5 Key Questions for SDSU This Spring
1. Who Will Be SDSU’s Second Running Back?
For the last four years, SDSU has employed a run-first offense. And it sure has worked: the Aztecs have made a bowl game four years in a row. It runs a tandem-running back scheme, specifically; one speedster, one power back. In 2012-2013, Walter Kazee was the bulldozer and Adam Muema was the speedster. Last year, Muema bulked up to become the power back and freshman Donnel Pumphrey won the speedster role. Pumphrey is an unquestionable starter for the 2014-2015 Aztecs, so who will replace Muema as power back?
The Aztecs bring in an impressive 2014 running back class, including William Walker, 247sports.com’s 59th-best 2014 running back. However, according to coach Rocky Long, the second running back is on the current roster. So that means that it’s either Chase Price or Dwayne Garrett. Both backs have little playing experience: Garrett has 20 career carries for 85 yards and Price has 46 career carries for 192 yards and one touchdown.
2. Other Than Ezell Ruffin, Who Will Step Up at Wideout?
Ruffin emerged as quarterback Quinn Kaehler’s favorite target last year, catching 68 balls for 1,136 yards and three touchdowns. Ruffin delayed his NFL career one year to return to SDSU and graduate, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Ruffin will also move to the slot in 2014, leaving the outside wideout slot wide open. It appears that the race for that spot will come down to redshirt freshman Eric Judge and sophomore Larry Clark. Judge has 13 career receptions for 218 yards and three touchdowns, and Clark has three career receptions for 51 yards. At 6-foot-4, Clark has better height for an outside threat, and Ruffin told the San Diego U-T that Clark has been the most impressive young wideout this spring.
“Larry has made such a huge jump from the season to now,” he said. “I saw it in him, knew he could do it. I was telling Larry this whole time, once you get it, it’s going to come easy. And it’s looking good.”
3. Who Will Replace Chad Young at Fullback?
Running backs have come and gone in the past few years of running success at SDSU, but the one constant has been former walk-on fullback Chad Young. A sure-fire NFL fullback, Young will be sorely missed on the front lines of SDSU’s running attack. Senior wideout Colin Lockett put Young’s worth into words after SDSU’s win against Boise State last season:
“Chad (Young) is one of the biggest reasons we've had a thousand yard rushers in back-to-back-to-back-to-back seasons,” Lockett said.
Long said that the fullback race will come down to two walk-ons, Dakota Gordon and Parker Wells, and a former tight end Adam Roberts.
4. Who Will Play Safety?
Not only do Nat Berhe and Eric Pinkins leave SDSU’s safety position glaringly empty, they leave the Aztecs without their two top tacklers from 2013. Berhe recorded 99 tackles and Pinkins recorded 75 tackles. The Aztecs return a lot of defensive backs from their current roster and bring in quite a few in 2014, so the safety race is wide open. To me, though, the favorites would be Stan Sedberry and David Lamar. Both stand at 6-foot-2, a great height for a safety, and Sedberry actually backed up Berhe in 2013.
5. How Good Can SDSU’s Linebackers Be?
Both Josh Gavert and Jake Fely return to man SDSU’s linebacker position as seniors in 2014. Fely, SDSU’s defensive leader, injured his foot early last season and could only play in the first four games. Gavert stepped up in Fely’s absence and recorded 68 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. Gavert and Fely return with all but one defensive lineman for 2014; this defensive unit allowed the 21st-fewest running yards per game last year.
Long lets his defensive backs take care of the passing attack, and he lets his linebackers focus on stopping the run. Good news for Aztec fans: Gavert and Fely relish going after running backs, and Long loves sending them on linebacker blitzes up through the defensive line. This unit will be fun to watch.