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San Jose State football's recruiting means another special season soon

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Ron Caragher has been slowly stockpiling depth for a few years at San Jose State. 2017 and beyond could be pretty exciting.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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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
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
3-Sep New Hampshire N/A 43-13 W 83% 100% +22.5
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
26-Sep Fresno State 103 49-23 W 72% 97% +17.5 +21.5
3-Oct at Auburn 33 21-35 L 13% 2% -1.3 +6.0
10-Oct at UNLV 105 33-27 W 60% 90% +12.4 +3.5
17-Oct San Diego State 43 7-30 L 3% 0% -30.4 -26.0
24-Oct New Mexico 99 31-21 W 46% 58% +3.8 +2.5
6-Nov BYU 35 16-17 L 23% 6% +12.2 +12.5
14-Nov at Nevada 97 34-37 L 49% 62% -1.8 -2.0
21-Nov at Hawaii 120 42-23 W 80% 100% +13.8 +9.0
27-Nov Boise State 37 23-40 L 32% 9% -10.1 -9.5
19-Dec vs. Georgia State 87 27-16 W 57% 69% +12.5 +8.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 27.3 78 31.8 90
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.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.19 100 IsoPPP+ 98.2 77
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
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.8 ACTUAL 17 -0.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 60 68 56 77
RUSHING 47 56 49 51
PASSING 67 75 56 83
Standard Downs 94 74 101
Passing Downs 29 16 36
Q1 Rk 48 1st Down Rk 69
Q2 Rk 72 2nd Down Rk 99
Q3 Rk 75 3rd Down Rk 42
Q4 Rk 51

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.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kenny Potter 6'2, 208 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8033 182 270 1984 15 7 67.4% 29 9.7% 5.9
Joe Gray 73 105 839 6 4 69.5% 8 7.1% 7.0
Malik Watson 9 15 59 0 1 60.0% 0 0.0% 3.9
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

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Tyler Ervin RB 294 1601 13 5.4 6.0 38.1% 3 2
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
Joe Gray QB 8 35 1 4.4 2.0 37.5% 0 0
Hansell Wilson WR 6 84 0 14.0 18.7 66.7% 3 1
Tim Crawley WR 5'7, 169 Sr. NR NR 6 13 1 2.2 4.5 33.3% 0 0
Darrion Hancock RB 4 12 0 3.0 0.5 25.0% 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.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
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 Ervin RB 54 45 334 83.3% 14.4% 6.2 48.1% 48.1% 1.25
Hansell Wilson WR 50 35 475 70.0% 13.3% 9.5 42.0% 56.0% 1.57
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
Chris Kearney WR 7 5 47 71.4% 1.9% 6.7 28.6% 42.9% 1.25
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







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 98.8 2.78 3.93 38.9% 69.1% 18.5% 75.4 9.2% 6.0%
Rank 79 81 8 66 42 48 104 122 38
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
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
Doug Blacksill LG 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.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.22 52 IsoPPP+ 94.4 88
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
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.7 ACTUAL 12.0 -4.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 34 90 93 88
RUSHING 102 106 90 113
PASSING 2 45 90 33
Standard Downs 96 93 97
Passing Downs 67 88 55
Q1 Rk 74 1st Down Rk 72
Q2 Rk 78 2nd Down Rk 99
Q3 Rk 60 3rd Down Rk 83
Q4 Rk 115

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.

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 92.2 3.22 2.77 39.9% 73.5% 16.3% 83.6 2.0% 8.9%
Rank 97 111 27 86 104 105 94 124 36
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
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
Tony Popovich DT 12 24.0 3.6% 5.0 2.5 0 0 0 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
Cedric Lousi DE 9 8.0 1.2% 0.0 0.0 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
Nate Falo DE 13 5.5 0.8% 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.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
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
Moses Saucedo LB 12 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 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








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
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
Jimmy Pruitt CB 12 49.5 7.5% 4 0 3 6 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
Simon Connette S 11 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 1 0 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.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Michael Carrizosa 5'11, 226 Jr. 48 47.5 6 10 16 54.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Austin Lopez 45 60.6 21 3 46.7%
Bryce Crawford 6'3, 217 So. 22 57.4 6 1 27.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Austin Lopez 36-38 8-11 72.7% 2-6 33.3%
Bryce Crawford 6'3, 217 So. 6-7 1-2 50.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tyler Ervin KR 25 23.9 0
Thomas Tucker KR 5'10, 202 Jr. 4 18.5 0
Tyler Ervin PR 7 15.0 1
Category Rk
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

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep at Tulsa 93 -3.4 42%
10-Sep Portland State NR 13.3 78%
17-Sep Utah 39 -9.1 30%
24-Sep at Iowa State 71 -9.6 29%
1-Oct at New Mexico 102 0.0 50%
8-Oct Hawaii 118 12.1 76%
15-Oct Nevada 91 2.9 57%
22-Oct at San Diego State 55 -12.3 24%
29-Oct UNLV 114 11.3 74%
5-Nov at Boise State 36 -16.7 17%
19-Nov Air Force 80 -0.7 48%
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.