Ron Caragher begins year number four at San Jose State after going 15-22 in his first three seasons. We’ll see if he can keep things rolling after the Cure Bowl win over Georgia State last season.
The good news for SJSU is they have a nice nucleus with 16 returning starts from last years team. The bad news is they lost Tyler Ervin who was number 2 nationally in all-purpose yards last year.
Kenny Potter took control of the quarterback position last season as a junior-college transfer and returns for his senior season with most of his weapons back. Potter completed 67 percent of his passes as a Junior last year which led the Mountain West, threw 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 starts. Potter is a passer first who can run when necessary.
Tight end Billy Freeman, one of Potter’s favorite targets, returns for his senior year along with two of the three starting receivers in Tyler Winston and Tim Crawley and Justin Holmes got a lot of reps late in the season. Crawley is an effective slot receiver and Holmes could possibly be the most talented of the receiving group and will be dangerous if he has a breakout year.
Four starters return on the offensive line, with junior Nate Velichko moving to left tackle from right tackle. Guard Jeremiah Kolone is another key returner on the line, and is an all-league candidate with Velichko.
The running game is the biggest question mark for the Spartans. They may take on more of a committee approach, but Thomas Tucker is the leading candidate to win the job, however Malik Roberson, Jarrod Lawson, and Zamore Zigler will all be given a shot at the job as well.
Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson retired, so Caragher brought in former Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English to replace him. Much like the offense, the defense returns experience. Five of the front seven are seniors including both ends, Nick Oreglia and Isaiah Irving. The strength of the defense is at the linebacker position with Christian Tago and Frank Ginda. However, the secondary has several holes except for the only returner in Maurice McKnight at safety. SJSU led the Mountain West and ranked second in the nation in pass defense a year ago.
SJSU improved from 3-9 in 2014 to 6-7 in 2015 including the Bowl win. If a running back emerges, the offense could put up enough points to be in almost every game. Stopping the run and getting pressure on the QB will be keys for the new defensive staff. If those two things can happen, the Spartans have a great chance of going to back-to-back Bowl games for the first time since 1986-87.
If all goes well, I’m predicting San Jose State to go 8-4 overall and finishing in second place in the MW West division with a 6-2 MW record.