The big 2014 SJSU football preview: Spartans have survived one transition, face another

Brian Bahr

San Jose State withstood the loss of head coach Mike MacIntyre without a collapse; now the Spartans are tasked with weathering the loss of star quarterback David Fales. Survive 2014, and SJSU could start to thrive in 2015 and beyond.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. They survived

Coach builds up football program from ashes. Coach leaves for another job. Program returns to ashes. It happens all the time in college football, and when head coach Mike MacIntyre left San Jose for Colorado a year ago, there had to be at least a little bit of concern that it would happen to SJSU. MacIntyre inherited a program that had gone 2-10 in 2009 and had managed just two winning seasons and one bowl since 1992. But he pulled off a 10-year rebuilding job in just three years; SJSU went 1-12 in Year 1, 5-7 in Year 2, and 11-2 in Year 3, and he was gone.

Instead of latching on to whatever remnants of the MacIntyre it could find -- something that seems to have worked for Utah State in replacing Gary Andersen with his offensive coordinator, Matt Wells -- SJSU took a chance on hiring a bit of an outsider to replace its best coach in a generation. The Spartans hired former University of San Diego coach Ron Caragher; Caragher grew up in San Jose, but his coaching experience came elsewhere: UCLA (1996-2002 under Bob Toledo), Kentucky (2003-06 under Rich Brooks), San Diego (2007-12). Could he maintain MacIntyre's winning ways right out of the gates?

Yes and no. SJSU suffered a drop-off, but between departed players and unsustainable injury luck, that was pretty much unavoidable. Still, the Spartans stayed alive and relevant. They fell to 74th in the F/+ rankings, not 114th. They fell to 6-6, not 2-10.

Despite incredible youth in quite a few units, San Jose State was fun and interesting. It passed its first test in the post-MacIntyre era. Now it faces another stiff test in Year 2: life without star quarterback David Fales.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-6 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 74
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Sacramento State N/A 24-0 W 17.6 - 26.0 L
7-Sep at Stanford 3 13-34 L 26.5 - 30.6 L
21-Sep at Minnesota 55 24-43 L 44.0 - 31.0 W
27-Sep Utah State 32 12-40 L 36.6 - 33.9 W
5-Oct at Hawaii 82 37-27 W 25.5 - 29.4 L -0.1
12-Oct at Colorado State 66 34-27 W 43.5 - 34.4 W 3.4
26-Oct Wyoming 102 51-44 W 41.4 - 39.8 W 4.5
2-Nov at UNLV 96 34-24 W 34.8 - 24.9 W 3.9
9-Nov San Diego State 89 30-34 L 24.5 - 33.1 L 1.6
16-Nov at Nevada 88 16-38 L 15.3 - 41.0 L -2.7
22-Nov Navy 58 52-58 L 36.0 - 38.7 L -5.1
29-Nov Fresno State 49 62-52 W 52.2 - 43.8 W -3.7
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +9.0% 29 -13.2% 112 -1.9% 99
Points Per Game 32.4 44 35.1 104
Adj. Points Per Game 33.2 32 33.9 107

2. A defensive fade

From last year's SJSU preview:

There almost has to be a drop off here. SJSU was not particularly lucky in terms of Turnovers Luck or Yards Per Point, but the Spartans did benefit from a glaring lack of devastating injuries, which allowed them to pull off their no-depth-whatsoever act with minimal damage. Four defensive linemen made almost all of the line tackles, two linebackers made almost all of the linebacker tackles, and in the secondary, only Damon Ogburn, Jr., missed serious time. Plus, on offense, the same five linemen started every game, and Fales, Eskridge, and most of the receiving corps made it the entire season without missed time.

This probably isn't going to happen again. The defense as a whole still returns quite a few interesting playmakers, but last year's lack of depth could cost the Spartans if new options don't emerge.

Like turnovers luck (which also turned against SJSU last fall), injuries luck isn't guaranteed to turn from year to year. Just because you were particularly lucky or unlucky doesn't automatically mean you'll be the opposite soon.

That said, SJSU's injury situation was basically the exact opposite in 2013 as it was in 2012. Already tasked with breaking in new players to replace stars like running back Shady Eskridge, tight end Ryan Otten, offensive tackle David Quessenberry, and defensive end Travis Johnson, Caragher had to find replacements for other stars on the fly. Leading returning rusher Tyler Ervin played one game. Potential All-American receiver Noel Grigsby played two. Star linebacker Vince Buhagiar missed the entire season. Only three of eight defensive linemen played in all 12 games. Regression to the mean was swift and cruel on the injury front.

Thanks to Fales, receiver Chandler Jones, and an experienced line, SJSU was able to not only hold steady on offense but improve as the year progressed. Despite freshmen littered among the skill positions, SJSU only fell from 26th to 29th in Off. F/+. The defense, on the other hand, sprang some leaks.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Opponent 30.2, SJSU 30.0 (minus-0.2) 
Adj. Points Per Game (next 3 games): SJSU 39.9, Opponent 33.0 (plus-6.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 39.2, SJSU 32.0 (minus-7.2)

After playing decent ball against some pretty solid offenses early on -- Stanford, Minnesota, and Utah State combined to average 5.6 yards per play, which isn't particularly good or bad -- SJSU struggled to keep up. The Spartans allowed 6.2 yards per play or greater in six of their final seven games, 7.0 or greater in four. Shootouts became the way of life: a 51-44 win over Wyoming, a 58-52 loss to Navy, a 62-52 win over Fresno State. This is entertaining, but it's not a particularly good way to finish better than about 6-6.

Experience will help the defense in 2014, but Caragher brought in a new defensive coordinator as well.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.23 26 IsoPPP+ 107.9 28
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.6% 25 Succ. Rt. + 106.9 38
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 32.5 107 Def. FP+ 96.4 94
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 33 Redzone S&P+ 101.7 55
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.9 ACTUAL 22 +5.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 15 30 38 29
RUSHING 98 49 23 83
PASSING 6 28 58 14
Standard Downs 28 24 34
Passing Downs 46 67 11
Q1 Rk 31 1st Down Rk 26
Q2 Rk 16 2nd Down Rk 27
Q3 Rk 61 3rd Down Rk 76
Q4 Rk 56

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
David Fales 312 487 4189 33 13 64.1% 19 3.8% 8.0
Blake Jurich 6'4, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 3 6 22 0 1 50.0% 2 25.0% 1.1
Joe Gray 6'2, 202 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Malik Watson 6'3, 220 Jr. NR








Ian Fieber 6'1, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)








3. Replacing Fales

That SJSU got 10 catches from Noel Grigsby and two carries from Tyler Ervin and still played prolific offense in 2013 is staggering. It reflects well on both offensive coordinator Jimmie Dougherty and quarterback David Fales, and SJSU's hoping that the former was responsible for as much as possible.

Fales had other experienced players around him, but he was the guiding light for this offense. A likely draft pick, he completed 64 percent of his passes, cut his sack rate down dramatically while still getting the ball downfield (13.4 yards per completion), and adjusted on the fly to a younger receiving corps than he expected to have.

The battle to replace Fales began this spring, with junior Joe Gray seemingly asserting himself over senior (and 2013 backup) Blake Jurich; Gray completed 17 of 20 passes in the spring game, and if he or Jurich can provide general competence and consistency, his skill-position supporting cast could be ready and able to help him out quite a bit. (The line, on the other hand, is a concern. But we'll get to that.)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Jarrod Lawson RB 5'8, 190 So. NR 164 788 4 4.8 3.0 44.5%
Thomas Tucker RB 5'10, 175 So. 2 stars (5.3) 66 338 3 5.1 4.5 42.4%
Jason Simpson RB 64 277 2 4.3 5.2 26.6%
Tim Crawley WR 5'7, 160 So. NR 51 219 1 4.3 3.0 41.2%
Tyler Ervin (2012) RB/WR 5'10, 176 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 45 205 1 4.6 4.3 N/A
David Fales QB 29 149 2 5.1 2.4 55.2%
Osirius Burke RB 5'9, 209 So. NR 7 12 0 1.7 1.3 14.3%
Blake Jurich QB 6'4, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 6 25 0 4.2 5.8 33.3%
Chandler Jones WR 5 12 0 2.4 0.9 40.0%
Shane Smith RB 6'2, 231 So. NR 4 4 0 1.0 N/A 0.0%
Alvin Jelks RB 6'1, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5)





Brandon Monroe RB 6'1, 195 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)





Ray Lomas IV RB 5'7, 180 RSFr. NR





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Chandler Jones WR 112 79 1356 70.5% 23.5% 57.9% 12.1 442 12.9 179.0
Tyler Winston WR 6'2, 185 So. 2 stars (5.2) 86 58 858 67.4% 18.0% 54.2% 10.0 172 10.0 113.3
Kyle Nunn WR 64 36 505 56.3% 13.4% 56.9% 7.9 37 7.2 66.7
Billy Freeman TE 6'3, 235 So. 2 stars (5.4) 47 27 427 57.4% 9.9% 62.5% 9.1 80 9.1 56.4
Tim Crawley WR 5'7, 160 So. NR 36 22 197 61.1% 7.5% 73.1% 5.5 -77 4.0 26.0
Jabari Carr WR 6'0, 190 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 35 25 173 71.4% 7.3% 62.1% 4.9 -115 5.4 22.8
Thomas Tucker RB 5'10, 175 So. 2 stars (5.3) 27 23 232 85.2% 5.7% 59.3% 8.6 -12 8.5 30.6
Jarrod Lawson RB 5'8, 190 So. NR 26 20 223 76.9% 5.5% 68.0% 8.6 1 7.9 29.4
Noel Grigsby WR 17 10 106 58.8% 3.6% 58.3% 6.2 -21 6.9 14.0
Tyler Ervin (2012) RB/WR 5'10, 176 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 10 126 83.3% 2.6% 58.3% 10.5 N/A 10.6 18.8
Jason Simpson RB 10 5 20 50.0% 2.1% 50.0% 2.0 -49 2.6 2.6
Shane Smith RB 6'2, 231 So. NR 6 5 49 83.3% 1.3% 83.3% 8.2 -5 7.4 6.5
Hansell Wilson WR 5'9, 172 Jr. NR 5 3 67 60.0% 1.0% 75.0% 13.4 29 12.6 8.8
Jordan Thiel TE 6'4, 238 So. 2 stars (5.4) 3 1 17 33.3% 0.6% 100.0% 5.7 -1 9.5 2.2
Daniel Bradbury WR 6'1, 189 Sr. NR
K.C. Pearce WR 6'2, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)
Michael Tate WR 6'1, 170 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jourdan Soares WR 6'0, 167 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)








Justin Holmes WR 6'2, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)








4. Youth becomes experience

From the "injuries hurt in the present tense but help in the future" department, SJSU has already been forced to figure out how to replace Noel Grigsby; it came 10-11 games earlier than anticipated, but Grigsby's injury thrust then-freshman Tyler Winston into the spotlight, and he mostly held his own. A converted defensive back, Winston averaged 10.0 yards per target (despite almost half his targets coming on passing downs) and took full advantage of his unknown status. He caught just one pass for 25 yards in the first four games, then caught 23 for 481 in the next three. He couldn't keep up that level of production -- he'd have been an All-American if he had -- but he rebounded for 10 catches and 164 yards in the shootout against Fresno State.

Winston averaged nearly 15 yards per catch while catching more than two-thirds of the passes thrown to him. That's fantastic for a senior No. 5 receiver, much less a surprise freshman No. 2. And now he'll be asked to replicate those numbers without the help of speedy Chandler Jones, who fared even better in 2013 (17.2 yards per catch, 71 percent catch rate).

Winston's not the only potential star sophomore. Tight end Billy Freeman had his moments, and Tim Crawley was a frequent short target on standard downs. Meanwhile, running backs Jarrod Lawson (a former walk-on) and Thomas Tucker combined for 230 carries and 43 catches last year. Their production was decent on the ground, and they got upfield well on check-down passes. And all of these players have three years of eligibility remaining. That's not a guarantee of success for 2014, but that's exciting for 2015 and beyond.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 105.2 3 3.2 40.6% 69.4% 17.5% 142.1 2.6% 5.4%
Rank 46 57 71 52 63 40 28 15 46
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Nicholas Kaspar RG 45 2nd All-MWC
Jon Meyer RT 24
Ryan Jones LG 23
Reuben Hasani LG 15
Wes Schweitzer LT 6'5, 275 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 13
David Peterson C 6'5, 297 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 10
Evan Sarver RT 6'5, 281 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Keith Bendixen RG 6'4, 291 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Doug Blacksill C 6'5, 275 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Amar Pal RT 0
Fernando Villanueva RT 6'7, 298 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Oscar Barron LT 6'4, 270 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Kyle Hart LG 6'3, 275 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Michael Talafus RG 6'3, 269 So. NR
A.J. Samataua RG 6'3, 295 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Nate Velichko RT 6'7, 275 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Jeremiah Kolone LG 6'3, 290 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)
Kyle Wright LT 6'7, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)
Troy Kowalski OL 6'5, 265 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

5. New quarterback, meet your new line

Fales and Jones found themselves surrounded by freshmen in 2013, but Fales did at least have a sturdy, seasoned line protecting him. The new quarterback, be it Gray, Jurich, or Other (freshman Ian Fieber, perhaps?), won't have that luxury. Line coach Keith Carter does have tackle Wes Schweitzer and David Peterson, both of whom started most or all of 2013, at his disposal, but they're basically the only known quantities. Career backup Keith Bendixen, sophomore Evan Sarver, and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Kolone were listed as starters at the end of spring camp. As with the quarterback position, all the line needs to offer is competence, not necessarily a repeat of last year's top-50 numbers. But that's not a given.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.17 75 IsoPPP+ 95.4 91
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 48.2% 110 Succ. Rt. + 85.2 110
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.4 115 Off. FP+ 95.5 101
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 100 Redzone S&P+ 81.9 115
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.3 ACTUAL 17.0 -0.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 104 108 110 101
RUSHING 106 115 116 105
PASSING 86 96 100 89
Standard Downs 106 105 96
Passing Downs 105 115 90
Q1 Rk 113 1st Down Rk 113
Q2 Rk 78 2nd Down Rk 98
Q3 Rk 110 3rd Down Rk 87
Q4 Rk 102

6. A most interesting career

Few defensive coordinators have their own internet meme. This is not a good or bad thing, just a thing. Greg Robinson, the "pwned" of college footballtakes over at SJSU's defensive coordinator after an interesting few years.

Actually, Robinson has had an interesting overall career, multiple careers in one. He was UCLA's defensive line coach during one of the Bruins' most successful runs (1982-88), switched to offensive coordinator for one year, then went to the pros. He was the Jets' defensive coordinator for one year (1994), then took over the Broncos' defense (1995-99) and was at the helm for a pair of Super Bowl titles. He moved on to Kansas City for three years, then ran Mack Brown's blue-chip unit for a season (2004), parlaying that success into his first head coaching gig. Though Broncos and Chiefs fans certainly didn't love him by the time he departed those respective jobs, Robinson's career to that point had been quite successful. He had Rose Bowl and Super Bowl rings and some serious clout on the résumé.

Then he went 10-37 at Syracuse.

Then he took over Michigan's defense and oversaw defenses that ranked 46th (2009) and 104th (2010) in Def. F/+.

After a hiatus that included a brief stint as a high school assistant under a former player, Robinson was hired as a consultant for Mack Brown at Texas, then ended up replacing coordinator/scapegoat Manny Diaz a couple of weeks into the 2013 season. He didn't improve things, but he didn't make them worse, either.

At his core, Robinson likes to preach simple, aggressive defense. His back-to-basics approach last year in Texas reaped some early benefits before regression, and he inherits some personnel that appears amenable to an aggressive approach.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 89.5 3.30 3.94 43.8% 81.8% 15.4% 72.6 3.2% 5.6%
Rank 109 104 118 108 121 107 104 102 91
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Isaiah Irving DE 6'3, 248 So. NR 11 31.5 4.5% 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Travis Raciti DT 6'5, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 29.5 4.2% 4.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Sean Bacon DE 6'3, 244 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 26.0 3.7% 3.0 3.0 0 1 0 0
Eugene Taylor DE 6'3, 225 So. 2 stars (5.2) 12 17.0 2.4% 4.0 4.0 0 0 0 0
Foloi Vae DT 6'3, 286 Sr. NR 12 15.5 2.2% 3.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Tony Popovich DE 6'2, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 10.5 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Larceval NT 9 7.5 1.1% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Garrett Guanella DE 6'5, 235 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 4 6.5 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Nate Falo DT 6'1, 286 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Keenan Sykes DT 6'3, 250 So. 2 stars (5.2) 4 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Adrian Blake DE 6'3, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 6 3.0 0.4% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Niko Kittrell DT 4 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Christian Hill DE 6'4, 258 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)






Nico Aimonetti DT 6'5, 257 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Travis Miller DT 6'4, 295 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)






Vic Vernon DE 6'3, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Keith Smith ILB 12 118.5 16.9% 8.0 0.0 1 1 1 0
Christian Tago OLB 6'1, 226 So. 3 stars (5.6) 11 69.5 9.9% 10.5 4.0 1 0 0 0
Vince Buhagiar (2012) OLB 6'4, 237 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 68.0 9.8% 9.5 3.0 0 1 1 1
Moses Saucedo MLB 6'0, 229 So. NR 12 17.5 2.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Hector Roach OLB 6'1, 216 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 6 9.5 1.4% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Goforth OLB 6'1, 225 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)






Jared Leaf
(Hawaii)
MLB 6'2, 238 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)






Brad Kuh MLB 6'2, 220 So. NR






Alex Manigo
(San Diego)
OLB 6'0, 225 So. NR






William Ossai OLB 6'2, 200 RSFr. NR






7. Youth becomes experience, Part II

Robinson's hire means that SJSU defenders will be operating under their third coordinator, and third alignment, in three years. Moving from three down linemen to four is awkward, but from a size perspective, this seems about right. And thanks to last year's youth movement, experience appears to be a relative strength. Seniors like Travis Raciti and Vince Buhagiar anchor the front seven, but sophomores like ends Isaiah Irving and Eugene Taylor and linebackers Christian Tago and Moses Saucedo should be ready to make a few more plays than they did a year ago. Throw in transfers like Vic Vernon (JUCO) and Jared Leaf (Hawaii), and you've got a pretty deep front seven.

Of course, depth is good, but it needs to be followed by big-play ability as well. The bar isn't very high after last year, but the least it appears that Tago and Buhagiar could be a lovely combination at OLB.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Forrest Hightower FS 5'10, 177 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 51.5 7.3% 0.5 0 1 3 1 0
Damon Ogburn, Jr. FS 11 51.5 7.3% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Bené Benwikere CB


11 46.5 6.6% 2 1 5 11 0 0
Jimmy Pruitt CB 6'0, 194 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 39.0 5.6% 0.5 0 1 3 0 0
Simon Connette SS 5'11, 193 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 38.0 5.4% 2.5 0 1 3 0 0
Dasheon Frierson CB 5'10, 180 Sr. NR 12 31.0 4.4% 3 0 1 9 0 0
Akeem King SS 6'3, 214 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 13.0 1.9% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Chris Hill CB 7 9.5 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Esston Al-Uqdah FS 6'0, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 7 7.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dominic Barnes FS 5'11, 175 So. NR 9 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sean Linton CB 6'1, 198 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 6 5.0 0.7% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Ryan Harper S 6'2, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 4 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Vincenté Miles Jr. S 6'1, 205 Jr. NR
Cleveland Wallace III
(Washington)
CB 5'11, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Miles Milner CB 5'11, 170 So. 2 stars (5.2)
David Williams S 6'0, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Maurice McKnight CB 6'0, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)






8. Depth vs. star power

In losing linebacker Keith Smith and corner Bené Benwikere, SJSU is tasked with improving without its two biggest stars. But the combination of experience and options could help Robinson pull that off. Five of the top seven tacklers in the secondary return (as do the top six on the line), and they're joined by Washington transfer Cleveland Wallace III and a pair of three-star freshmen (David Williams and Maurice McKnight). Corner Dasheon Frierson showed some play-making potential in his first year as a regular, and it appears there is some decent potential overall.

And again, the bar isn't set very high. If the defense simply improves as much as the offense regresses (and the offense will almost certainly regress at least a little bit), the Spartans will break even.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Harrison Waid 48 43.4 6 9 12 43.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Harrison Waid 75 60.1 32 2 42.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Austin Lopez 6'0, 187 Jr. 39-40 12-15 80.0% 10-12 83.3%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tim Crawley KR 5'7, 160 So. 21 18.6 0
Damon Ogburn, Jr. KR 15 17.1 0
Tim Crawley PR 5'7, 160 So. 5 5.4 0
Noel Grigsby PR 2 8.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 99
Field Goal Efficiency 34
Punt Return Efficiency 115
Kick Return Efficiency 105
Punt Efficiency 95
Kickoff Efficiency 55
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 60

9. 10-for-12

Austin Lopez has a damn cannon. San Jose State needs some rather drastic improvement in its return game, and the Spartans need to find a new punter, but Lopez was 10-for-12 on field goals over 40 yards last year and gives SJSU one of the biggest single special teams weapons in the country. The offense doesn't need to get too far down the field to get within scoring range.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug North Dakota NR
6-Sep at Auburn 12
20-Sep at Minnesota 65
27-Sep Nevada 62
4-Oct UNLV 109
18-Oct at Wyoming 100
25-Oct at Navy 67
1-Nov Colorado State 85
8-Nov at Fresno State 46
15-Nov Hawaii 93
21-Nov at Utah State 69
29-Nov at San Diego State 83
Five-Year F/+ Rk -11.6% (91)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 117
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -5 / 0.4
TO Luck/Game -2.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (4, 8)

10. Now the real work begins

San Jose State in 2013 was quite a bit worse than it was in 2012 and quite a bit better than it has been at any other point in recent history. The offense is going to regress; the question is how much. Meanwhile, if Robinson's aggressive approach resonates with a more experienced defense, one unit could pick up the slack for the other. If SJSU can hang in the 70s range (in terms of F/+ rankings), the Spartans could once again threaten to reach bowl eligibility.

The schedule is not easy -- SJSU travels to Auburn, Minnesota, Navy, Fresno State, and Utah State -- but every home game is winnable, and a team that ranks in the 70s could reach six to seven wins. Whether that's enough for an actual bowl bid remains to be seen, but a 6-6 or 7-5 season would represent a second season of survival. SJSU finished .500 after losing MacIntyre, and doing so again after losing a special talent at quarterback would be impressive, especially considering how many sophomores will be playing a role and, with five three-star recruits entering the fray this fall, how well Caragher recruited this year.

Thrive, survive, then thrive again. SJSU is one more decent year away from completing step two of three.

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