San Diego State football started fall camp on Friday. The East Village Times was on hand for the festivities. Compared to the beginning of spring camp in March and fall camp a season ago, the players were more workmanlike in their approach. There was less trash talking between the offense and defense. The players gave great effort and competed extremely hard, but the emotion was more subdued.
The team practiced like a veteran group. There were few obvious mistakes. It was a very well-choreographed practice. SDSU’s coaches focused on fundamentals throughout. Most of the position coaches paid special attention to the true freshmen practicing for the first time as Aztecs.
“It’s great to be back out,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said after practice. “It’s fun to be here. Like I told the guys last night, ‘I love camp.’ Really it’s not like camp used to be. Camp used to be something. It’s easy now, to be honest with you. But, I love camp because I can spend time with them, 24 hours a day. We can be that close.”
SDSU’s Defense is loaded
Any practice without pads is not real football so drawing conclusions is foolish, but the talent on the defensive side of the ball is very evident. The third-string players at every position are fast, have good length, and play with bad intentions.
Jatavious Magee, a redshirt freshman safety, changed numbers from 11 to 20. Donning his new number, he was all over the field. He competed well in drills and looks to be a player.
Wyatt Draegar and Dylan Taylor held up well at defensive end. They look like they can contribute on the defensive line.
Adonis Brown is a senior leader. He directed the cornerbacks in drills helping CB coach Demetrius Sumler and graduate assistant Donnel Pumphrey get the unit set up. When he was in the game, he made plays, breaking up multiple passes.
Dominic Oliver looks to be a future star. His first step and burst might be the best on the defense.
Competition it seems does make everyone better. The challenge the coaching staff has over the next few weeks is to see where players like these can fit into the rotation in 2022.
The Aztecs’ offensive line needs to grow up
The starting five for Mike Goff’s line on Friday were Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson (RT), Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli (RG), Alama Uluave (C), Cade Bennett (LG), and Zavier Leonard (LT). The second unit was Josh Simmons (RT), Joey Wright (RG), Tommy Mirabella (C), Christian Jones (LG), and Jonathan Harrison (LT). This group will determine the ceiling for this team.
On Friday without pads, the offense had trouble establishing themselves. Following practice, Braxton Burmeister said it was a big install day so it is possible this was the reason the offense did not look sharp. A more likely culprit is the line had trouble stopping penetration. Defense is typically ahead of the offense early. That held true on Friday.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Hoke said he would have a better idea on Friday if his line had improved. After practice when asked if he had insight, he replied, “give me another Friday.”
This is Braxton Burmeister’s team
One of the hopes that the offense in 2022 can be improved is because Burmeister has the ability to make every throw. His accuracy and consistency in drills leaped out. Every other quarterback had one or more locations in drills that they had trouble completing except for SDSU’s starter. In team drills, the staff mostly used him to practice handoffs as they shuttled running backs in and out.
Following practice, Burmeister spoke to the media and said all the right things. He spoke about enjoying his time at Virginia Tech but was blessed to be in San Diego. He has embraced his role as the leader in the QB room, knowing the younger guys are looking up to him. Burmeister spoke about the history of great Aztec QBs and wanted to help make SDSU a “hotbed” for the position once again. Through it all, he made it clear: this is Braxton Burmeister’s team.
“Yes, definitely,” Burmeister responded when asked if there’s a change in mindset heading into fall camp compared to when he first arrived. “Just starting to be more vocal and stepping up as a vocal leader. I feel like now that I’ve proven that I’m here to play Aztec football, I can kind of start talking and being more vocal for sure.”
This and That
– The TEs and WRs warmed up together with WR coach Hunkie Cooper leading both groups in the drills usually reserved for his receivers.
– The RBs were the first targets the QBs threw to. They lined up wide and the QBs lofted deep shots to their backs. The work paid off, in team drills, Will Haskell found Martin Blake on a streak for a touchdown.
– Aside from Burmeister, Haskell received as many reps as the rest of the QBs on the roster combined. He had a mixed day. He threw another TD to Darius De Los Reyes and a deep shot to Brionne Penny, who made a great grab down the sidelines over two defenders. Haskell also took a pair of sacks in 7-on-7. No other QB did. There were a few throws where he was not even close to his receivers.
– Haskell and Burmeister are athletic. Each had a spectacular evasion of a free defender that received cheers from their offensive teammates.
– The running back rotation was Chance Bell, Jordan Byrd, Jaylon Armstead, Kenan Christon, Cam Davis, and then the rest of the room rotated.
– Bell looked every bit as fast and shifty at his new weight of 200 pounds as he has his entire career.
– During the offseason, offensive line coach Mike Goff praised Josh Simmons for having some of the best feet he has ever seen. At Wednesday’s press conference and again after practice Friday, coach Hoke echoed those sentiments. Watching Simmons in practice, it is easy to see why. He moves like a receiver. In one drill Goff had the linemen explode out of their stance, backpedal to the left before sprinting back towards the line. Impressive does not begin to describe Simmons’ performance in this drill.
– Keshawn Banks did not participate much on Friday. As a veteran, he knows what he needs to do to get ready.
-In Banks’ place, Daniel Okpoko ran with the first team instead of Garret Fountain. Okpoko is tall, athletic, and a presence for the team.
– Jonah Tavai played most frequently at nose tackle. His brother Justus played where Banks typically lines up.
– Patrick McMorris set the tone for the practice. The team practiced special teams to start the day. On one of the first reps, McMorris sprinted down the field like he was playing in the MW Championship game.
– Freshman kicker Jarrett Reeser chose #92.
– Mehki Shaw had the catch of the practice, somehow bringing in a pass between two defenders while being interfered with.
– The only interception during team play was made by Noah Avinger. He picked off Kyle Crum on a pass along the sideline.
– Caden McDonald scooped up a miffed fumble in the end zone. McDonald could be heard encouraging his teammates as the practice wore on.
– No one can cover Jesse Matthews. Following practice, Burmeister said he has never seen Matthews drop a ball since he’s been on campus. The senior QB praised his WR’s competitiveness and reminisced about throwing together as high school prep stars.
– Lots of players were cramping at practice. Coach Hoke said that the players need to take better care of themselves to avoid the issue.
– Jay Rudolph’s toughness is off the charts. He gives 100% on each snap until his body will not take it. Rudolph came off with a violent but common in football vomiting fit. It lasted around 10 minutes. Once it ended and he was cleared by the athletic training staff, Rudolph was back out on the field, playing harder and longer than anyone else.
– The coaches’ personalities are interesting. Defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix, for example, gave the specialists on the team an ear full when he came out on the field. He told long snapper, Tyson Chavez, that he belonged with the LBs where Chavez played in high school. He egged on David Delgado. Throughout practice Mattix’ booming voice can be heard all the time. Safeties coach Kyle Hoke, in contrast, says “please” frequently when shouting out commands to his players. His voice only rang out above everyone else once when Davaughn Celestine held a WR causing too much contact for the padless practice.
– True freshman WR Hassan Mahasin was not practicing.
– Mattix was supporting his players’ NIL deals on Friday. He coached practice in a Sons of Montezuma Cooper McDonald T-Shirt. McDonald, his brother, and a few others from the team have an NIL deal with the local company with the players receiving a portion of the proceeds of any t-shirt sales. Aztec fans wanting to support this NIL deal can click here.
– Noah Avinger, Noah Tumblin, Dezjhon Malone and Dallas Branch rotated as starters at cornerback.
– Hoke would not name any true freshman as a standout who could help the team play. He did mention running back and secondary as positions with lots of talent.
– DL Deven Lamp and Pa’a Ewaliko are no longer with the team.