SDSU Football Year In Review: Quarterbacks

SDSU Football Carson Baker

Credit: Daily Aztec

SDSU Football
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With no quarterback on the current depth chart to secure the starting role, SDSU Football could turn to dual-threat quarterback Jalen Madden in 2021.

TCU and Arkansas were scheduled to play in the Texas Bowl before the game was canceled due to positive Covid tests in the Horned Frogs’ program. Arkansas was chosen for the bowl despite having a 3-7 record, which is evidence enough of the crazy sports year 2020 was, and 2021 promises to be.  This past summer, it looked as if College Football would suffer the same fate as the 2019-2020 College Basketball as conferences across America canceled their seasons. Even after re-scheduling the year, well over 100 games were called off.

In this context, the 2020 SDSU Aztecs were an unqualified success. By now, the numbers are known: four thousand five hundred tests were taken, and only two positive results were returned. The new coaching staff clearly won the right to lead this team. They empowered the senior class to guide the rest of their peers to a strict lockdown. Apart from football-related activities, trips to the grocery store were the only time the players left their rooms.

With Spring Ball just around the corner, we plan to look back at 2020, position by position, and look ahead for the 2021 season. In analyzing the play on the field, however, the accomplishments off the field cannot be forgotten. For eight consecutive weeks from October 24 to December 12, the SDSU football team provided its fan base a welcomed reprieve from the chaos around it by sacrificing time with their families, friends, and fraternity festivities. Our season review begins with the most important position on the field.

Quarterbacks

The greatest indication of the futility of play from this position is the top “game” from the 2020 season was Lucas Johnson’s first-half performance against Nevada. That Carson Baker, Jordan Brookshire, and Johnson, himself, were unable to top a two-TD, 213-total-yard performance is likely the reason Mississippi State transfer Jalen Mayden found the Aztecs an appealing destination, and why Will Haskell Jr. spoke of starting as a true freshman shortly after signing his Letter of Intent.

“We’ll find out some time here,” Coach Hoke replied when asked about the possibility of the quarterbacks transferring out of the program. “I think they’re all competitive. You know, like anything else, everybody wants to play. It just so happens at that position, there’s only one that plays. So I think there may be some guys who possibly may decide to find another home, and we’re going to support them.”

To date, none of the above have put their names in the NCAA transfer portal, and while five on the roster is clearly not too many, the position is rapidly evolving.

Carson Baker

QB Rating      Completions/Attempts     Touchdowns      Interceptions     Passing Yards

110.32                              59/104                    4 (1 Rush)                       3                      617

Baker’s QB Rating ranked eighth in the Mountain West, one spot below UNLV’s Max Gilliam. Baker was not bad through the season’s first eleven quarters, but something changed for Baker in the fourth quarter of the San Jose State game. Baker was on his way to having a career day against the Spartans until two fourth-quarter turnovers cost the Aztecs the game.

Of the four losses, this one against SJSU hurt the worst. If SDSU had defeated SJSU and their second-string QB, the Aztecs would have been in the MW title game instead of their Cal State rival.

Jordan Brookshire

QB Rating      Completions/Attempts     Touchdowns       Interceptions     Passing Yards

106.81                          42/74                              2                                  2                         410

If not for a red-zone fumble by Kaegun Williams, Brookshire may very well have been the third quarterback in program history to lead its team to a win on the road against BYU. His game against the Cougars was easily the best of the three games in which he played. Brookshire began the season fourth on the depth chart and finished it on top. In the final two weeks, he beat out a healthy Lucas Johnson.

Lucas Johnson

QB Rating      Completions/Attempts     Touchdowns        Interceptions    Passing Yards

136.48                          14/24                      2 (1 Rush)                       0                     184

The troubling issue for Johnson is he got beat out for playing time twice. At the start of the year, Baker was chosen over him, and at the end, Brookshire was given the reigns to the team. Injuries played a part in both competitions, but, interestingly, he was unable to get on the field considering how dominant he was against Nevada.

Johnson’s start against the Wolf Pack was the best game of any quarterback this past season. It led the television announcers to wonder how Johnson was not the starter from game one. Johnson simply looked like the best athlete on the field.  As the highlight above shows, Johnson profiles as the type of run, pass threat who could thrive in Jeff Hecklinski’s offense.

Outlook for 2021

Mark Salazar will be graduating from the program, any or all of the three quarterbacks above could be transferring. Whoever is on the roster in 2021, the quarterback group’s development is the most important issue facing this team. Not only is the quarterback the most important position on the field, but the Western Division of the Mountain West – easily the best division this past year – is filled with talented signal-callers. The top four quarterbacks in yards per game play in the same division as the Aztecs.

Nevada’s Carson Strong was the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year as a redshirt sophomore. He will flirt with the NFL Draft but will likely return. San Jose State’s Nick Starkel was the MVP of the MW title game after throwing for 453 yards and three scores in a win over Boise State. He has announced his return next season.  Fresno State behind junior Jake Haener led the conference in passing yards with 336.8 yards a game. Finally, Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro was just a sophomore this past season. He threw for over 2,000 yards, ran for over 400 yards, accounted for 21 touchdowns, and his offensive-minded head coach has been with the program only a calendar year.

For the past two seasons, SDSU has led the conference with the most first-team All-Mountain West selections. Their 15 all-conference picks are the team’s most since 2001, yet they finished two games out in the conference championship race. The Aztecs are the most talented team in the league, but the rest of the conference can make up the difference because they have better quarterbacks.

2021 Newcomers

Jaylen Mayden

A transfer from Mississippi State, Mayden has experience running Offensive Coordinator Jeff Hecklinski’s style of offense. As a senior in high school and when current Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was the head coach at Mississippi State, Mayden worked in a run-pass option scheme. His eye-popping high school statistics, which comprised 8,086 yards and 98 touchdowns, the programs that offered him a scholarship out of high school, which included Georgia and Ohio State, and the three years of eligibility he has remaining make Mayden possibly the most anticipated incoming signal-caller since the Aztecs signed Jack Hawley in 1998.

Mayden hails from Sache, Texas, which is in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

“Coach (Jeff) Horton has a pretty good reputation recruiting that area,” Coach Hoke said when asked about the program’s success recruiting the area. “He has a lot of ties. When he was at Wisconsin, he recruited that area. He’s from the area. Right now, we have five guys on our team from Texas. All have (had significant playing time). Texas high school football is excellent, just like California high school football is excellent. Just like San Diego County. You know, we want to keep as many guys here as we can from this county, and I think we need a little help sometimes. But I do think familiarity with that area is part of it.”

Add Jalen Mayden to the list of current Texans who have made the trip West to paradise.

Will Haskell Jr

Giving Mayden a run for his money in the hype department, Haskell comes to the Aztecs after shunning numerous Power Five offers. Since making his verbal commitment in May, Haskell has endeared himself with Aztec Nation by promoting the program and jaw-dropping athleticism. His unorthodox training regimen put SDSU on the cover of ESPN.com.

Haskell has stated he intends to come in and compete for a starting role next season. If he can follow through on this lofty goal, he will be the first Aztec true freshman to start a game at quarterback since current Detroit Lions fullback Nick Bawden started as a true freshman in 2014.  During his high school career, he was responsible for 50 touchdowns and 6,095 yards from scrimmage.

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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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Total Views: 280 ,
(Visited 319 times, 1 visits today)
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.