SDSU Football Spring Game: Team Aztec vs. Team Warrior

Credit: SDSU Athletics

SDSU

On Friday, the Aztecs resume an annual tradition by holding a spring game to cap off fall camp.

Last season’s game, of course, was canceled.

This year, Team Aztec will take on Team Warrior in what will be the only game-like simulation the team will play in before the first game against New Mexico State. While it is impossible to fully replicate game day, the coaching staff is planning for the scrimmage to be as close to the real deal as possible.

Special teams will be live, referees will umpire the action, the coaching staff has been split with coach Jeff Hecklinski and coach Kurt Mattix serving as head coaches, and there is even a prize for the winning team.

On Monday, the team will have a banquet. The winners of Friday’s contest will earn a steak dinner with all the trimmings served on fine china. The losers will also be admitted to the feast, except they will be served hot dogs on paper plates with plastic spoons. With bragging rights and dinner on the line, the capstone contest of Spring Camp should be spirited. Head coach Brady Hoke will serve as the general manager of the event.

On Tuesday, the senior class held a draft to make up the two teams.

Below is a position by position comparison of the teams and a player to watch in the scrimmage from each position group.

Quarterbacks

Advantage: Team Warrior While Johnson might be the favorite to be QB1 in the fall, the separation between him and Brookshire and Mayden has not be so pronounced that the coaches have named him the starter. Expect all the QB’s to get some time on Friday, which means Team Warrior will have more overall snaps with one of the three top signal-caller.

Player to Watch: Jalen Mayden This will be Mayden’s first game-like action at SDSU. All eyes will be on the newest addition to the stable of SDSU signal-callers.

Running Backs

Advantage: Team Aztec Normally, a unit with Greg Bell would have a clear advantage, but it is doubtful he gets many carries on Friday. The two backs with the most buzz in camp, Kaegun Williams and Jaylon Armstead, play for Team Aztec.

Player to  Watch: Jaylon Armstead Nearly every press conference has included a reference to the young running back. The Spring Game will be an opportunity for Armstead to cement his incredible camp and allow Aztec Nation to buy into the hype.

Wide Receivers

Advantage: Team Warrior Age and experience are clearly on Team Warrior’s side. On paper, the difference between the two groups is significant.

Player to Watch: Tyrel Shavers Like Jalen Mayden, this will be the first opportunity to catch Shavers in an Aztec uniform during game situations. His size has been noticeable during camp, and the coaching staff is hoping he can bring it all together in the Spring Game to catapult him into a productive summer.

Tight Ends

Advantage: Team Aztec As large of an advantage as Team Warrior has at WR, Team Aztec has an even greater one at tight end. Dan Bellinger and Jay Rudolph have been the stars of the position all camp.

Player to Watch: Aaron Greene The coaches have raved about the tight ends reinvention of his body and his blocking skills. How he performs in a game setting is the next step in his development.

Offensive Line

Advantage: Team Warrior Three presumptive starters, including the top two linemen on the team, play for Team Warrior. They have a clear advantage.

Player to Watch: Brandon-Crenshaw Dixon BCD looks to be the starter at right tackle. How he holds up in a game will determine if the progress he has been making since the beginning of last season is real.

Defensive Line

Advantage: Team Aztec While the defensive line might be the most talented group on the team, all three starters play for Team Aztec, which is a huge advantage.

Player to Watch: Jonah Tavai Any time he steps on the field, he is a must-watch player. He attacks the offense with power and tenacity on every play.

Linebackers

Advantage: Team Warrior Caden McDonald is the game-changer up front Team Warrior needs to match the dominance Team Aztec has along the defensive front. Fortunately, McDonald’s history proves he will be up to the challenge.

Player to Watch: Michael Shawcroft Last season, he looked on his way to making a huge leap this season. While it has been a quiet spring for him, a breakout performance Friday could be a sign of Shawcroft’s emergence into the upper echelon on Mountain West linebackers.

Cornerbacks

Advantage: Team Aztec This is a very evenly split group, but the experience of Tayler Hawkins in game situations gives Team Aztec the nod.

Player to Watch: Noah Tumblin The local product is in the mix for time at corner. Seeing how the former prep quarterback has advanced is something to look for Friday.

 Safeties

Advantage: Team Aztec The 3-3-5 thrives with an elite Aztec safety. Pat McMorris appears to be that person for SDSU and Team Aztec. Who fills that role for Team Warrior?

Player to Watch: Cedarious Barfield Listed as a corner on the spring roster, Barfield has been playing Warrior safety in spring. His experience at corner could make him a perfect player to man slot wide receivers from the Warrior position.

Specialists

Advantage: Team Aztec Matt Araiza is the most experienced field goal kicker and punter in camp. He is on Team Aztec. They have the advantage.

Players to Watch: Jack Browning Coach Hoke described SDSU’s new punter as having “moxie.” Browning is competing with Araiza for the punting duties and has a big leg.

Jacob Raab Along with coach Hoke, Raab plays for both teams. Will Raab’s menu options on Monday include steak and hot dogs, or will he be served a steak on a paper plate with a plastic spoon? The options are as limitless as the cook’s imagination.

Prediction:

The draft was well done. The teams are very evenly split, but Team Aztec has a six to four advantage among position groups, and that will be enough to lead them to victory. Team Aztec has a clear edge on the defensive side of the ball and a slight lead among running backs. Football, especially at San Diego State, is won by team that plays the best defense and is able to run the ball.

Team Aztec 23 – Team Warrior 17

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Paul Garrison
My earliest sport's memory involve tailgating at the Murph, running down the circular exit ramps, and seeing the Padres, Chargers and Aztecs play. As a second generation Aztec, I am passionate about all things SDSU. Other interests include raising my four children, being a great husband and teaching high school.

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