The numbers were ugly last season for San Jose State, which scored 15.8 points a game and gave up 41.7 per outing. Opponents had their way on the ground, averaging 285.4 yards per game on 5.4 per carry. One of the few bright spots last season occurred in the finale when the Spartans captured their only Mountain West victory with a 20-17 win over Wyoming, which gave SJSU a final record of 2-11.
The offense features experience and depth at every skill position, but SJSU was anemic last season. As mentioned above, the Spartans averaged 15.8 points and were last nationally in time of possession, thanks in part to an NCAA-worst 42 turnovers.
As many as four quarterbacks are expected to enter fall camp with a shot at winning the No. 1 job, although the frontrunners likely are sophomore Montel Aaron, who started eight games last year, and junior Josh Love, who started the other five. Redshirt freshman Terrell Carter showed progress in the spring and senior Michael Carrillo also will get a look.
Ball security will be a key factor in selecting the starting quarterback, said second-year head coach Brent Brennan. Twenty-nine of SJSU’s turnovers were interceptions or fumbles by the quarterbacks.
Tyler Nevens, who started five of the final six games and had two 100-yard rushing games as a freshman a season ago, leads a solid group of running backs. Malike Roberson enters his senior season just 53 yards shy of 1,000 for his career.
SJSU returns six receivers who caught at least 22 passes in 2017, including tight end Josh Oliver. But the offensive line needs rebuilding after the loss of four seniors, who combined for 157 career starts. The new group, led by junior left tackle Troy Kowalski (21 career starts), needs to cut down on the 36 sacks allowed last season.
The Spartans return three players who combined for 33 starts on the defensive line, and the hope is their experience improves a run defense that ranked second-to-last nationally (285.4 per game). Bryson Bridges, Owen Roberts, and Sailosi Latu combined for 120 tackles.
Ethan Aguayo and Jamal Scott return at linebacker, but three starters in the secondary are gone. Running back Zamore Zigler was moved to safety during spring ball, and three junior college defensive backs will figure into the mix.
The Spartans were 126th nationally in scoring defense last year, including five games in which they allowed 52 points or more. Unless those numbers improve dramatically, even a more productive offense won’t generate more victories.
The team’s most accomplished player is place-kicker Bryce Crawford, who made 14 of 17 field goal attempts last season, including five from 50 yards or longer. All three of his misses were from beyond 50 yards. Crawford will also take over the punting duties for Michael Carrizosa, who ranked fifth nationally at 45.6 yards per kick last season.
The Spartans have mountains to climb before becoming merely competitive. Outscored by nearly 26 points per game last season, they also coughed up 11 more turnovers than any team in the country. There is some experience, but the early season is challenging. SJSU, which faces Washington State and Oregon on the road in the first three weeks of the season, has lost 24 straight games to opponents from Power 5 conferences.
After the season opener against UC Davis, it’s tough to spot many victories the following six games. SJSU will be more competitive in 2018, but with the schedule they’re looking at a 3-9 season.