San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke announced Sunday that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Hecklinski was relieved of his duties effective immediately.
“This was a difficult decision to make as I know (Hecklinski) cared deeply about this program and was instrumental to us being a 12-win team last year,” said Hoke in the statement released by the school. “We will continue to work to improve in all facets of the game.”
Hecklinski’s 27-game tenure (two and a half years) as offensive coordinator was marred by offensive inconsistency and a failure to develop any semblance of a passing offense (absent a few games.)
After a COVID-shortened season in year one and a 12-win season in year two, 2022 was supposed to be the year the offense came together to find the balance it desired, score 30+ points per game and take the pressure off SDSU’s defense and special teams that carried it to victories over the past two years.
Not only did the success never materialize, but the offense also regressed mightily. Through five games, the Aztecs rank dead last out of 131 FBS teams in passing offense (65.6 yards per game) and 127th in total offense (258.2 yards per game).
The fanbase’s ire towards Hecklinski and cries for his firing grew exponentially after the 35-7 loss at 14th-ranked Utah, where the offense only generated 173 yards and committed five false starts and eight penalties overall. Hecklinski’s decision to bench redshirt freshman and fan favorite Will Haskell after three plays in favor of true freshman Kyle Crum also became a hot topic on social media.
Three days later, Hecklinski spoke to the media following practice and admitted seeing the commentary on social media but understood he was in a performance-based profession.
“I’m the offensive coordinator,” he said. “The biggest part of my job is to bear the entire responsibility for the performance on the field. That is me and nobody else. It is my job to get it fixed with our staff and our players working together, and we will do that.
Two games later, Hecklinski is gone.
After another inept performance through 57 minutes against Toledo that seemed destined for a loss, the Aztecs’ offense sprung to life on the final drive of the game to salvage a home victory despite only 65 passing yards and likely Hecklinski’s job another week.
In the most recent game against Boise State, the Aztecs mustered only 33 passing yards (all in the first half) and 114 total yards for the game, which saw a 13-0 halftime lead evaporate to a 35-13 loss.
The success of any offense is tied to the synergy between the play caller and the quarterback. During his run as offensive coordinator, the Aztecs started four different quarterbacks, three of which are no longer in the program despite remaining collegiate eligibility.
Carson Baker transferred out after the 2020 season. Jordon Brookshire was not welcomed back after the 2021 season. Lucas Johnson wavered on his decision to continue playing football long enough for the Aztecs to have to find his replacement before missing out on suitable options in the transfer portal. Add in the disappointing performance of transfer Braxton Burmeister so far this season and the transfer decision by Will Haskell after the Utah game, and it is apparent that Hecklinski’s lack of quarterback development was his ultimate undoing.
After injuries to Burmeister and Kyle Crum knocked both out of the game against Boise State, true freshman Liu Aumavae had to be inserted for his first collegiate snaps. Under Hecklinski, third-string quarterbacks do not receive reps in practice when the gameplan is installed, putting Aumavae in a very difficult position to run the offense in a very hostile environment.
Current associate head coach Jeff Horton, who is in charge of the running backs, takes over as offensive coordinator. Horton previously held the role as offensive coordinator at SDSU for five years (2015-2019) under former head coach Rocky Long.
Horton’s extensive coaching experience at the college level dates back to 1984 and includes head coaching stops at Nevada (1993), UNLV (1994-1998), and Minnesota (2010).
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In his 12th year at SDSU, Horton will look to galvanize an offense that is reeling with how the start of the season has gone, which includes the departure of backup Will Haskell to the transfer portal and multiple injuries to its quarterbacks.
An immediate replacement for Hecklinski’s role as quarterbacks coach was not announced in the press release nor posted on the coaching staff roster on GoAztecs.com.
Avid sports fan and historian of basketball, baseball, football and soccer. UC San Diego and San Diego State alumni living in America’s Finest City. Diverse team following across multiple sports leagues, but Aztecs come first in college athletics.