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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 113: San Jose State

San Jose State fans, accustomed to success in judo, are flipping for their new coach.

This type of report warms the cockles of my heart. How San Jose State, led by rookie coach Mike MacIntyre, spent most of spring practice, as recounted by the talented Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News:

The only time I saw a four-receiver formation was on the final play, when it was chuck-it-downfield desperation time.

The Spartans ran the ball between the tackles time and time again. They used fullbacks and H backs. They threw to the tight end. (The tight end … Imagine that!)

Basically, I saw more smash-mouth football in four 12-minute quarters of a scrimmage than I saw all last season.

How can you not root for a team like that?

Conference
WAC

Location
San Jose, Calif.

Nickname
Spartans

Returning starters
15 (8 offense, 7 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 90

2009 record
(2-10, 1-7)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 110

2010 schedule

  • Sept. 4
    at Alabama
  • Sept. 11
    at Wisconsin
  • Sept. 18
    Southern Utah
  • Sept. 25
    at Utah
  • Oct. 2
    U.C. Davis
  • Oct. 9
    at Nevada
  • Oct. 16
    Boise State
  • Oct. 23
    Fresno St.
  • Oct. 30
    at New Mexico St.
  • Nov. 13
    Utah State
  • Nov. 20
    at Hawaii
  • Nov. 27
    Louisiana Tech
  • Dec. 4
    at Idaho

Last year’s prediction

What would need to go right for this team to reach .500? Most importantly, even more important than its secondary, the Spartans must get a much, much better effort from the run game. It’s a miracle – and a testament to the defense – that the Spartans won six games last fall while averaging less than 90 yards rushing and 285 yards of total offense a game. A repeat of those numbers would leave little chance of repeating as a six-win club.

2009 recap

In a nutshell Not a pretty way for Dick Tomey to go out. The Spartans finished a disappointing 2-10, thanks to a ferociously inept offense and an uncharacteristically poor defense. It was a swift decline for San Jose State, which had won at least five games in each of the last three seasons — finishing a combined 20-17 over that stretch — before last season’s unpredictable free fall. Now, this offense: the 165 points scored was a program low since 1970. The Spartans never topped 25 points in a single game and scored 33 total points over a four-game stretch from Oct. 31 through Nov. 21; even in its one F.B.S. win, S.J.S.U. scored only 13 points. The defense had always been Tomey’s trademark, but the Spartans allowed more than 40 points five times. The two-win finish marked the end of the road for Tomey, who departs having — at least — taken this program out of a generation-long malaise into respectability. In comes Mike MacIntyre, late of Duke University, who will attempt to toughen up this team through an old-school diet of running, running and running.

High point San Jose State lead then-No. 4 U.S.C. by 3-0 entering the second quarter of the first game of the 2009 season. Unfortunately, the Trojans rolled off 56 unanswered points to end the game. The Spartans also played Utah tough the following week, losing only by 10 points, but the season would rapidly spill out of control shortly thereafter.

Low point The appalling play of the offense throughout the season. The Spartans scored only 165 points on the year, the program’s lowest scoring output since moving to the 11-game schedule in 1970. San Jose never cracked 25 points, scored more than 20 three times and 17 or less seven times. Even in its two victories, San Jose combined to score 32 points.

Tidbit If extrapolated over the 12-game 2009 season, San Jose State’s season-high scoring output of 25 points would have ranked the Spartans 76th nationally in scoring. That total was reached in a 16-point loss to Idaho; only once over the rest of the season did the Spartans crack the 20-point barrier.

Former players in the N.F.L.

9 LB Justin Cole (Kansas City), WR Rashied Davis (Chicago), CB Coye Francies (Cleveland), DT Jarron Gilbert (Chicago), WR James Jones (Green Bay), WR Kevi Jurovich (Philadelphia), CB Dwight Lowery (New York Jets), K Joe Nedney (San Francisco), CB Chris Owens (Atlanta).

Arbitrary top five list

Top five judo moves
1. Yama arashi. The mountain storm.
2. Yoko otoshi. The side drop.
3. Kosoto gake. The small outside hook.
4. Uchi mata. The inner thigh throw. Hiyo.
5. Tsubame gaeshi. The swallow’s flight reversal.

Coaching

Mike MacIntyre (Georgia Tech ’89), entering his first season at San Jose State. MacIntyre was the 2009 American Football Coaches Association F.B.S. Assistant Coach of the Year for his work as the defensive coordinator at Duke. He spent two seasons as David Cutcliffe’s coordinator at Duke, helping the Blue Devils put together some of their finest defensive statistics over the last 20 years. Duke allowed 356.9 yards per game in 2008, his first season with the program, 67.4 fewer yards than in the season before; the Blue Devils also gave up only 23.4 points per game, nearly 10 points less than in Ted Roof’s final season with the program. In 2009, Duke set a new program high by placing a trio of defenders on the post-season all-conference team. MacIntyre joined Duke after spending five seasons in the N.F.L., coaching the defensive backs with the Dallas Cowboys (2003-6) and the New York Jets (2007). As a college assistant, MacIntyre has also spent time at Mississippi (1999-2002), where he coached the wide receivers — and played an important role in recruiting — and Temple (1997-98). Perhaps, seeing the importance MacIntyre has placed upon forming a tougher, more run-oriented S.J.S.U. team, it is not surprising to see that he spent four seasons learning under Bill Parcells with the Cowboys. Given how poorly the Spartans ran the ball in 2009, such a philosophical change was a smart move by the rookie coach — and a wise decision by the university that gave him his first shot. I have a warm spot in my heart for coaches who stress the ground game first, so MacIntyre has earned early strong marks in my book.

Tidbit (coaching edition) One of MacIntyre’s new hires is Bryant Young, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle, who will coach the S.J.S.U. defensive linemen. Young, who will certainly find his way into Canton with the next decade, spent the 2009 season as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, his alma mater. As the article points out, Young considered joining the former Notre Dame assistant Rob Ianello as part of his debut staff at Akron, but Young opted to move back to the Bay Area with the Spartans. Can you imagine any local family turning down an in-home visit from the former San Francisco great?

Key losses

Offense Only three losses on the offensive side of the ball, but wide receiver Kevin Jurovich will be difficult to replace. Jurovich, the team’s all-time leading pass-catcher with 160 career grabs, rebounded with a fine senior season after missing all but two games of his junior campaign due to injuries. As a senior, Jurovich led the Spartans with 60 receptions for 744 yards; he earned second-team all-WAC accolades for the second time in his career. He cracked the 100-yard mark four times in 2009, including in three straight games from Sept. 12-26. He was an immediate hit upon being moved from safety to receiver as a sophomore, finishing in the top 15 nationally in receptions (85) and receiving yards (1,183). His production, achieved in such a brief period of time, was outstanding. The Spartans must also replace a pair of starters up front. Center Ronnie Castillo was a three-year starter for the Spartans, splitting time at both center and guard over his final two seasons. He was a member of the Rimington Trophy watch list heading into his final season. Tackle John Konye elected not to use his final season of eligibility; the fourth-year junior began his career at tight end before moving to the offensive line on a permanent basis.

Defense The defense might not have produce in 2009, but the Spartans did not lack for talent. Four of the S.J.S.U. front seven were lost to graduation, including end Carl Ihenacho. As one of half of the Ihenacho combination — we’ll touch on his brother shortly — Carl contributed 42 tackles and 4 sacks despite missing all or part of five games due to injury. Despite the missed action, Ihenacho earned second-team all-WAC honors for the second time, joining his junior season. He completed his fine career ranked fifth on the team’s all-time list in tackles for loss (33.5) and sacks (17). He’ll be missed. The Spartans must also supplant defensive tackle Adonis Davis, who anchored the middle of the S.J.S.U. defensive front; hybrid end-linebacker Justin Cole, who added a team-best nine tackles for loss to go with his three sacks; and linebacker Travis Jones, who finished fourth on the team with 79 tackles.

Players to watch

While San Jose State signed a JUCO quarterback in its most recent recruiting class, it doesn’t seem that Matt Faulkner will overtake Jordan La Secla as the team’s starter. In Faulkner’s defense, he was one of the top junior college quarterbacks in 2009. Still, La Secla outplayed Faulkner during the spring, and all signs point towards the incumbent holding onto his starting role. As a junior, La Secla threw for 1,926 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; not great numbers, but he did have a strong first half of the year before struggling down the stretch. While beefing up a paltry ground game will be the biggest key to the success of the offense, La Secla also needs to step up his game.

Speaking of how poorly S.J.S.U. ran the ball, the offensive line needs to step up. Three starters return: Robbie Reed, who will take over full-time at center, tackle Fred Koloto and guard Isaac Leatiota. Joining this trio in the starting lineup during the spring were tackle Andres Vargas and guard Ailao Eliapo. As he did with the defensive line, MacIntyre signed a handful of offensive line during this most recent recruiting cycle; it’s one thing to improve the starting lineup, but the Spartans also need to make a significant improvement in terms of depth.

The ball-carrying duties will again fall to senior Lamon Muldrow, who led the Spartans with 592 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. His finest performance — where a large portion of that damage came from — was against Cal Poly, an F.C.S. opponent, with 184 yards. With the increased emphasis on the ground game, Muldrow will be asked to take on a far larger role in the offense; as the only back to average more than four yards per carry last fall, he’ll be under a microscope. The top receiving target will be Marquis Avery, who posted 42 receptions for 465 yards and a team-best six touchdowns in eight games last fall. Jalal Beauchman, with 35 grabs for 378 yards a year ago, is another top target. Perhaps sophomore tight end Ryan Otten will see his role increase in 2010.

The defense is strong in the secondary. Leading the way is senior safety Duke Ihenacho — Carl’s brother — a first-team all-WAC performer in 2009. For the year, Ihenacho posted 89 tackles, second on the team, and an interception. His all-conference honors at safety joined his first-team honors from 2008, when he started at linebacker. As a sophomore, Ihenacho posted a team-best five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns; he was one of only 12 players in the F.B.S. to do so that season. His partner at safety, Tanner Burns, led the Spartans in tackles last season with 96. He added a pair of picks, tying junior cornerback Peyton Thompson for the team lead.

Joining Thompson at cornerback is sophomore Ronnie Yell, giving the Spartans four returning starters in the defensive backfield. Yell will also make an impact as a return man on special teams. The team will need to locate some new contributors at linebacker, with Pompey Festejo the lone returning starter. Festejo is a contender for all-conference honors, however, after posting 83 stops (8 for loss) and a pair of sacks in 2009. A player like Kyler O’Neal, who was a talented prospect coming out of high school, could find his way into the starting lineup. Another option is JUCO transfer Rashad Gayden, who will have every opportunity to earn playing time.

Position battles to watch

Defensive line The Spartans were simply horrific against the run last year, ranking 119th nationally in allowing 259.2 yards per game on the ground. MacIntyre’s defensive background might help the team make a slight improvement in 2010, but the Spartans need to replace three starters up front. One replacement is already on the roster: Mohamed Marah, a senior, returns after suffering a season-ending injury in the opener against U.S.C. last fall. Marah is still not back at 100 percent, however, and the over all health of the line depends on his recovery. Interior lineman Pablo Garcia also returns, but he must become more stout against the run — the same can be said of the entire front seven. End Joe Nigos, another probable starter, is also banged up. The Spartans will be looking for help from their past recruiting class, with aid coming mostly from the JUCO ranks. MacIntyre inked linemen Ahkeem McKinney, Ja’Rodd Watson and Andre Moeaki. San Jose State also added a handful of defensive line recruits from the high school ranks.

Game(s) to watch

Plenty of marquee games on the schedule. In terms of winnable games, S.J.S.U. should look at U.C. Davis, Southern Utah, New Mexico State and Utah State as its best chances at improving upon last season’s two-win total.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell As much as I might like Mike MacIntyre and the mentality he is instilling with the Spartans — and as much as I might believe such a move might ultimately pay off — S.J.S.U. will not see much improvement in the win column in 2010. If for no other reason, the schedule will keep the Spartans from making more than a one- or two-game improvement over last season’s 2-10 mark. Six of San Jose State’s first eight games come against teams that won at least eight games last fall; included in the bunch are the defending national champs, Alabama; Boise State, 14-0 in 2009; 10-win teams in Wisconsin and Utah; and conference foes Fresno State and Nevada. Not exactly a slate conducive to early success. While an easier stretch awaits over the second half of the season, it’s hard to imagine the Spartans winning more than three games — the 13th game helps. Yet this team is not completely devoid of talent. The quarterback position looks to be in good shape, though the team will miss having a top-notch receiver like Jurovich. The defense will be strong in the secondary, but the front four needs to be reshaped. Here’s the most important thing: S.J.S.U. must improve in running the ball and defending the run. If MacIntyre’s new philosophy kicks in immediately, this team will be better than this ranking. I think such a change takes time, however, and the Spartans will be better in 2011.

Dream season MacIntyre’s tough philosophy pays off immediately. The Spartans go 8-5, 6-2 in the WAC, and return to bowl play.

Nightmare season The schedule dooms S.J.S.U. to a second consecutive double-digit loss season: 2-11, 1-7 in the WAC.

In case you were wondering

Where do San Jose State fans congregate? One option is Spartan Blitz, an independent San Jose State site. You can also try SJSUInsider.com, where you can find the majority of football chatter. For local coverage, check out the Web site of the San Jose Mercury News, where Wilner does his thing.

Tidbit (judo edition) What was up with the judo-oriented top five list earlier? If you’re a San Jose State fan, you already know. For those unaware, S.J.S.U. is the undisputed king of collegiate judo, having won 43 N.C.A.A.-sanctioned national championships since the first National Collegiate Judo Championship in 1962. The program was founded and built by the legendary instructor Yosh Uchida, who is widely held to be the father of American judo.

Tidbit (shameless edition) I hate doing this, I really do. But don’t forget you can follow Pre-Snap Read on Twitter. You’ll get alerts when the day’s preview has been posted, hints as to the next day’s team and various notes throughout the day. A lot of very important stuff.

Up Next

Who is No. 112? Our next school’s long-standing rivalry with an in-state opponent might be traced back to 1835, when its former president, hired to the same position at the rival, told parents not to send their children to his previous employer.

http://blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports/2010/04/23/san-jose-state-football-spring-game-review/

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Comments

  1. WagsLax9 says:

    who is No. 112?

    my guess is Nebraska

  2. SJSU Fan says:

    that site and its owner are an absolute embarrassment to San Jose State. No SJSU fans “congregate” there, it’s the owner and his many aliases and a few of this frat buddies. The owner of the site was banned from all contact and association with SJSU athletics due to his gambling activities and now he’s on a vendetta to tarnish the program. Please don’t give that crap site any publicity. The SJSU site on Scout is a great place to go.

    Paul: Got it, just made the change. I’ve been hearing the same thing from a few S.J.S.U. fans today. I put Spartan Blitz up along with the Scout site.

  3. SJgregg says:

    Gambling activities?

    Now that is a complete false and lie.

    Blitz sucks, and the fans there are complete morons (root for a team that is led by an inept AD).

  4. SpartaRick says:

    In terms of number of posters/visitors, the private San Jose State athletics related sites are: SJSUSpartans, Spartan Blitz and Spartan Thunder. Spartan fans visit those sites in that rank order by the numbers.

  5. Gregg or Anthony? says:

    Sounds like Anthony to us…

  6. SierraSpartan says:

    “Blitz sucks, and the fans there are complete morons (root for a team that is led by an inept AD).”

    Ya wanna rephrase that, Gregg?

    There’s quite a few people who go back and forth between ST.com and Blitz, and your characterization of those of us who may well do that says more about you and your mates on ST.com than it says about the guys who are running Blitz.

  7. SJSU Fan says:

    Rick, you’re wrong. Nobody visits Spartan Thunder, and no site gets more SJSU traffic than the Scout site.

    And Gregg, Anthony bragged about betting against SJSU when they lost the mud game to Hawaii, that’s no lie. He got canned for that, and canned from Scout.

  8. SpartaRick says:

    SJSU fan- Isn’t SJSU Spartans the scout site? I thought I was saying the same thing you are saying. Did I screw up?

  9. SJgregg says:

    Mud game?

    Chicks?

  10. SJSU Fan says:

    Rick, SJSUSpartans is the official site. SJSUInsider is the Scout site.

    Gregg, you’re an idiot, but that’s obvious because you’re a friend of Anthony’s.

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