SDSU football concludes a successful Showcase Weekend

Aztec players sign autographs for fans after the AztecFast Showcase (Don De Mars/EVT)

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Aztecs4Life Cameron and Zach Thomas take in the AztecFast Showcase as honorary captains (Don De Mars/EVT)

When Sean Lewis was announced as head coach of SDSU football in early December, one of the points of emphasis was galvanizing the alumni and fan base with an exciting brand of football that would not only help ticket sales but NIL donations. 

Five months later, this weekend was the first major test whether Aztec Nation would follow suit. 

In past years, the Aztecs have held a golf tournament named in honor of Don Coryell in the summertime and invited past football alumni to partake in the event. 

With the emergence of Aztec Link, Lewis re-routed the summer event to the day before the annual Spring Game, which culminated the 15-practice spring camp, to create a full Aztec Weekend. 

Participants in AztecLink Golf Tournament. From led to right: Jemond Hazely, Trey Lomax, Randy WIlliams, Donny Hageman, and Sean Lewis. (Credit: SDSU Athletics)

Aztec Link Golf Tournament

On Friday, the coaching staff, players, football alumni, non-football alumni, and fans gathered at Twin Oaks Golf Course in San Marcos, CA, for the tournament. All proceeds headed to Aztec Link and, eventually, SDSU student-athletes. 

All 144 spots were sold out by the time the event began at 1 pm, with each ticket costing $325 for a single golfer (or $1,200 for a foursome). Admission included a round at Twin Oaks, a boxed lunch from Jersey Mikes, dinner catered by the course’s restaurant, and a goodie bag of SDSU swag. 

Several members of the Aztecs’ coaching staff participated in the tournament to show off their golfing skills. Sponsorships were available to members and businesses in the community, ranging from $600 to sponsor a hole to $12,000 for the title sponsor. Some holes provided complimentary food and adult beverages for the golfers, while others handed out more swag. 

A bevy of Aztec players greeted golfers at the first hole to thank them for their support and contributions. Coach Lewis and others greeted golfers at the tenth hole. 

The two most interesting holes, however, involved members of the SDSU Golf team. 

On Hole 2, a $50 donation to Aztec Link would allow Jackson Moss and Tyler Kowack, two members of the men’s golf team, to “pinch-drive” for the donating foursome on the challenging 475-yd par 5. 

Once at Hole 17, a $25 donation to Aztec Link would allow Nikki Kato from the women’s team to play the 166-yd par 3 hole for the donating foursome. 

During both occasions, this writer’s foursome made the donation and greatly benefited score-wise from the added talent and expertise.

The event concluded with speeches from Mindy Coryell Lewis (Don Coryell’s daughter), former Aztec WR JR Tolver, and Lewis. Tolver and Lewis. Each spoke about the importance of embracing NIL and the participation and support required from the alumni to help the school keep up with the competition. 

At 8 pm, a silent auction of 27 items donated by various sports teams and Aztec alumni ended. Winning bids for all items totaled $26,410, which will help Aztec Link provide NIL opportunities for SDSU student-athletes. 

QB Javance Johnson prepares to take a snap during the AztecFast Showcase (Don De Mars/EVT)

Aztec Fast Showcase

On Saturday, the Aztec Fast Showcase at Snapdragon Stadium was held to provide fans a glimpse of what the new team will look like come fall season. 

While the format of the showcase was tailored more as a practice and less as a timed and scored game, plenty of opportunities were available to see the new offensive and defensive systems in use. 

Lewis noted on Tuesday that nearly 5,500 tickets had been allocated for requests for the Showcase. The school did not officially announce attendance figures, although the crowd appeared to be less than half of that initial figure. 

While the quarterback competition will receive the most interest coming out of spring camp, several other key positions stood out as the staff works to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, and needs to address in the currently open transfer window. 

The trenches figure to be the most sought-after positions. 

With starting interior linemen Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli and Myles Murao unable to participate during spring camp due to recovery from off-season surgeries, the staff did not have an opportunity to fully evaluate how the line would play as a starting 5-man unit. 

“Ya, absolutely,” responded Lewis when asked if it has been difficult to assess the line without the two players. “From the tape, I have seen from the past, they are really good players, so I am eager to get them healthy and have a real true assessment of where we are upfront at the line of scrimmage.”

Ululaglu-Maseuli started at center last year after starting at right guard the season before. Murao started at right guard and tackle last year. 

Wyatt Draeger before the Aztec Fast Showcase. (Cedric Jones/EVT)

North Dakota transfer Brayden Bryant manned the center position on the first team throughout spring and performed really well, drawing praise from Lewis when asked which player had embodied the Aztec Fast concept the best so far.   

“Up front, he’s done a great job really communicating and living up to our standards,” Lewis noted. “We can only go as fast as those big boys up front, so he has embraced that and taken the challenge to get the communication out and to set the table to go.” 

Fellow transfer Nate Williams (Akron) held down right tackle during the spring. Adding Ulugalu-Maseuli and Murao to the lineup, assuming they are fully recovered by fall, would potentially allow them to play the two guard positions alongside Bryant and Williams. 

Christian Jones started at left tackle during the showcase. Jones started the first six games at the position last year before the staff replaced him with Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson for the remainder of the season to start Drew Azzopardi at right tackle. Depending on Jones’ development and progression during the offseason, the staff will likely look for competition for the vital LT position in the portal. 

On the other side of the ball, the nose tackle position in Eric Schmidt’s defense will continue to be a priority. On Saturday, super senior Wyatt Draeger started at the position. In prior scrimmages, Brandon McElroy, the biggest defensive player on the roster, ran with the first team. 

Ideally, the nose tackle position is a big, 300 lb+ player who can clog up blocking lanes and take on double teams. In the past two years, the Aztecs staff had difficulty finding impact defensive linemen from the FBS level and had to find them from the JUCO ranks. Whether the new staff can improve those results will be evident over the next several weeks. 

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New Voice of Aztec Football

The SDSU football weekend news cycle began a day early when the school announced on Thursday that Jon Schaeffer, co-host of Jon and Jim on San Diego Sports 760 AM, will replace longtime Aztec radio play-by-play announcer Ted Leitner starting with the upcoming fall season. 

DB Isaiah Buxton and WR Jordan Napier battle for a pass attempt during the AztecFast Showcase (Don De Mars/EVT)

Leitner will remain the radio play-by-play man for the Aztecs’ basketball team for one more season before retirement.

Former NFL player Rich Ohrnberger will continue his role as color analyst.

Schaeffer previously handled Aztec football and basketball play-by-play for games covered on the Mountain West Network and pinch-hit for Leitner on radio play-by-play for Aztec basketball when conflicts arose between the two team’s schedules.  

Previous to SDSU, Schaeffer did play-by-play work for various networks and leagues, including minor league baseball and college basketball. 

Schaeffer’s first game as the voice of the Aztecs will be on August 31st against Texas A&M-Commerce at Snapdragon Stadium. 

Quick Notes

  • Early enrollee CB Isaiah Buxton led all defenders with two pass breakups, while fellow early enrollee CB Tayten Beyer added one
  • EDGE Trey White led the team with two tackles for loss 
  • Redshirt freshman WR Jordan Napier was very involved in the offense, catching five passes for 46 yards and a TD; Napier came to SDSU last summer as a CB but was moved to WR as the depth of the position dwindled due to ineligibilities and injuries as the fall season began. His performance during the spring cements his future at WR instead of reverting back to CB
  • P Tyler Pastula held on several field goal attempts but did not attempt any punts on Saturday, more evidence that the staff is very comfortable with him as the punter to replace Jack Browning
  • Walk-on FB Leo Kemp, who had been working out at TE during the spring with the elimination of the FB position in Lewis’ offense, entered the transfer portal last week and committed to UCLA on Saturday
  • The spring transfer portal window officially closes on April 30 to non-graduates; with spring camp complete, it is expected that several Aztecs will look to enter the portal to find a new home for the fall season

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