San Jose St. is a member of the WAC and has only been to two bowl games since 1990, and only one since joining the WAC in 1996. Although their recent history isn't spectacular, the Spartans have some notable alumnus, including coaches Bill Walsh, Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders.
Last season, San Jose St. went a disappointing 1-12. Part of the problem was the schedule, which included Alabama, Wisconsin, and Utah as part of their non-conference slate. However, the Spartans also dropped a game to FCS Sacramento St., as well as New Mexico St., Utah St., Louisiana Tech, and Idaho. The schedule is once again tough this year, as the Spartans scheduled Stanford, UCLA, and BYU this year. After getting trounced by Stanford 57-3 last week, look for the Spartans to go all out in an effort to avoid another early season slide.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre is in his second season after taking over for former head coach Dick Tomey. He's a young coach at only 46 years old, but does have 21 seasons of football coaching under his belt. Prior to the SJSU job, he was defensive coordinator at Duke University, and spent five years in the NFL as defensive backs coach with the Cowboys and Jets.
Offensively, San Jose St. was one of the worst units in the nation last year averaging only 315.1 yards per game and 16.1 ppg. John DeFilippo takes over as offensive coordinator for Tim Landis, who only served post for a season after being hurried into the position following Hugh Freeze's sudden departure. DeFilippo is very young (33 yrs old), and the highest position he had prior to SJSU offensive coordinator was quarterbacks coach for Lane Kiffin's Raiders team in 2007-08.
The defense is led by Kent Baer, who coached linebackers prior to Mike MacIntyre's hiring. He was Tyrone Willingham's defensive coordinator at University of Washington ('05-'07), Notre Dame ('02-'04), and StanfordUniversity ('95-'01). He was also the defensive coordinator at Arizona State University ('92-'94), Cal ('87-'91), Idaho('86), and Utah St. ('83-'85).
The offseason quarterback battle was won by Sr. Matt Faulker, a JC transfer out of Mt. San Antonio College. At 6'2 205 lbs., he's not a physical specimen, but he spent last season as the No. 2 quarterback and did get in to a few games. Against Stanford, he finished 14 of 26 for 184 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He had a few runs for positive yards, but was sacked twice and was stopped behind the line on a few other rush attempts and finished with -16 yards rushing. Faulkner also fumbled the ball four times, but was able to recover it three of those times (once for a safety).
Faulkner is backed up by RS So. Dasmen Stewart. The 6'4 215 lbs. Stewart is more physically imposing with much better running skills and size, but he was unable to beat out Faulkner in the offseason. He did get some limited action in the Stanford game, finishing 3 of 7 passing for 26 yards and one rush for 10 yards, and I would not be surprised to see him get some action on Saturday.
The third and fourth string positions are manned by RS Fr. Blake Jurich (6'4 225 lbs.) and Fr. Joseph Gray (6'2 190 lbs.).
San Jose St. only managed 79 rushing yards per game last year, and they didn't get off to a good start against Stanford this season as they finished with only 27 yards. The leading rushers, Sr. Brandon Rutley and Jr. David Freeman each only managed 12 yards on 9 carries.
Rutley brings good size (5'11 190 lbs.) and speed, but simply hasn't been able to get it going. He started last season and led the team with 461 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also caught 17 balls for 183 yards and 1 touchdown. Freeman is a JC transfer who started at the University of Washington. He's built like a ball (5'8 195 lbs.) and is short enough to hide behind an offensive line.
The Spartans also have big backs in RS Fr. Ben Thompson (6'2 225 lbs.) who will play HB, and fullbacks, JR Ray Rodriguez (6'1 265 lbs.) and JR Ina Liaina (6'1 240 lbs.). The fullbacks are scarcely used - Liaina had only 3 carries last year.
Receivers and Tight Ends
The Spartans lost their #1 receiver from last year, Jalal Beachman, but otherwise return the entire unit. Sophomores Noel Grigsby (5'11 175 lbs.) and Chandler Jones (5'11 174 lbs.) caught 56 and 54 balls, respectively. Grigsby provided the big play threat, averaging 14.68 ypc and scoring 4 touchdowns, while Jones averaged only 8.78 ypc and scored 1 touchdown. They also return Sr. Josh Harrison (5'11 180 lbs.) and So. Kyle Nunn (6'3 190 lbs.). Harrison played in 11 games last year, catching 19 balls for 260 yards, while Nunn played in all 13 games and caught 24 balls for 250 yards and two scores.
In week 1, SJSU was Grigsby predictably led the team in receiving with 8 catches for 82 yards. However, they also got a solid contribution from RS Fr. Jabari Carr (6'2 195 lbs.) who caught 3 balls for 78 yards. Jones also made 3 catches for 24 yards.
At tight end, the Spartans return Jr. Ryan Otten (6'6 235 lbs.). He was expected to do more for the passing game, as he only had 17 catches for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns last season. In week 1, he caught 2 balls for 19 yards. Otten will be backed up by JC transfers Max Miller (6'6 255 lbs.) and Travis Lorius (6'5 245 lbs.)
The offensive troubles start with the offensive line. It takes a team effort to rush for 79 yards per game, and the primary reason is that the line simply could not create any holes for their backs. They also gave up 32 sacks, so they aren't exactly pass-blockers either.
While the line was not productive last year, they are experienced this season. They return three returning starters, RT Sr. Andres Vargas (6'4 305 lbs.), RG So. Nicholas Kaspar (6'4 292 lbs.), and LT Jr. David Quessenberry (6'6 295 lbs.). The other two spots are manned by seniors, LG Fred Koloto (6'3 300 lbs.) and C Robbie Reed (6'3 290 lbs.).
The back-ups consist of a few undersized lineman, LT RS Fr. Keith Bendixen (6'4 258 lbs.), LG So. Ryan Jones (6'4 284 lbs.) and C So. Rueben Hasani (6'3 272 lbs.), a JC transfer, RT Jr. Jon Meyer (6'5 284 lbs.), and a lineman fighting for a starting spot, RF So. Moa Ngatuvai (6'3 305 lbs.).
That concludes Part I of the San Jose St. preview. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments. We'll conclude the preview with a look at San Jose St.'s defense and special teams soon.