Throwing for more than 4,000 yards in each of his two seasons as a starter, Fales leaves a void on offense that junior Joe Gray is the frontrunner to fill.
An impressive physical quarterback capable of making plays with his legs as well as his arm, the 6-2, 202 Gray has some weapons to use if he wins the job. The biggest is receiver Tyler Winston. Coming off a season when he averaged more than 100 yards receiving per game, the 6-2, 185 Winston is joined by senior Jabari Carr. Bothered by a shoulder injury last season, Carr has 85 catches the last two seasons.
Running back Jarrod Lawson (5-8, 190) returns for the Spartans after piling up 788 yards and four touchdowns last season on 164 carries. Making it a one-two punch is Thomas Tucker. Playing in just eight games a year ago, Tucker still managed to run for 338 yards and three touchdowns on just 66 carries. The offensive line is anchored by Rimington Award watch list member David Peterson at center for a group that returns just another starter in tackle Wes Schweitzer (6-5, 275).
On defense the Spartans are hoping for a turnaround under former Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson after dropping from 24th in total defense in 2012 to 103rd in the country last season. They are led by talented sophomore linebacker Christian Tago. The top returning tackler from last year's team, the 6-1, 226 Tago was credited with 90 tackles in 11 games in 2013. He also tied for the team lead with four sacks and tied for the team-high with 10 1/2 tackles for losses. Three times he finished with at least 10 tackles, including a season-high 13 in a win over Colorado State.
Tago was one of the few bright spots for a San Jose State defense that allowed 35.1 points per game, 214.6 rushing yards per game, and 29 touchdowns on the ground. That is not a good sign when faced with the challenge of slowing down what should be another potent Auburn running game in week two.
The Spartans are counting on returning defensive tackle starters Travis Raciti (6-5, 290) and Nate Falo (6-1, 286) to get the job done in the middle with defensive end Sean Bacon (6-3, 244) called on to put pressure on the passer when needed. In the secondary Jimmy Pruitt (6-0, 194) is making the move to cornerback after starting at safety a year ago.
In the kicking game San Jose State returns one of the best in the country in Austin Lopez. For his career he is 39-44 on field goal attempts, including 25 in a row to start his career. With Auburn's inexperienced kickers the threat in the return game is real from speedy Tyler Ervin (5-10, 176). He has three career kick returns for touchdowns.