The Sports Xchange

NCAAF Team Report - San Jose State - INSIDE SLANT

The first priority in fall camp was finding a replacement for quarterback David Fales, but San Jose State has a number of other issues to address before opening the season at home against North Dakota on Aug. 28.

Fales is in camp with the Chicago Bears, leaving junior Joe Gray and senior Blake Jurich to compete for the starting job. There was no clear winner in the quarterback competition with two weeks remaining before the season opener, but coach Ron Caragher was expected to name a starter in the days after the team's final scrimmage on Aug. 16. In that scrimmage, Jurich completed 11 of 19 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown. Gray completed 11 of 18 for 124 yards and one touchdown.

"Whomever the starter will be, the other is one play away from going in the game. That's how I look at it," Caragher said following the scrimmage. "The other guy always has to be in the game plan because you don't know when his number will be called."

The offensive line is another point of emphasis for the Spartans. Wes Schweitzer is back at left back and David Peterson returns at center, but San Jose State might start sophomore Evan Sarver at right tackle, freshman Jeremiah Kolone at left guard and freshman A.J. Samataua at right guard, although senior Keith Bendixen appears to be in the lead at that position.

"It's a new line, so we all had to learn each other, but this fall we're going to hit the ground running," Peterson told the San Jose Mercury News.

San Jose State went 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference in 2013, finishing fourth in the West Division in their first season under Caragher. The Spartans averaged 32.4 points per game and finished seventh in the nation with 355.9 passing yards per game. They scored 34 points or more on six occasions, including a wild 62-52 victory over No. 13 Fresno State in the season finale.

The Spartans weren't nearly as good on defense last season. They allowed 35.1 points per game, largely due to their inability to stop opponents on third- and fourth-down plays. This year could be different. For one thing, the Spartans are switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 alignment under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. The team also has more experience and better depth in the secondary.

"From last year, we've come a long way," junior cornerback Jimmy Pruitt said. "We had a lot of young dudes playing on defense last year. This year, we're coming together and working harder. We're playing better together as a group."


NCAAF Team Report - San Jose State - NOTES, QUOTES

SPOTLIGHT ON SEPTEMBER: After opening the season at home against North Dakota on Aug. 28, the Spartans will face one of the stiffest challenges in program history when they visit No. 6 Auburn on Sept. 6. The Tigers, who lost to Florida State in the BCS championship game last season, led the nation in rushing in 2013. San Jose State will then visit Minnesota on Sept. 20 before opening Mountain West Conference play against Nevada on Sept. 27.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: San Jose State could be good offensively if junior Joe Gray or senior Blake Jurich can prove to be a suitable replacement for David Fales. Sophomores Jarrod Lawson and Thomas Tucker are emerging talents at running back, and sophomore Tyler Winston is one of the top young receivers in the Mountain West Conference. The Spartans' success may hinge on quarterback play and the development of an inexperienced offensive line with three new starters.

AREAS OF CONCERN: The Spartans have obvious concerns on both sides of the ball. The offensive line returns only two starters with a combined total of 23 career starts. Coaches must bring the new starters up to speed quickly to provide pass protection and run blocking. On defense, the Spartans have to be much better than they were in 2013, when they allowed 35.1 points per game. If they don't demonstrate significant improvement, there will be even more pressure on a new quarterback and three young first-year starters on the offensive line.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We put a lot of work in over the summer. We're stronger than we ever have been. We really worked hard over the summer to build a unit, especially with three people being replaced." -- Junior OT Wes Schweitzer, to the San Jose Mercury News, on the development of the offensive line.



HEAD COACH: Ron Caragher, second year at San Jose State, 6-6 record at San Jose State, 50-28 record as a head coach