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1. Recruiting and change in the Mountain West
You can usually see a great recruiting class coming, and not only because most of the teams that sign "great" classes are the same ones that signed great classes the year before. When someone outside of the blue-blood oligarchy does something great on Signing Day, we still have plenty of warning.
Usually when schools sign classes that have higher real estate values than we're used to seeing, it involves a first- or second-year coach doing great things in what I call the recruiting grace period (that early part of your tenure when "We're going to turn this thing around and win titles!" doesn't yet have evidence to the contrary), be it Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze in 2013, WMU's P.J. Fleck in 2014, etc. It doesn't tend to involve a third-year coach whose team regressed by three wins in Year 2.
On February 4, San Jose State and head coach Ron Caragher signed a recruiting class that ranked 57th in the country according to the 247Sports Composite. Here, let me add some context for you:
56. Boise State
57. San Jose State
60. Boston College
63. Oregon State
That's seven bowl team, nine major programs ... and San Jose State.
San Jose State! A team that ranked 116th in the F/+ rankings and faded dramatically late in the year, inked the second-best class in the mid-major universe, better than Western Michigan's, and nearly better than Boise State's!
Rivals four-star cornerback (and potential two-way player) Tae'on Mason spent months committed to USC, flipped to Washington State in January, then flipped to SJSU at the last second. 247 four-star receiver Kanya Bell fielded offers from half of the Pac-12 and committed to SJSU the day before Signing Day. Three-star athlete Jeremy Kelly also fielded offers from much of the Pac-12 but signed with the Spartans. Running back Malik Roberson had offers from Boston College, Arizona State, and UCLA. Lineman Dominic Fredrickson had offers from Arizona State, Cal, and UCLA. Linebacker Corey Adolphus had a Washington State offer. Et cetera.
So how quickly can one great recruiting class make a difference? At Western Michigan following a coup of a 2014 class, the answer was "very quickly!" WMU improved from 1-11 to 8-5 and nearly won the MAC West. But can a bunch of freshmen fix some serious explosiveness issues (and lack of size) on offense? Can freshmen and a couple of JUCOs shore up a defensive front seven that was already iffy before it lost four of its top six linemen?
We toss around words like "upside" quite a bit, and there's no question that San Jose State will have a lot more of it in 2015 and beyond than it did in 2014. But the Spartans are probably a year or two away from turning potential into any major sort of production. Then again, I said the same thing about WMU last year. Regardless, you've got quite a few more reasons than normal to keep an eye on SJSU.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 116|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|8-Nov||at Fresno State||102||24-38||L||14%||-25.0||11%|
|21-Nov||at Utah State||52||7-41||L||4%||-40.0||0%|
|29-Nov||at San Diego State||76||7-38||L||4%||-41.9||0%|
|Points Per Game||19.3||116||29.4||85|
2. Like a bouncing ball coming to a stop
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 quarterback position had its impressive moments in 2014, but they were usually followed by what I'll politely call frustration. Senior Blake Jurich won the starting job at the beginning of the season and played nearly perfect football in the opener against North Dakota; he completed 22 of 25 passes for 250 yards, three scores, and a fantastic 211.6 passer rating. Then he crashed and burned against Auburn and Minnesota.
Joe Gray took over and proceeded to complete 71 percent of his passes over his first four starts. Then he completed 55 percent with five picks in his next three. Mitch Ravizza saw significant action against Utah State but struggled -- his 13 completions gained just 61 yards. Jurich started the season finale against San Diego State but went just 7-for-15 and was replaced once again by Gray, who went 9-for-12.
When you don't have a clue what you're going to get from the quarterback position, especially as opponents get film on them, your offense is going to struggle. SJSU's melted down, especially near the goal line. And the defense, phenomenal against the pass and wretched against the run, couldn't play to its strengths because nobody ever actually had to pass. The result: a potential top-80 or top-90 team turned into one of the worst in FBS.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 38% (record: 3-3)
- Average Percentile Performance (last 6 games): 18% (record: 0-6)
The Spartans scored just 14 points in their final three games, a sign that Caragher and offensive coordinator Jimmie Dougherty were simply out of answers. The defense, meanwhile, went from allowing more than 24 points just once in the first six games to allowing 38 or more in five of the final six. The end of the season couldn't come soon enough.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||41.3%||67||Succ. Rt. +||93.9||92|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||35.2||127||Def. FP+||93.1||123|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.4||118||Redzone S&P+||88.4||102|
|Q1 Rk||109||1st Down Rk||91|
|Q2 Rk||91||2nd Down Rk||120|
|Q3 Rk||106||3rd Down Rk||104|
3. Hello again, Al Borges
The last time we saw Al Borges, he was attempting to craft a West-Coastish offense in Michigan with iffy passing quarterbacks and no offensive line. It didn't work, strangely enough, and the 40-year veteran with 28 years of coordinator experience found himself out of work in 2014. Still just 59, however, he wasn't exactly ready for retirement, and when it appeared Jimmie Dougherty was leaving for Jim Harbaugh's staff at Michigan, Caragher offered Borges the opportunity to run an offense that is actually the West Coast once again. Only, the Dougherty-to-Michigan deal then fell through, and Dougherty remained aboard as Assistant Head Coach and Passing Game Coordinator. Awkward.
Borges immediately inherits a line that might be better than Michigan's, and the man who pulled the strings for Cade McNown at UCLA and Cadillac Williams at Auburn will now try to figure out how to create opportunities for jack-of-all-trades Tyler Ervin, running backs Jarrod Lawson and Brandon Monroe, a load of possession receivers (most notably Tyler Winston), some thrilling freshmen, and [insert quarterback here].
On paper, there's quite a bit to work with here, but as one would expect, everything depends on the quarterback position. Credit Caragher for not panicking and tearing off redshirts last season; intriguing JUCO transfer Malik Watson and freshman Ian Fieber both redshirted as planned. Despite the loss of Jurich, that creates a glut of potential starters. Gray, Watson, Fieber and February signee Kenny Potter all saw time with the first string. (Ravizza might have, too, if he weren't playing baseball.) One assumes Gray is the favorite for the job, but it's evidently not a given.
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Joe Gray||6'2, 207||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||210||330||2305||11||9||63.6%||14||4.1%||6.4|
|Mitch Ravizza||5'10, 185||Jr.||NR||NR||14||23||61||0||0||60.9%||3||11.5%||1.7|
|Malik Watson||6'3, 208||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Ian Fieber||6'2, 180||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8410|
|Kenny Potter||6'2, 210||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8033|
|Tyler Ervin||RB||5'10, 177||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.7000||158||888||4||5.6||6.2||41.8%||2||0|
|Jarrod Lawson||RB||5'8, 201||Jr.||NR||NR||47||155||0||3.3||2.7||27.7%||3||3|
|Joe Gray||QB||6'2, 207||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||45||208||3||4.6||2.7||46.7%||8||3|
|Brandon Monroe||RB||6'1, 229||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8159||39||168||1||4.3||3.2||35.9%||1||1|
|Tim Crawley||WR||5'7, 170||Jr.||NR||NR||32||107||1||3.3||6.2||15.6%||2||1|
|Thomas Tucker||RB||5'10, 197||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7952||23||83||0||3.6||2.9||34.8%||0||0|
|Mitch Ravizza||QB||5'10, 185||Jr.||NR||N/A||16||98||1||6.1||8.2||37.5%||0||0|
|Chris Dadson||RB||6'0, 247||Jr.||NR||N/A||6||14||0||2.3||0.0%||0||0|
|Zamore Zigler||RB||5'10, 155||Jr.||NR||0.8083|
|Malik Roberson||RB||5'8, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8497|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Tyler Winston||WR||6'2, 191||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8314||121||78||694||64.5%||28.1%||57.0%||5.7||-248||5.7||75.3|
|Hansell Wilson||WR||5'9, 183||Sr.||NR||NR||62||39||417||62.9%||14.4%||62.9%||6.7||-56||6.8||45.3|
|Tim Crawley||WR||5'7, 170||Jr.||NR||NR||49||35||430||71.4%||11.4%||42.9%||8.8||15||8.0||46.7|
|Tyler Ervin||RB||5'10, 177||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.7000||44||29||306||65.9%||10.2%||54.5%||7.0||-43||7.0||33.2|
|Andrew Vollert||TE||6'5, 231||So.||NR||NR||28||22||335||78.6%||6.5%||64.3%||12.0||78||11.8||36.3|
|Billy Freeman||TE||6'3, 232||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7830||26||19||182||73.1%||6.0%||69.2%||7.0||-42||7.2||19.7|
|Jarrod Lawson||RB||5'8, 201||Jr.||NR||NR||12||8||91||66.7%||2.8%||58.3%||7.6||-5||7.5||9.9|
|Chris Kearney||WR||5'11, 198||Sr.||NR||NR||8||6||56||75.0%||1.9%||62.5%||7.0||-15||7.2||6.1|
|Shane Smith||FB||6'2, 238||Jr.||NR||NR||7||4||19||57.1%||1.6%||71.4%||2.7||-30||2.9||2.1|
|Jourdan Soares||WR||6'0, 163||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||6||2||55||33.3%||1.4%||83.3%||9.2||27||6.3||6.0|
|Brandon Monroe||RB||6'1, 229||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8159||2||2||30||100.0%||0.5%||100.0%||15.0||7||N/A||3.3|
|Justin Holmes||WR||6'2, 214||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8335|
|Thai Cottrell||WR||5'7, 172||RSFr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7878|
|Kanya Bell Jr.||WR||6'0, 160||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.9057|
|Colin Baker||WR||6'2, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8256|
|Bailey Gaither||WR||6'1, 170||Fr.||NR||0.8033|
4. Size is overrated?
San Jose State's raw efficiency numbers (41.3 percent success rate, mostly because of completion rates over 60 percent) weren't bad, but with no big plays to speak of, the Spartans were forced to continue moving the chains without mistakes if they wanted to score points. The problem? They would typically make a mistake before they reached the end zone. They ranked 118th in the country in averaging just 3.4 points per scoring opportunity, and they asked kicker Austin Lopez to attempt quite a few field goals that were out of his range. (He was 3-for-11 on kicks longer than 40 but was still asked to attempt 11 of them.)
The design, confidence, and execution of the offense played a role in these failures, but size might have, too. The offensive line wasn't huge by 2014 standards, and while it kept defenders out of the backfield quite well, it wasn't great at creating opportunities for its runners. Meanwhile, the guys carrying the ball were mostly tiny. Tyler Ervin is a converted receiver with great explosiveness and just 177 pounds on his frame. None of last year's top five wideouts topped 200 pounds, and only two topped 5'11. The tight ends were efficient but didn't top 235 pounds. You can make do without size, but it's certainly something good to have, especially when the field shrinks.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Wes Schweitzer||LT||6'5, 301||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||25|
|Nate Velichko||RG||6'7, 300||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752||12|
|Evan Sarver||RT||6'5, 282||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||12|
|Jeremiah Kolone||C||6'3, 285||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7644||10|
|Doug Blacksill||C||6'5, 286||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||0|
|Fernando Villanueva||LT||6'7, 298||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8403||0|
|Kyle Wright||OT||6'7, 291||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8041||0|
|Chris Gonzalez||RG||6'3, 295||So.||2 stars||0.7333||0|
|Keoni Taylor||LG||6'3, 293||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||0|
|Nico Aimonetti||OT||6'5, 271||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7483||0|
|Nick Diaz||C||6'3, 299||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||0|
|Charles Nelson||C||6'4, 295||RSFr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7483|
|Dominic Fredrickson||OL||6'3, 295||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8488|
|Kyle Hoppe||OL||6'1, 285||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8144|
|Troy Kowalski||LG||6'5, 261||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593|
5. The line should be solid
The line indeed struggled to create space for its lithe backs (229-pound backup back Brandon Monroe excluded), but there was still quite a bit to like about this unit. The sack rates were low, in part because of the nature of the quick-throw pass attack, but the line kept defenders out of the backfield on running plays, too, allowing only a 19.1 percent stuff rate. (Michigan's stuff rate in 2013: 29.9 percent.)
The Spartans had three first-time starters in 2014; two were freshmen, and one was a sophomore. SJSU entered 2014 with just 23 career starts up front but enters 2015 with 59. A good line would be a nice change for Borges, and he might have one here, especially if a true freshman like Dominic Fredrickson is ready to come in and at least carve out a niche on the two-deep.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.6%||99||Succ. Rt. +||90.9||105|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||27.3||120||Off. FP+||97.0||99|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.4||69||Redzone S&P+||87.7||115|
|Q1 Rk||92||1st Down Rk||66|
|Q2 Rk||108||2nd Down Rk||99|
|Q3 Rk||56||3rd Down Rk||98|
6. Opponents really didn't want to pass ... and didn't have to
Playing teams like Navy, Minnesota, Auburn, Nevada, Utah State, San Diego State, etc., will assure that your opponents' run-pass rate skew toward the ground game. And even though the standard downs and passing downs run-rate stats above filter out garbage time, if your offense is struggling and your opponent is leading most of the game, that will boost the run rates, too.
So it was a virtual certainty that SJSU opponents would run more than they threw in 2014. But ... they ran 16 percent more than the national average on standard downs and 14 percent more on passing downs. Basically, every SJSU opponent turned into Minnesota, and that cannot be explained simply by talking about opponents and leads.
No, a lot of opponents' play-calling had to do with the fact that SJSU's pass defense was outstanding and its run defense was worthless.
It's really difficult to field a defense that is so good at one thing and so bad at another, but the Spartans put the No. 30 pass defense onto the field (according to Passing S&P+) and the No. 110 run defense. Because of the amount opponents were running, the per-game yardage averages got skewed to a hilarious degree -- SJSU was first in passing yards allowed, 119th in rushing yards allowed -- but while passing yards per game is one of the worst stats used in any sport (in the way that it is used, that is), it is a pretty accurate narrative device this time around. And with the defensive line undergoing quite a bit of turnover while the secondary returns its best safety and two best cornerbacks, last year's narrative might be this year's narrative.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Cedric Lousi||DE||6'3, 261||Sr.||2 stars||0.7556||10||22.0||3.5%||3.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tony Popovich||DT||6'2, 262||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||10||15.0||2.4%||3.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Eugene Taylor||DE||6'3, 233||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7578||9||8.5||1.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Christian Hill||DE||6'4, 259||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||6||5.0||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Keenan Sykes||DT||6'3, 277||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||5||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Nate Falo||DT||6'1, 255||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7000||10||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Travis Miller||DT||6'4, 291||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7783|
|Mikal Berry||DE||6'6, 235||So.||NR||NR|
|Owen Roberts||DT||6'2, 266||RSFr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7444|
|Loni Fa||DT||6'3, 291||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8059|
|Terrell Townsend||DE||6'4, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
|Deshawn Fortune||DT||6'2, 260||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8456|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Christian Tago||LB||6'1, 237||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8288||10||78.5||12.4%||5.0||0.0||0||4||0||0|
|William Ossai||LB||6'2, 225||So.||NR||NR||12||17.0||2.7%||2.5||0.0||0||1||1||0|
|Isaiah Irving||LB||6'3, 239||Jr.||NR||NR||11||12.0||1.9%||1.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Brad Kuh||LB||6'2, 234||Jr.||NR||0.7100||12||5.5||0.9%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Hector Roach||LB||6'1, 231||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000|
|Jared Leaf||LB||6'2, 238||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000|
|Alex Manigo||LB||6'0, 222||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Rueben LeaSau||LB||6'2, 212||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7685|
|Frank Ginda||LB||6'0, 236||Fr.||NR||0.7983|
|Corey Adolphus||LB||6'3, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8426|
|Malik Hayes||LB||6'4, 210||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7993|
7. How quickly can new blood make a difference?
SJSU's defensive front was one of the least disruptive in the country; the Spartans recorded just 46 tackles for loss, third-lowest in the country, and combined one of the worst passing downs sack rates with one of the worst short-yardage stoppage rates in the country. So when your defensive line is this iffy, some turnover might not be a bad thing. SJSU must replace two of its top three tackles (including TFLs leader Travis Raciti) and two of its top three ends, but if newcomers can make an early impact, that might not matter much.
Three-star tackle Loni Fa was in for spring, and freshman Deshawn Fortune was one of the more highly-touted members of a highly-touted class. At linebacker, Corey Adolphus and Malik Hayes might be asked to make an early impact, and freshman Frank Ginda was in for spring. Plus, Hawaii transfer Jared Leaf, who was expected to make an impact in 2014 before redshirting after suffering burns in a scary house fire, is back in the fold, which is exciting.
Size could be an issue here -- Fortune is a 260-pound tackle, and of the five returning tackles listed above, only one is larger than 280 pounds -- but speed probably won't be. And the bar for improvement here is pretty low.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Maurice McKnight||S||6'0, 181||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8385||12||59.0||9.3%||3||2||1||5||2||0|
|Jimmy Pruitt||CB||6'0, 203||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7700||11||30.0||4.7%||2||0||3||6||2||0|
|Cleveland Wallace III||CB||5'11, 177||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8569||12||20.5||3.2%||0||0||1||14||0||0|
|Simon Connette||S||5'11, 204||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||11||8.5||1.3%||0.5||0||0||0||1||0|
|Vincente Miles, Jr.||S||6'1, 196||Sr.||NR||NR||10||3.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Dominic Barnes||CB||5'11, 198||Jr.||NR||NR||12||2.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Miles Milner||CB||5'11, 175||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7700|
|Andre Chachere||CB||6'0, 193||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8387|
|David Williams||S||6'0, 198||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8375|
|Tae'on Mason||CB||6'0, 170||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8888|
|Jeremy Kelly||S||6'2, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8585|
|Dehlon Preston||CB||5'9, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8326|
|Dakari Monroe||CB||5'11, 175||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8311|
|Bomani Hairston-Bassette||DB||6'0, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8059|
|Trevon Bierra||DB||6'0, 170||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8048|
8. A strength in 2014, 2015, 2016...
I don't want to overlook the loss of safeties Akeem King and Forrest Hightower here, but with Maurice McKnight, Jimmy Pruitt, and former Washington DB Cleveland Wallace III back, this secondary is set up for excellent things this fall. The three combined for five picks, 25 break-ups, four forced fumbles, and five tackles for loss last year. McKnight was even second on the team in sacks, as well, albeit with just two of them. No matter who takes over as the other top safety -- seniors Simon Connette or Vincent Miles Jr., three-star redshirt freshman David Williams, or one of many exciting freshmen -- this is going to be a rock solid lineup.
Plus, McKnight's only a sophomore, and Wallace is a junior. Combine them with one of the most exciting batches of freshman defensive backs in the country, and you're looking at a great secondary for years to come. If the front seven can at least find competence, the back four will win SJSU some games.
|Michael Carrizosa||5'10, 229||So.||43||37.1||1||11||6||39.5%|
|Austin Lopez||6'0, 209||Sr.||45||58.7||18||2||40.0%|
|Austin Lopez||6'0, 209||Sr.||27-27||9-13||69.2%||3-11||27.3%|
|Michael Carrizosa||5'10, 229||So.||1-1||0-2||0.0%||0-0||N/A|
|Tyler Ervin||KR||5'10, 177||Sr.||26||19.5||0|
|Tim Crawley||KR||5'7, 170||Jr.||11||22.3||0|
|Tyler Ervin||PR||5'10, 177||Sr.||7||11.6||1|
|Tim Crawley||PR||5'7, 170||Jr.||2||-0.5||0|
|Special Teams F/+||124|
|Field Goal Efficiency||119|
|Punt Return Efficiency||119|
|Kick Return Efficiency||80|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||66|
9. Depth = better coverage?
In theory, if you've got depth at receiver, linebacker, and defensive back, you should have pretty good coverage units, too. SJSU definitely has the former and should have the latter this year, as well. That's good because, after ranking 125th in Punt Efficiency and 91st in Kickoff Efficiency, SJSU could use all the help it can get. And if one of those incoming stud freshmen can spruce up the return game, that would be even better.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||2014 F/+ Rk|
|12-Sep||at Air Force||48|
|19-Sep||at Oregon State||74|
|17-Oct||San Diego State||76|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-13.6% (84)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||77 / 95|
|2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-12 / -3.5|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-3.5|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (9, 6)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||4.1 (-1.1)|
10. Staying power
San Jose State did a terrible job finishing drives (and the season) in 2014. Depth issues, iffy size, and quarterback questions meant that the Spartans spent much of the year looking like they could do interesting things, but they never quite ended up doing them. A great February signing class doesn't usually make a difference the following fall, but if newcomers can give the quarterback more options, fill out the defensive front seven, give SJSU even more attacking power in the secondary, and help in special teams, then any potential quarterback issues might not matter as much. I don't want to overreact to a single signing class, but I do expect Ron Caragher's squad to be quite a bit better in 2015. Not "win the MWC West" better, but better.
The level of improvement could be tamped down by the schedule, though. The Spartans play only three teams that ranked in the triple digits last year and play two of the four away from San Jose. The home slate includes visits from San Diego State, BYU, and Boise State (combined 2014 record: 27-13), too, so improvement might just mean more competitive losses.
Regardless of how 2015 turns out, however, Caragher's 2015 signing class changed the projections and perceptions for SJSU moving forward. This could soon become one of the most athletic teams in the conference, and if the Spartans can add a little bit of size while the young studs are growing more experienced, this could be a conference contender sooner than later.