Meet the Spartans: San Jose State Breakdown


August 28, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans wide receiver Tyler Ervin (7) is congratulated for scoring a touchdown against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux during the third quarter at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Fighting Sioux 42-10. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose State Spartans will come to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time this Saturday for the program’s first ever meeting with the Auburn Tigers. Here’s a breakdown of SJSU’s season to date, and their outlook for the rest of 2014.

2014 Record: 1-0 (Defeated North Dakota 42-10)

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Last Thursday, SJSU started their season strong with a 42-10 victory over North Dakota. In that game, new starting quarterback Blake Jurich, a fifth-year senior, led the Spartans. Jurich was proficient and completed 22 of 25 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

SJSU started quickly, and scored each of the first three times they had the football. Jurich found sophomore wideout Tyler Winston on the team’s first drive on a 15-yard touchdown strike, and followed with another toss to Shane Smith on the second. Jurich handled the ball himself for the Spartans’ third score, a 2-yarder that gave SJSU a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

San Jose State led 21-3 at the half, but pushed the lead to 42-3 by the fourth quarter. Brandon Monroe added a short touchdown run and Tyler Ervin returned a punt 40 yards for a score – the fourth TD return of his career. Finally, Jurich and Winston connected for an 18-yard touchdown pass mid-way through the fourth to put an exclamation point on the season opener.

The quarterback-wide receiver combo of Jurich and Winston teamed up for 10 completions, 96 receiving yards and two TDs. It was the third consecutive game of ten receptions or more for Winston, the defending Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year.

August 28, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans quarterback Blake Jurich (14) passes the football against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux during the second quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In all, eight players caught passes for the Spartans, who tallied 406 yards of total offense. Hansell Wilson had 85 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches, and Thomas Tucker (starting at running back for the suspended Jarrod Lawson) had 86 rushing yards on 20 carries.

The SJSU defense played well under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. The veteran defensive play-callyer has had an impressive career that includes multiple Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos, Rose Bowl appearances as an assistant at UCLA, and high profile coordinator roles at Michigan, Texas, and in the NFL with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.  Robinson was also the head coach at Syracuse.

On Thursday, North Dakota was held to just 244 total yards on the evening, and averaged 3.7 yards per carry. SJSU forced two turnovers, a fumble recovered by Brad Kuh and an interception by Cleveland Wallace, a transfer from Washington.

Talented defenders Christian Tago and Travis Raciti each had six total tackles to lead the team, and Forrest Hightower led the way with 2.5 tackles for loss. In all, the Spartans recorded seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage including a sack by Tony Popovich.

2013 Record: 6-6 (5-3 Mountain West Conference)

Head Coach: Ron Caragher (51-28 Overall, 7-6 at SJSU)

Offensive Coordinator: Jimmy Dougherty

Defensive Coordinator: Greg Robinson

Key Departures: QB David Fales, WR Chandler Jones, RG Nicholas Kasper, LG Ryan Jones, LB Keith Smith, CB Bene Benwikere, WR Kyle Nunn, P Harrison Ward, S Damon Ogburn, WR Noel Grigsby

Key Returners: WR Tyler Winston, DL Travis Raciti, LB Christian Tago, WR Tyler Ervin, TE Billy Freeman, WR Jabari Carr, LB Vince Buhagiar, S Forrest Hightower, C David Peterson, T Wes Schweitzer, RB Thomas Tucker, QB Blake Jurich, DB Cleveland Wallace, CB Jimmy Pruitt,

Impact Newcomers: DB Maurice McKnight,DB Vicente Miles, G Jeremiah Kolone, G Nate Velichko.

Offensive Style: Multiple Spread (11, 21, 10 Personnel)

Defensive Style: 4-3

Returning Starters: 13

Offensive Starters Returning: 5

Defensive Starters Returning: 8

Offensive Depth Chart – Projected Starters

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Defensive Depth Chart – Projected Starters

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2014 Schedule

August 28 vs. North Dakota (W 42-10)

September 6 at Auburn

September 20 at Minnesota

September 27 vs. Nevada

October 4 vs. UNLV

October 18 at Wyoming

October 25 at Navy

November 1 vs. Colorado State

November 8 at Fresno State

November 15 vs. Hawaii

November 21 at Utah State

November 29 at San Diego State

Award Winners: Wide receiver Tyler Winston was the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2013. As a true freshman, Winston caught 58 passes for 858 yards and five touchdowns.

Outlook: San Jose State was an exciting team in 2013 with one of the better quarterbacks in college football in David Fales. The transfer from Nevada set numerous SJSU passing records in only two years on campus.

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  • However, Fales is gone, and so is his top target Chandler Jones. The two combined on 79 passes, 1,356 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013 alone. Fales compiled an impressive 4,189 yards with 33 touchdowns in his senior season and is now a member of the Chicago Bears.

    Blake Jurich won the starting QB spot in fall camp over junior Joe Gray, and he did not disappoint in his first career start. Jurich completed 88% of his passes against North Dakota, which tied a school record, and completed ten passes to Tyler Winston. The fifth-year senior quarterback will have plenty of options in the passing game despite the loss of Chandler Jones – who spent some time this fall with the Cleveland Browns.

    The defense should be improved this season, which will be vital. A one-year experiment with a 3-4 defense led to an average of 211.7 rushing yards allowed per contest, which ranked among the worst in the Mountain West. New DC Greg Robinson, a longtime coach in the NFL and major college football, has brought back the 4-3 this season, which is a better match for the Spartans’ personnel.

    Overall, the schedule is tough, and matching last season’s six wins will be difficult. After facing Auburn, the Spartans travel to Minnesota and also play perennial bowl team Navy on the road. The conference slate is rough as well, as SJSU must go on the road to play three of the best teams in the league: Fresno State, Utah State and San Diego State. A 4-8 or 5-7 record is probably the ceiling for this club.