So camp opens today at San Diego State, with the Aztecs picked to the win the Mountain West Division race.
The coach is Rocky Long, headed into his fifth year Old school as they come. His game of football hasn’t changed since the days he was a quarterback at New Mexico, or John Heisman and Alonzo Amos Stagg were coaches..
Run the football and play defense. Plain and simple. Make them stop us, after we stop them.
Back in the day, college football was all about control of real estate and the clock. Three yards and a cloud of dust Woody Hayes would say. Further back in the day, it was the single wing.
Rocky Long isn’t quite that far back in time, though he has seen alot of 3rd and long plays in his career.
He embarks on the 2015-season loaded at the spots he thinks are most important, running back and on defense.
They’re going to run it, no doubt about that, with Donnell Pumphrey back as a third year starter, coming off an 1800-yard all purpose season, running and catching. But SDSU is not a 1-man team, though it may lean to 1-dimensional.
Chase Price returns as the backup tailback, backed by two more young pups, Rashard Penny and Marcus Stamps, each of who has shown some real flashes.
And yes, Dakota Gordon returns as a fullback, something you hardly ever see in the college game these days, where most everybody else throws the ball everywhere. Not so much on Montezuma Mesa.
It is amazing, with so many high school programs throwing the ball in California, SDSU just has not recruited well at quarterback in the Long era. They come in, stay, fail to get a starting job, then leave. The turnover is like Grand Central Station.
Not since home-grown products Ryan Lindley and Kevin O’Connell were making big plays a few years back, has SDSU scared anyone at the position.
Maxwell Smith, a transfer from Kentucky, a former starter, has arrived as a grad student, and will play immediately, for just 1-year.
Prior to that Long was looking at JUCO transfers, and transfers from Oregon and Oregon State. The Quinn Kaehler’s of the world haven’t lit it up. SDSU, with its great reputation of throwing the ball, dating back to the Dennis Shaw-Brian Sipe era, thru David Lowrey and Tim Gutierrez record seasons, just doesn’t get access to throwers any more.
What they do have is defense, lots of it, and that is who Rocky Long is, and what he is all about.
His 3-3-5, his 3-up-8 back, his blitz schemes, are amazing to watch. How he teaches so much in such a short learning curve of time for players, in impressive. And you thought Bill Belichick and New England’s defense was exotic.
Linebackers-R-Us, is the catch phrase about what SDSU has become. Kirk Morrison would be forever proud. This year’s star is Calvin Munson, who was everywhere, making all kinds of plays last season.
The Aztecs bring back a ton on that side of the ball, including 5th year player JJ Whitaker and linebacker Jake Fely, given an extraordinary 6th year to play because of multiple past injuries. 7-veterans return from the linebacker to secondary corps.
The schedule is a hodge-podge. Shameful they open with USD, a non-scholarship program, because they couldn’t find a 12th opponent. Yes there are road games at Penn State and California. The toughest games will be against Fresno and Utah State. The road game at Colorado State will be the hardest. You still get a sense of non-attachment from the community though towards Aztecs football.
It just has never been the same since the Marshall Faulk era, and that was nearly 25-years ago. SDSU will never be in the Pac 12. Thank goodness, somebody scuttled the bad Big East idea. But unless they can configure a rivalry where USC and UCLA do home and home schedules with State, SDSU will be on the outer edge of BCS-interest.
But there’s a bowl game to shoot for, and a conference championship game against possibly Boise State coming out of the Mountain Division.
Rocky Long doesn’t worry much about things out of his control. No Trojans nor Bruins to play. Lots of empty seats. Nah, let’s just go run the football and take the football away from the other guy. He even laughed at himself talking about the new Aztecs uniforms with the Aztecs calendar logo embossed on helmets-“players think they’re cool-I’m not cool-let’s just go play”.
It’s fun to watch. We’re going to pound it. And we’re coming after your quarterback, and what the hell are you going to do about that?
Who are they? Rocky Ball isn’t bad at all.
You just wish a major league sports town like San Diego and its fans, would pay attention to how good a coach, and how good a program the man has built.