Three Questions for Spring Practice

The Aztecs are recharging after a successful 2021, but doubt they will find answers to their most pressing questions at your peril.

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Brady Hoke is looking to maintain the team’s high level of performance.

After clinching another West Division title and winning 12 games for the first time in program history last year, the San Diego State Aztecs will be at it again this spring with a host of new challenges on their plate. .

The defense and special teams formula will need to identify new contributors with Matt Araiza, Cameron Thomas and Daniel Bellinger, among others, having pursued their aspirations in the NFL. The good news? The Aztecs have already done this.

How will quarterback turnover affect how quickly the offense comes to fruition?

When we last saw the Aztecs on the court, Lucas Johnson was smashing through a somewhat exhausted UTSA defense for what turned out to be the program’s first 300-yard passing performance since 2019 (and just his second). since 2014). Johnson has moved to Montana, however, and his main competitor throughout 2021, Jordon Brookshire, has also hit the transfer portal, so getting a proper long look at return options and new faces is surely a top priority for offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski.

Redshirt freshman Will Haskell and junior Jalen Mayden looked solid in garbage time against Towson and Utah State, respectively, while incoming rookie Liu Aumavae and Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister could also turn heads. Burmeister, in particular, is a wildcard because, despite starting every game for Virginia Tech in 2021, he’s never been the most effective quarterback, making just 55.7% of his shots for the Hokies (although he averaged 7.7 yards per attempt with a 1.5% interception rate).

Who will be on the offensive line?

Quarterback competition will make plenty of headlines, but equally (if not more) important is replacing the offensive line trio of William Dunkle, Zachary Thomas and Dominic Gudino, with 78 career starts combined between them. Fortunately, Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson and Alama Uluave have more than held their own in their first full years as starters and come back with plenty of momentum in their backs: Crenshaw-Dickson had the fourth-highest pass blocking rating (75.6) among Mountain West’s tackles according to Pro Football Focus, while Uluave contested as the conference’s top center not named Keegan Cryder.

Young talent and what they do opportunities to impress could go a long way in determining whether the spring is a success. Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli and Jonathan Harrison spent time last year as backups to Dunkle and Thomas while Josh Simmons, who led SDSU’s 2020 recruiting class as a four-star prospect, and Cade Bennett, a transfer portal arrived from Oklahoma State, can do a lot with their extended first auditions.

How do you follow the #PuntGod?

It is unreasonable to expect Jack Browning, Collyn Hopkins or Devin Delgado, the trio of specialists currently listed on list of aztecsto go out and threaten Araiza’s new NCAA record for average yards per punt, but avoiding as much regression in the field position game as possible will begin with the competition in the spring.

San Diego State, however, has been successful in identifying and developing punters beyond the Punt god in recent years. Remember, Tanner Kuljian averaged a very reasonable 45.4 yards per punt in 2020 and Brandon Heicklen improved his average by seven full yards from 2017 to 2019. If you’re looking for benchmarks that Browning, Hopkins and Delgado could achieve, start there.