskill
The final player on SDSU’s all-decade offensive team may be the most unique. Brunskill played tight end for the Aztecs, receiving significant snaps in both 2014 and 2015. He would make the switch to right tackle in his final collegiate year, however, marking the best decision of the season. In 2016, Brunskill allowed just one sack and did not forfeit many QB pressures despite being one of the smallest offensive lineman on the roster.
He stood at 6’5” but was just 260 pounds, leaving many skeptical of his position switch. Even with his limited size, he was stout in the running game, aiding in his running backs totaling north of 3,000 yards on the ground. Brunskill did not go on to do too much in the NFL but his 2016 season was one of the best by an SDSU lineman in school history.
Honorable Mention: Pearce Slater
That is my SDSU all-decade offensive team based on research and my own opinion. Who got snubbed? Who should not have made the list? I want to know your opinions in the comment section below!