Five people who helped themselves at the Aztec Fast Showcase

Sean Lewis at the Aztec Fast Showcase. (Credit: Cedric Jones/EVT)

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On Saturday, SDSU football competed in the Aztec Fast Showcase.

The spirited event ended Spring Camp. This week, head coach Sean Lewis said the event would have the same significance as the other 14 practices in camp. Without access to previous dress rehearsals, below is a run-down of who helped themselves most during the Showcase.

Sean Lewis

As has been the case since his hire, Lewis shined on Saturday. The hand of SDSU’s head coach was everywhere. Four QBs led his Aztec Fast attack and ran it competently. In seasons past, the signal callers lower on the depth chart struggled to command the offense.

There were only a handful of procedure penalties. Despite not being an official scrimmage, the Showcase flowed and felt like a real game.

For all the fanfare of the offense, the defense arguably carried the day. They gave up four touchdowns on more than a dozen drives. Two of them, a busted coverage that allowed Louis Brown’s 36-yard score and Jude Wolfe’s sensational effort on another 36-yard touchdown, had more to do with missed opportunities than skilled offense. Unofficially, they gave up only 118 yards on 46 carries, a 2.6 yards average per rushing attempt. Some of that total was due to seven tackles for loss.

“They started a little bit slow, but the way they bowed up in the end, especially there in the sudden change period and in the red zone period, to be able to respond,” Lewis said postgame. “I think on both sides of the ball, we could continue to do a good job within the line of scrimmage. I’d like to see a little bit more physicality across the board as we continue to develop our guys for summer conditioning as we move forward, but I was really pleased with the effort.”

As dynamic as Lewis’ offense has been at his previous stops, seldom has it been paired with good defense. The early return this spring is SDSU’s coach might have found a way to do both. If so, the Aztecs could be lethal in the fall.

Lewis could be felt off the field as well. Numerous SDSU football alumni were present on Saturday, giving the event a homecoming atmosphere. There was a noticeable buzz and excitement in Snapdragon.

“The coaching change was so crucial,” SDSU alum Sarah Eishen told EVT on Saturday. “It was not going to be an exciting season. There would be no Aztec Link without the change. The night the introduction happened (at the Dos Equis Club in Snapdragon) and it was shoulder-to-shoulder would not have happened. I credit that one decision to spur, hopefully, more and more interest, butts in the stands, excitement, and a larger marching band as kids want to come play for Sean Lewis.”

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AJ Duffy

Last week, Lewis and his staff hosted a coaches clinic. During part of that event, QB coach Matt Johnson and WR coach Lanear Sampson used film from spring camp to teach a couple of plays to the gathered high school coaches. Those same designs played out at the Aztec Fast Showcase. Better than any other QB, AJ Duffy understood the offense and executed it.

After the scrimmage, Lewis said Duffy and Danny O’Neil are ahead of Kyle Crum and Javance Tupou’ata-Johnson. Ranking the QBs solely off yesterday’s performance, O’Neil would have placed fourth, with Duffy ahead of everyone else. Tupou’ata-Johnson had a nice day, and a summer leap in production would not be surprising.

“I thought they started out really well,” Lewis said postgame. “They had good accuracy and some good timing and location. They had some good chemistry. We have to consistently do that all the way through to finish as the field tightens up a little bit there in the red zone but I’m pleased with the way that all of them performed.”

Lewis did not name a starter but said the QB to lead the team would come from one of the four on the roster. It is clear Duffy is in the lead.

Gabe Garretson catches a touchdown at the Aztec Fast Showdown. (Credit: Cedric Jones/EVT)

Gabe Garretson

Arguably, no one on the roster was helped more by the Showcase than Gabe Garretson. With Leo Kemp’s transfer to UCLA, Garretson is the only pure blocking tight end left on the roster. Part of the reason the running game failed to materialize in a significant way was poor TE blocking.

Lewis is clearly enamored with the idea of a tight end who can block and be a threat in the passing game, but athletes like that are rare at any level. Jude Wolfe and Logan Tanner are best suited to do both roles, but it remains to be seen if they can block effectively.

“It is critical (to have a TE who can do both),” Lewis said. “If you have a tight end who is multifaceted and he can detach, be a threat as a wide receiver and he can be an inline blocker or he can be a fullback or h-back type set, now it puts some stress on the defensive coordinator and their personnel packages. Do you treat that guy as a true inline tight end? Do you treat it as an 11-personnel, a 10-personnel because he can stretch the vertical seam? Having that guy that can do a lot of different things, allows you to be creative as a play-caller and a play-designer.”

If Wolfe or Tanner cannot do both, what will Lewis sacrifice, a more dynamic passing game or balance on offense? Last year at Colorado, without a blocking tight end, the Buffalos rarely had the running game going, which ultimately was why they failed to make a bowl game. This week, Lewis called the lessons learned last year “scars” that he proudly wears. CU showed that a terrible rushing attack is the quickest way to torpedo a season.

Giving time to Garretson potentially ensures enough upfront to allow the running backs to work. Yesterday, he also caught a touchdown pass. If he can develop there even more this summer, perhaps he is the athlete who can let Lewis have his cake and eat it, too.

Jakson Berman

CB Jakson Berman got the only turnover of the contest. He intercepted an ill-advised throw by O’Neil. In a real game, he might have returned it for a touchdown.

Jakson Berman after an interception. (Credit: Don De Mars/EVT)

Berman is a transfer from Washington, where he spent the past two seasons. A member of the Class of 2022, he turned down an FBS offer from Air Force to walk on with the Huskies. He played in four contests for UW and, shortly after the national title game, announced his transfer.

Berman was a successful QB for Valley Christian High in San Jose, where he threw for over 2,000 yards and rushed over 1,000 during his senior season. He is a terrific athlete and has seen snaps in college.

There is a lot of depth in the secondary, and it is hard to see Berman earn his way onto the field. On the other hand, Arnold Escano, another walk-on CB, played with the second team. It would be surprising if Escano doesn’t have at least a special teams role. Berman could be next.

J.R. Tolver

Prior to the event, Aztec Link, SDSU’s NIL Collective, hosted an event for its partners. Anyone who has a monthly subscription to the WeBelive Network or Aztec Link was treated to a catered event in the Dos Equis club. The terrific event was the latest in a series of opportunities Aztec football’s biggest supporters have had to connect with the team.

Two Thursdays ago, Aztec Link was invited to watch an entire practice. Friday, Aztec Link sponsored the annual golf event. The event sold out.

J.R. Tolver’s title, “head volunteer,” shows the Aztecs’ NIL collective is as unique and blue-collar as the team that plays on the field. Tolver, Director of Operations Mike Coleman, Director of Events Bill Hammet, and the rest of their team had a great weekend. While most were bemoaning the place NIL has given to SDSU in the college football landscape, Tolver and company went to work.

“If we don’t do it as a collective and make that a priority first, how are you going to bring in families and their kids?” Eishen, an Aztec Link partner, asked. “We’re not Florida State or one of those ‘big time’ (schools). The way it’s going to work for (NIL at SDSU) to be successful, it has to be a collective. I think that will spur a lot of larger sponsorship.”

Louis Brown races to the end zone for a score. (Credit: Don De Mars/EVT)

Quick Takes: Five more Aztecs who played well on Saturday

Marlem Louis

Louis had a very nice day. He didn’t make the stat sheet primarily because the QBs dressed in green uniforms. Louis impacted the game. It appears the scouting department did their job because Louis is a player.

Tayvion Beasley

The Colorado transfer corner played with the second team at the “stud” position. His inclusion there gave the defense a quickness it did not have when Deshawn Mccuin competed there. Postgame, Lewis continued to rave about Mccuin, so expect the TCU transfer to start and maybe even be a team captain. But Beasley’s play showed what a true nickel can look like in SDSU’s defense. He looked promising.

Jude Wolfe

Wolfe had one reception during the live portion, a 36-yard touchdown. Prior to that, he showed the ability to catch in traffic. For all of former TE Mark Redman’s virtues, he had not mastered the art of making tough receptions. Wolfe flashed that potential.

Trey White (Credit: Don De Mars/EVT)

Trey White

Trey White paced the team with a pair of tackles for loss. His play suggests that SDSU has three EDGE players ready to compete this year. White, Louis, and Dominic Oliver should see a lot of snaps at that position. If the Aztecs can find a fourth, their 4-2-5 defense might have terrific potency.

Louis Brown

Colorado State transfer WR Louis Brown led SDSU’s skill position players with 79 yards. He was also tied for the team lead with five receptions. Working as a deep threat is one of Brown’s primary roles. That he found space underneath is a great sign for SDSU. The more variety he shows on routes, the more dangerous he will be in all areas.

Myles Murao and Ross Ulugalu-Masseuli

Injuries depleted SDSU’s offensive line. The first two teams essentially played the entire scrimmage. Dean Abdullah showed his value. He is ready for Aztec Fast after competing at guard with the first team and center with the second.

Despite Abdullah’s efforts, the interior of the line left a lot to be desired. Any thought that Myles Murao and Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli would have trouble reclaiming their starting roles was dissuaded Saturday.

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