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1. Checking in on the 2015 class
There is an order. Group of five programs can and do occasionally break through and play at an extraordinarily high level: Western Kentucky in 2015, Marshall in 2014, UCF in 2013, Utah State, Fresno State, and San Jose State in 2012. It happens almost every year. A given set of diamond-in-the-rough recruits performs at a high level, and when that group and, most likely, their head coach, departs, the program returns to its previous state.
On the recruiting side of things, however, the world doesn't change all that much. The top teams are the top teams, and the bottom teams are the bottom teams. So when something odd takes place, you notice.
San Jose State signing a top-60 class in 2015 qualifies as "odd," I would say. Head coach Ron Caragher swooped in and found a series of recruits in limbo, and according to the 247Sports Composite, the class he signed 13 months ago ended up ranking ahead of eight power conference teams' (including Iowa and Minnesota), as well as BYU and most of the AAC.
This was like Iowa or Minnesota signing a top-15 class. This was like Wake Forest showing up in the top 30 or, perhaps most realistically, Ole Miss showing up in the top five. It's going to draw attention. Were they going after qualification risks? Character risks? Did they just time things perfectly?
When something unnatural happens, it's hard to guess the effects. But as we head into 2016, when a second-year class can begin to really have an effect on the depth chart, let's look at how this class is, or isn't, progressing. Per 247, SJSU inked one four-star recruit and, amazingly, 22 three-stars. A MWC class that features half of that is pretty impressive. But how are those big-time (relatively speaking) recruits faring?
- Four-star receiver Kanya Bell (247 rating: 0.9057) was released in July following a domestic battery arrest. Cornerback Bomani Bassette-Hairston (0.8059) was booted after an off-campus fight with a teammate.
- JUCO transfer Kenny Potter (0.8033) eventually became SJSU's starting quarterback, throwing for 1,984 yards and rushing for 629 (not including sacks).
- Linebacker Frank Ginda (0.7983) was a starter and major contributor, logging 61.0 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and one sack.
- Defensive tackle Bryson Bridges (0.8105) recorded 4.5 tackles and broke up a pass, and fellow tackle (and JUCO transfer) Loni Fa (0.8059) recorded 5 tackles and 0.5 TFLs. Safety Jeremy Kelly (0.8585) and corner Dakari Monroe (0.8311) played sparingly. Running back Malik Roberson (0.8497) carried 24 times for 92 yards.
- Cornerback Tae'on Mason (0.8888), offensive lineman Dominic Fredrickson (0.8488), defensive end Corey Adolphus (0.8426), cornerback Dehlon Preston (0.8326), running back Zamore Zigler (0.8083), defensive back Trevon Bierria (0.8048), receiver Bailey Gaither (0.8033), and linebacker Malik Hayes (0.7993) redshirted.
- Defensive tackle Deshawn Fortune (0.8456) failed to qualify and ended up at Riverside City College. Quarterback Cameron Burston (0.8256) ended up at Contra Costa College. Safety Kyron Basped (0.8154) ended up at Sierra College. Linebacker Amir Crear (0.8045) didn't qualify.
- Receiver Colin Baker (0.8256) redshirted after breaking his collarbone in fall camp and recently left the program.
- Center Kyle Hoppe (0.8144) enrolled this past January.
Two-star tight end Josh Oliver caught four passes for 36 yards, and kicker Bryce Crawford saw some action as well.
So in its first year, this class produced a starting quarterback (who has one more year of eligibility remaining), a starting linebacker, potential soon-to-be starters at running back, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety, and a redshirt class that could make an impact in 2016. That's certainly not bad, though of the 23 three- and four-stars, seven either didn't make it or are already gone. A class without those seven doesn't rank nearly as high. It was fun talking about the class like a legitimate top-60 haul, but there were indeed some qualification risks.
SJSU's 2016 class was decent but more realistic -- 11 three-stars, a No. 6 ranking within the MWC, and a No. 88 ranking overall. That aligns well with the Spartans' No. 89 ranking in S&P+ in 2015. And assuming the key signees indeed make it to campus, it will give the Spartans a deeper base of talent to call on moving forward.
Caragher enters his fourth year on the job with an increasingly sturdy foundation. The Spartans benefited from a lack of bowl eligible teams and made a bowl at 5-7, but more importantly, they improved after bottoming out in 2014. And with key pieces returning at quarterback, tight end, linebacker, and throughout both lines, they could improve again if at least a couple of the well-touted youngsters can play a role.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 5-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 89 | Final S&P+ Rk: 89|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|12-Sep||at Air Force||63||16-37||L||33%||15%||-13.8||-15.0|
|19-Sep||at Oregon State||107||21-35||L||14%||17%||-7.7||-6.5|
|17-Oct||San Diego State||43||7-30||L||3%||0%||-30.4||-26.0|
|19-Dec||vs. Georgia State||87||27-16||W||57%||69%||+12.5||+8.5|
|Points Per Game||27.9||69||27.2||64|
2. Bonus football
For bowl haters, San Jose State unintentionally (and briefly) became the poster child for All That's Wrong With College Football when, at 5-7, the Spartans were selected to play in the Cure Bowl against Georgia State in Orlando. SJSU spent quite a bit of money to travel across the country and play in front of an announced crowd of 18,536.
The Spartans also won. Star Tyler Ervin ended his career with 132 rushing yards and a punt return score, the defense played remarkably well in defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's final game, and Kenny Potter's 42-yard run with nine minutes left gave the Spartans the go-ahead points in a 27-16 victory. Be it an indictment of the bowl system or simply bonus football, SJSU took advantage of the extra practices and extra game and finished the season on a happy note.
The win meant SJSU's hilariously up-and-down season ended on an up. Per the percentiles above, the Spartans' trends were as jagged as the line on Charlie Brown's shirt. They regressed twice after the season opener against New Hampshire, and they later improved twice following a loss to BYU. But for the most part, they went up, then they went down. They played like the young team that, for the most part, they were. With more experience in basically every unit but the secondary, a little more consistency will be expected in 2016.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||45.0%||26||Succ. Rt. +||104.6||56|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.6||105||Def. FP+||32.4||115|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.6||52||Redzone S&P+||108.7||40|
|Q1 Rk||48||1st Down Rk||69|
|Q2 Rk||72||2nd Down Rk||99|
|Q3 Rk||75||3rd Down Rk||42|
3. Al's efficiency attack
Al Borges brought a certain pro-style reputation with him to San Jose. The former Oregon, UCLA, California, Indiana, Auburn, SDSU, and Michigan offensive coordinator created an attack that ran on standard downs, threw on passing downs, and moved at an average tempo. It wasn't the most thrilling, creative offense in the world, but SJSU still improved from 114th to 78th in Off. S&P+ in his first year on the job.
Kenny Potter evidently impressed Borges from day one. Despite the fact that Joe Gray was the returning starter at QB and had thrown for 2,305 yards in 2014, Potter and Gray split time behind center early in the season -- in the first three games, Gray threw 48 passes to Potter's 37, and then Potter missed two games (Fresno State, Auburn) with a high ankle sprain. But Gray's iffy performance against Auburn (21-for-33, but with two picks) evidently opened the door for a healing Potter. Gray would throw just one more pass the rest of the season.
Potter's progress was, like that of SJSU overall, up and down. He did pretty well against UNLV and horribly against SDSU's awesome defense. But after SDSU, he raised his game up and justified Borges' decision. Over his last six games, he completed 69 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns to three interceptions -- passer rating: 155.4 -- and while his bowl performance was middling at best (10-for-19, 89 yards, one TD, one INT), he complemented that with 69 rushing yards and the long fourth-quarter score.
Potter returns some prime efficiency weapons in 2016: tight end Billy Freeman, receivers Tim Crawley and Tyler Winston, running back Thomas Tucker. The big question for the Spartans' offense this fall, however, is who makes big plays now that Tyler Ervin is gone.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Kenny Potter||6'2, 208||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8033||182||270||1984||15||7||67.4%||29||9.7%||5.9|
|Josh Love||6'2, 185||RSFr.||NR||0.8067|
|Sam Allen||6'3, 210||So.||2 stars (5.3)||NR|
|Montel Aaron||6'5, 190||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8242|
|Kenny Potter||QB||6'2, 208||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8033||85||629||7||7.4||7.8||48.2%||4||0|
|Thomas Tucker||RB||5'10, 202||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7952||40||159||2||4.0||1.9||35.0%||2||1|
|Malik Roberson||RB||5'8, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8497||24||92||0||3.8||3.4||29.2%||0||0|
|Jarrod Lawson||RB||5'8, 192||Sr.||NR||NR||15||51||0||3.4||1.4||26.7%||1||1|
|Tim Crawley||WR||5'7, 169||Sr.||NR||NR||6||13||1||2.2||4.5||33.3%||0||0|
|Brandon Monroe||RB||6'1, 229||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8159|
|Thai Cottrell||RB||5'7, 176||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7878|
|Zamore Zigler||RB||5'10, 155||RSFr.||NR||0.8083|
4. Life without Ervin
You could tell Tyler Ervin was capable of big things heading into his senior season. Through three years, he had rushed for 1,202 yards, caught 42 passes for 449 yards, and scored on four returns (three kickoffs, one punt).
He basically exceeded that output in 2015 alone. The 177-pounder rushed 23 times for 123 yards per game, caught 45 passes, and returned another punt for six points. He was the feature man in Borges' offense, and he is gone.
Ervin wasn't amazingly efficient in the ground game, but he offered a big-play presence that SJSU otherwise lacked. Of the six players with at least 15 catches in 2015, only one (Hansell Wilson) averaged more than 12.2 yards per catch. Backup running backs Thomas Tucker (who played in only six games), Malik Roberson, and Jarrod Lawson combined to average just 3.8 yards per carry.
SJSU was efficient enough -- and Potter was effective enough on passing downs -- that the Spartans could still put points on the board without benefiting from the easy scores that big plays provide. But without Ervin, they will need to be even more efficient unless someone like Tucker or a young receiver (redshirt freshman Bailey Gaither? Incoming three-stars JaQuan Blackwell and A'Darrus Wilson) step up. Tucker's got potential, but it's not immediately evident who will serve as Borges' bellcow.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Billy Freeman||TE||6'3, 234||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7830||75||48||586||64.0%||19.9%||7.8||70.7%||56.0%||1.37|
|Tim Crawley||WR||5'7, 169||Sr.||NR||NR||54||39||424||72.2%||14.4%||7.9||53.7%||50.0%||1.42|
|Tyler Winston||WR||6'2, 200||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8314||49||35||368||71.4%||13.0%||7.5||51.0%||51.0%||1.27|
|Justin Holmes||WR||6'2, 211||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8335||39||23||226||59.0%||10.4%||5.8||48.7%||38.5%||1.29|
|Shane Smith||FB||6'2, 247||Sr.||NR||NR||15||7||121||46.7%||4.0%||8.1||80.0%||40.0%||1.61|
|Thomas Tucker||RB||5'10, 202||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7952||13||11||168||84.6%||3.5%||12.9||46.2%||69.2%||1.72|
|Malik Roberson||RB||5'8, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8497||7||5||70||71.4%||1.9%||10.0||28.6%||28.6%||2.99|
|Josh Oliver||TE||6'5, 246||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7919||4||4||36||100.0%||1.1%||9.0||75.0%||100.0%||0.68|
|Jarrod Lawson||RB||5'8, 192||Sr.||NR||NR||3||3||18||100.0%||0.8%||6.0||0.0%||33.3%||0.49|
|Matt Spadaro||TE||6'5, 255||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7585|
|Bailey Gaither||WR||6'1, 179||RSFr.||NR||0.8033|
|JaQuan Blackwell||WR||6'2, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8463|
|A'Darrus Wilson||WR||6'3, 215||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8348|
|Billy Humphreys||TE||6'5, 230||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8300|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Wes Schweitzer||LT||13||38||2015 2nd All-MWC|
|Nate Velichko||RT||6'7, 302||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7752||13||25|
|Jeremiah Kolone||LG||6'3, 301||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7644||13||23|
|Keoni Taylor||C||6'3, 303||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||13||13|
|Chris Gonzalez||RG||6'3, 310||Jr.||2 stars||0.7333||13||13|
|Evan Sarver||RT||6'5, 297||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||0||12|
|Kyle Wright||LT||6'7, 295||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8041||0||0|
|Michael Talafus||C||6'3, 282||Sr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Nick Diaz||RG||6'3, 302||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||0||0|
|Charles Nelson||OG||6'4, 297||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7483||0||0|
|Dominic Fredrickson||OL||6'3, 309||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8488|
|Troy Kowalski||OG||6'5, 261||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593|
|Kyle Hoppe||C||6'1, 290||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8144|
|Jaelen Lewis||OL||6'5, 265||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8360|
|Adam Heigis||OL||6'6, 280||Fr.||NR||0.8300|
|Mikey Grandy||OL||6'5, 305||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8100|
5. Loading up in the trenches
Ervin probably made the line's job easy sometimes, but from a rushing perspective, it still appears the line was pretty solid. The Spartans ranked in the top 50 (unadjusted for opponent) in both power success rate and stuff rate; they gave Ervin a chance to find room, and he took it from there. Pass protection was a struggle, at least on standard downs, but standard downs sacks are frequently on the QB, not the line.
Whether this line was good or just decent, it returns more experience than it did a year ago. All-conference tackle Wes Schweitzer is gone, but five others return with 86 career starts, including senior and 2014 starting tackle Evan Sarver.
The exciting part: of the five players with starting experience, four are juniors, and Caragher has brought in five three-star freshmen over the past two signing classes. Whatever the line is this year, it could be quite a bit better in 2017.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.9%||82||Succ. Rt. +||93.2||93|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||28.2||106||Off. FP+||27.3||109|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.7||94||Redzone S&P+||90.9||105|
|Q1 Rk||74||1st Down Rk||72|
|Q2 Rk||78||2nd Down Rk||99|
|Q3 Rk||60||3rd Down Rk||83|
6. A great pass defense doesn't matter if opponents don't have to pass
Caragher likes experience in his coordinators. Not only did he bring in Borges, but until last year he also employed former Texas and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. Robinson retired at the end of 2015, so Caragher responded by bringing in another former Michigan coordinator: Ron English.
English was most recently Eastern Michigan's head coach; the job sent him skydiving and eventually rendered him insane, but he's apparently rested and back in football. He inherits a defense that was outstanding against the pass but couldn't actually force anybody to throw the ball. Opponents will choose the path of least resistance as often as not, and while SJSU ranked 45th in Passing S&P+, the Spartans also ranked 106th in Rushing S&P+. Against pass-happy teams like Georgia State and BYU, that meant low point totals. Against others, though, it meant plenty of points and yards.
Experience could flip this balance a bit. SJSU returns its top three defensive ends, two of its top three defensive tackles, and the top five linebackers but must replace both starting cornerbacks and safety Vincenté Miles Jr. Caragher has recruited well in the secondary, but his DBs will be younger than they were last year. To counteract that, English will need to figure out how to turn experience into production up front.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Isaiah Irving||DE||6'3, 241||Sr.||NR||NR||13||27.5||4.2%||5.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Nick Oreglia||DE||6'3, 281||Sr.||NR||NR||13||27.0||4.1%||2.5||1.5||0||1||2||0|
|Keenan Sykes||DT||6'3, 270||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7333||10||19.5||3.0%||2.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Eugene Taylor||DE||6'3, 247||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7578||12||12.0||1.8%||3.0||3.0||0||0||0||0|
|Travis Miller||DT||6'4, 296||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7783||12||7.5||1.1%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Loni Fa||DT||6'3, 287||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8059||10||5.0||0.8%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Owen Roberts||DT||6'2, 285||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7444||11||4.5||0.7%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Bryson Bridges||DT||6'2, 272||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8105||7||4.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Nico Aimonetti||DT||6'5, 271||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7483|
|Mikal Berry||DE||6'6, 235||Jr.||NR||NR|
|Terrell Townsend||DE||6'4, 256||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
|Cameron Alexander||DE||6'5, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8600|
7. Size vs. speed
Unless you are hauling in the blue-chippers who are both big and fast for their position, you sometimes end up trading size for speed or vice versa. This is doubly true at the group-of-five level.
This can work out just fine as long as the natural advantages of your trade-off outweigh the disadvantages. If you are light up front but can create a disruptive presence with your speed, great. If you aren't making a ton of TFLs, but you're big enough to stand up to blocking and pursue the ball, awesome.
SJSU's biggest defensive problem last year was that the Spartans were a little bit light and lacked disruptiveness. They weren't the smallest of mid-majors -- the two-deep on the line averaged 6'3, 267 -- but they weren't big enough to get by while ranking 94th in Adj. Sack Rate and 105th in stuff rate. They did pin their ears back pretty well on passing downs, but that might have had a decent amount to do with the strong secondary.
Continuity will help. Of the nine players in the front seven who recorded at least 10 tackles, eight are back. And while there weren't enough disruptors, there often weren't enough healthy bodies either. Of the top seven tacklers on the line, only two played in all 13 games. It was the same at linebacker, where the top two remained the same and everybody else was shuffled up and down.
If a strong youngster or two is ready to make a difference, the depth might be strong enough to get by this year. And there are at least a couple of play-makers -- linebacker Christian Tago had eight non-sack tackles for loss, end Isaiah Irving had four, and end Eugene Taylor might be a decent pass-rush specialist in the making. But any improvement will be welcome because while the secondary still has a high ceiling, a lack of experience will mean a lower floor.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Christian Tago||LB||6'1, 242||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8288||13||96.5||14.6%||9.0||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Frank Ginda||LB||6'0, 241||So.||NR||0.7983||13||61.0||9.2%||4.5||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|William Ossai||LB||6'2, 231||Jr.||NR||NR||12||25.5||3.9%||2.0||0.0||0||2||1||0|
|Epie Sona||LB||5'11, 233||Sr.||NR||NR||12||12.0||1.8%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Mark Amann||LB||6'0, 229||Sr.||NR||NR||7||7.5||1.1%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Alex Manigo||LB||6'0, 231||Sr.||NR||NR||11||4.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Corey Adolphus||LB||6'3, 202||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8426|
|Malik Hayes||LB||6'4, 231||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7993|
|Blake Wells||LB||5'11, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8376|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Maurice McKnight||S||6'0, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8385||13||87.0||13.2%||5||0.5||1||2||2||0|
|Vincenté Miles, Jr.||S||13||52.5||7.9%||2.5||1||0||3||1||0|
|Cleveland Wallace III||CB||13||37.5||5.7%||0.5||0||3||7||0||0|
|Andre Chachere||CB/NB||6'0, 192||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8387||13||32.5||4.9%||2||1||2||8||1||0|
|Dominic Barnes||CB||5'11, 202||Sr.||NR||NR||9||13.5||2.0%||1.5||1.5||0||1||0||0|
|Chandler Hawkins||CB||6'0, 194||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8163||12||4.5||0.7%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jeremy Kelly||S||6'2, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8585|
|David Williams||S||6'0, 198||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8375|
|Dakari Monroe||CB||5'11, 181||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8311|
|Tae'on Mason||CB||6'0, 170||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8888|
|Dehlon Preston||CB||5'9, 179||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8326|
|Trevon Bierria||DB||6'0, 188||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8048|
|Cameron Smith||DB||6'0, 175||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8248|
|Tre Webb||CB||6'0, 175||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8059|
8. So many stud recruits in the back
If Caragher's recruiting is going to reap dividends, we'll probably notice it pretty quickly in the back. Of the 12 defensive backs listed above, 11 were 247 three-stars; redshirt freshman Tae'on Mason was even a four-star per Rivals. The potential and athleticism here are outstanding.
Of those 12 players, however, nine are either freshmen (true or redshirt) or sophomores. And only three recorded more than 4.5 tackles last season.
Corners Jimmy Pruitt and Cleveland Wallace III combined for 4.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, and 13 pass breakups last year. Their graduation, along with that of Vincenté Miles Jr., puts SJSU in a bind from an experience standpoint. For all of the shuffling up front, the secondary was pretty steady, giving six guys almost all of the playing time. Three of those six are gone.
If junior Andre Chachere, who split between corner and nickel last year, can maintain a disruptive presence out wide (and he very well might), that's one question answered. But the safety slot opposite Maurice McKnight will likely go to someone green. Expect plenty of play-making and a few more errors from the SJSU DBs this fall.
|Michael Carrizosa||5'11, 226||Jr.||48||47.5||6||10||16||54.2%|
|Bryce Crawford||6'3, 217||So.||22||57.4||6||1||27.3%|
|Bryce Crawford||6'3, 217||So.||6-7||1-2||50.0%||0-0||N/A|
|Thomas Tucker||KR||5'10, 202||Jr.||4||18.5||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||100|
|Field Goal Efficiency||115|
|Punt Return Success Rate||104|
|Kick Return Success Rate||65|
|Punt Success Rate||9|
|Kickoff Success Rate||120|
9. The one important guy is back
SJSU's special teams unit was mostly replaceable in 2015; the Spartans ranked in the triple digits in three of five primary special teams categories and ranked below 60th in a fourth. (Tyler Ervin was an explosive return man but not necessarily a consistent one.) But punter Michael Carrizosa was a one-man field position machine, averaging 47.5 yards per kick; he was responsible for SJSU ranking sixth in punt efficiency, and he's only a junior. That Ervin and kicker Austin Lopez are gone isn't good news, but Carrizosa was really the one guy the Spartans couldn't afford to lose.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|24-Sep||at Iowa State||71||-9.6||29%|
|1-Oct||at New Mexico||102||0.0||50%|
|22-Oct||at San Diego State||55||-12.3||24%|
|5-Nov||at Boise State||36||-16.7||17%|
|26-Nov||at Fresno State||94||-3.4||42%|
|Projected wins: 5.7|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-9.7% (83)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||80 / 90|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-5 / -1.1|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-1.6|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||62% (69%, 55%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||6.3 (-0.3)|
10. SJSU is a couple of ifs from nine or 10 wins
Another MWC team, another five- to seven-win projection. When you've got this many teams projected between about 90th and 110th, you're going to produce a ton of tossups, and SJSU is given between a 42 and 57 percent chance of winning in five games. For that matter, the Spartans are below 20 percent in just one game and above 78 percent in none. Almost every game is either winnable or losable.
As I frequently say, then, a little bit of improvement could go a long way. If a big-play threat emerges on offense and a young secondary gels, SJSU could end up ranked in the 70s or so with a chance at about 9-3. If the offense is still too reliant on efficiency and the pass defense regresses too much, the Spartans could slip into the 100s and go 4-8.
I really like what Caragher is building, and there are exciting underclassmen in just about every unit. Given patience, a couple of breaks, and a decent quarterback, he could make 2017 and 2018 pretty exciting. But he still might be a year away from finishing above .500.