On Sunday, SDSU began preparation for the 2021 season – the same way every team across the nation will start their fall camp – in shorts and no shoulder pads. The NCAA mandates a seven-day acclimation period with the first two practices in helmets only.
The players on Sunday exhibited the expected excitement for the start of competition. With the 2021 season around the corner, these practices offer the players a chance to earn time on the field. The coaches were equally as exuberant as the players. Overall, the team’s energy was palpable.
The passion and competitiveness of the day played perfectly into the goals SDSU head coach Brady Hoke has for his team this fall. Whenever the Aztecs set foot on the practice field, the coaching staff demands a brisk pace that maximizes repetitions while producing an intense environment.
Throughout the two hours of practice Sunday, the only breaks were for hydration. Otherwise, the team moved from one drill to another with a loud horn blaring to announce the end of one drill and the beginning of another. Praise, admonition, and coaching were offered to players as they worked or as they waited for their teammates to finish their turn at the drills. Of all the observations of Day 1 of camp, the tempo and speed in which everyone moved, like a well-choreographed production, was most evident.
“Number one, we want to have a high tempo in everything we do from drill to drill when that horn goes,” coach Hoke said following Monday’s practice. “We want to keep the pressure. We want stress for everyone, coaches, and players because we want to make practice harder than a game. …”
“Part of being a San Diego State Aztec is toughness. Right? That’s been part of this program. I’m really excited how these guys participated in the summer and what they have done so far.”
The Tight End Group is Deep
#94 Aaron Greene is slimmed down to 255 pounds and made a couple of really nice receptions in the team period, including a catch with two defenders draped on him that he snagged above his head with only his hands. Greene was not the only tight end producing. #89 Kyler Albanez had some nice receptions, which is a great sign for the former juco tight end. #82 Jay Rudolph and #88 Daniel Bellinger were a physical presence even in shorts. It is a group deep in talent but shallow in experience.
“There’s a lot of learning going on,” Hoke said about the tight end group. “They have a tremendous coach. Savai’i Eselu is a guy who played at Cal, was a tight end, understands the position, (and) does a great job in the meeting room. … I go in and out of meetings and how he teaches, I’m really, really excited about that.”
Welcome Back, Rashad Scott
The highlight of the day – no matter what he did on the field – was seeing #20 Rashad Scott running around the field. Any fan of the program and San Diego sports knows the adversity Scott has continually overcome. His importance to the team in leading a young group of safeties trying to replace two players now in the NFL cannot be underestimated.
On Sunday, however, Scott showed he could offer more than leadership off the field. He is ready to produce on it. In 7 on 7, he had an interception. Picking off a pass thrown by Jordan Brookshire.
“Rashad, I was so happy to see him out there, participating like he did,” Hoke said. “I was a little nervous, to be honest with you. And I asked Patrick, our trainer, ‘Is he ok to do this drill.’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah,’ and I said, ‘Ok.’ If anyone was going to baby him, it was me, but he feels great and looks great.”
Coach Hoke confirmed Monday night that former scholarship players DE Conner Mitchell, S Brody Hughes, and DL Daniel To’oto’o are no longer with the team. Only Mitchell’s absence is likely to impact the team in 2021. Mitchell had a series of injuries last season and decided to pursue other opportunities.
For those, keep track of the new numbers on the team. There was some movement in the offseason.
Player 2021 Number 2020 Number
WR BJ Busbee 5 41
LB Andrew Aleki 6 38
CB Isaiah McElvane 23 34
RB Jaylon Armstead 38 31
DE Sefo Mailangi 55 84
OL Dominic Gudino 69 56
WR Mekhi Shaw 83 26
WR Darius De Los Reyes 84 48
DL Daniel Okpoko 90 63
The university released an updated roster and a chance to see the results of summer conditioning with it. While most players did not register any weight differences, others did. Safety Kyron White competing for the starting safety position added 20 pounds since last season, and is listed at 195. Center Tommy Mirabella added 15 pounds and is up to 305. Jonah Tavai is now a slender 295 down from 305 a year ago. As mentioned above, Aaron Greene’s body remake is evident. He is listed 20 pounds lighter this year.
- WR Tyrell Shavers is a huge target.
- The QB’s were hit and miss all day. No one stood out. They rotated evenly.
- Most of the obvious mistakes were committed by younger players.
- #15 Jordan Byrd again showcased his tantalizing skills. He took a screen for a touchdown in team drills. He hid behind the linemen and exploded untouched from the fray of defenders.
- #22 Greg Bell showed what makes him great. Completely free in the backfield, defensive end Kahi Neves approached Bell needing only to touch him to make the stop. Bell put Neves on roller skates.
- Play of the Day: #26 RB Kaegun Williams reeled in a 40 plus yard pass in 7 on 7. He laid out and brought the pass, causing an eruption from the sideline.
- The defense’s speed was evident, and their recovery on passes was at a high level. Passes had to be near perfect to be completed.
- The two loudest voices on the field belong to Kurt Mattix and Jeff Hecklinski.
- Throughout the practice, players were praised each time they prevented their teammates from falling to the ground. On a jump, ball defenders would leap to contest the pass, and as they fell, would help their teammates keep their balance.
The team is still in the middle of the NCAA mandated seven-day acclimation period. The rules state:
- Only helmets can be worn for the first two days of activity.
- Over the next three days, the team can add shoulder pads to their ensemble.
- On the sixth day of activity, they can begin being in full pads. The team is only able to tackle to the ground when the players are in full pads.
- During the seven-day acclimation period, the players must be given a day off.
SDSU has gone through the first two practices. It will add shoulder pads in the middle of the week before putting on the full gear and participating in some situational scrimmage-type practices with full contact towards the end of the week.
Correction: An earlier version of the article listed LB Clifton Styles as a scholarship player. He was a walk-on.