Today, San Diego State football held its weekly press conference. Head Coach Rocky Long, quarterback Quinn Kaehler, cornerback J.J. Whittaker and wide receiver Ezell Ruffin all took questions. Here are some highlights.
On Northern Arizona
- Coach Long is impressed--and worried--by NAU's offense, which returns junior quarterback Kyren Poe. Long is worried about how SDSU's inexperienced safeties will play on Saturday and is most definitely not underestimating the talent of NAU. "They are plenty good enough to beat us if we don't play well," Long said.
- Kaehler said that the first aspect of NAU he and his teammates noticed was the Lumberjack's 2013 defense. "The first thing we noticed is the eight defensive touchdowns last year ... they're a solid defense," Kaehler said.
- Although SDSU's kickers have performed well in practice, Long is still nervous about how they'll perform in real-game situations (after last year, can you blame the guy for being hesitant to feel confident in his kickers?).
- Junior Seamus McMorrow will handle kickoffs and senior punter Joel Alesi will punt for the Aztecs. Long says that his place kicker will either be junior transfer Donny Hageman or freshman John Baron II. He will know who will be the starting place kicker on Thursday.
The linebacking corps
- Senior linebackers Derek Largent and Josh Gavert have been medically cleared to play against Northern Arizona, although Long said that they definitely don't look 100 percent yet.
- Sophomore linebacker Micah Seau will start this Saturday, giving San Diego sports fans another opportunity to watch a Seau grace Qualcomm Stadium. Long has been impressed with Seau's development and is hopeful that he'll perform at a high level during games. "I think he's matured as a player, I think he understands the scheme better," Long said. "Hopefully he'll show he's a great linebacker on Saturday."
Defense as a whole
- Junior transfer defensive line recruit Christian Heyward won't play in at least the first two games.
- Whittaker acknowledged that the SDSU defense is young and has had some setbacks this offseason, but it still has to and will perform at a high level. "We're coming along, we're learning as we go," he said. "We have a lot of new guys ... we don't have a choice, we have to perform and we are expected to perform at a certain level."
- Junior safety Stan Sedberry won't play all season after sustaining a concussion early in fall camp. He's maintaining his concussion-like systems and Long supports his not playing this season. Sedberry entered camp as a projected starter in the safety corps.
- With inexperienced safeties and injury-plagued linebackers, SDSU's defense will be led by the defensive line and the cornerbacks. "Our corners and our defensive line are the strengths of the defense," Long said.
- "All those guys do something better than the other guy does," Long said of his four top running backs (sophomore Donnel Pumphrey, redshirt-freshman Marcus Stamps, junior Chase Price and senior Lucky Radley). Long also said that all four will play this Saturday, but not all four will necessarily carry the ball.
Other notes on offense
- The offensive line looks to be much better than last year. "They've done a tremendous job in camp," Kaehler said of the O-line. "They're protected much better than last year. Their technique is really good, so I expect them to surprise a lot of people this year."
- Ruffin seems excited to get back in game-time situations with Kaehler. "I would say his knowledge of the offense has improved tremendously," he said. "It's exciting to have him feeling this way, you can tell that he's progressed since last season."
- And what has Ruffin improved upon from last year? "My understanding with reading defenses and running my routes," Ruffin said.
On avoiding slow start
- Ruffin said that this team's senior leadership will go a long way to prevent a slow start like last season. "There were times last year where the team kind of fell apart in camp, wasn't focused," he said. "This year with the senior leadership that we have, we did a good job holding the team together, keeping the spirits high, keeping everybody excited, everybody ready to go ... Where we are now compared to where we were last year, I think we're way ahead."
- Long said that the offense will click much faster this year. "I believe we're going to be a much better offense because I think we're going to be good from the start of the season," Long said.
Long discusses anti-defense trend in the NFL
- As a defensive-minded coach, Long is definitely not a fan of how modern NFL games are called. "I have been watching the NFL on TV, and if that's the way they're going to call the game, we might as well play 7-on-7," he said. "(Refs) want you to let (the wide receiver) catch it, and then tackle him--and don't tackle him too hard either ... I think it's boring football, if you ask me."