WAC Preview: San Jose State

San Jose State is a team that has struggled for years now trying to compete with the upper echelon in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans have been unable to move into the league's top half. Can former Arizona coach Dick Tomey get the job done this year?

San Jose State was 3-8 last season with its only wins against Idaho, New Mexico State and Eastern Washington.

Head Coach Dick Tomey is fourth in seniority among Division I-A head coaches with 286 games under his belt (161-118-7). Toney is serving as third vice-president of the American Football Coaches Association.

The Spartans have an impossible schedule for a team trying to improve, traveling to Washington while hosting Stanford, San Diego State and Cal Poly. Last year San Diego State whipped San Jose 52-21. The list does include seven home games for the first time since the school was accepted into Division I-A.

Tomey will see eight returning starters on offense. Four of them are on the offensive line. Over the last five games (albeit two were against Idaho and New Mexico State), the group helped the Spartans average over 200 yards a game rushing. The line tied Fresno State for the WAC lead by allowing just 14 sacks.

Matt Cantu's move from center to left tackle seems to have triggered the increase in rushing success. The guards will be Marcel Burrough (6-6, 322, Sr.) and John Booker (6-4, 308, Jr.) with Justin Paysinger (6-1, 275, So.) the center and Cantu and Bradis McGriff (6-6, 335, So.) the tackles.

The quarterback will be Adam Trafalis (6-1, 226, Jr.) who was 142-286 with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He'll be pushed by junior college transfer Sean Flynn, who came to San Jose via Los Angeles Harbor College.

Tailback Yonus Davis, a second-team All-WAC selection, was seventh nationally with 6.72 yards per carry (95 rushes for 674 yards). James T. Callier (6-0, 208, Jr.) will be the fullback with mostly blocking duties in store for him.

San Jose will sorely miss ace receiver Rufus Skillern, who was one of the top athletes in the league the last couple of seasons. John Broussard is the man Tomey is counting on for big things. Broussard had 26 catches for 361 yards and five scores last fall. James Jones (6-1, 196, Sr.) will be the other receiver. Jeff Clark is the odds-on favorite to succeed All-WAC pick Bryan Watje at tight end. Clark comes to San Jose as a first-team JC All-American.

In 2005, the Spartan defense gave up 112 fewer points than the previous season. The defense was credited with 27 sacks, fourth in the WAC but only two starters return. The group is very small to compete effectively in the WAC.

Matt Castelo (5-10, 210, Jr.) will be moving from rover to middle linebacker this year after leading the team with 91 tackles, including eight for loss. He's a two-year starter for San Jose. Castelo made 13 tackles against both Boise State and New Mexico State last year. He had 36 tackles and an interception his freshman year. Flanking Castelo on either side are Chris Reese (5-9, 195, So.) and Dimitrous Chattman (6-0, 195, Jr.).

Justin Cole (6-3, 210) appears to have impressed the coaches enough to start at defensive end as a freshman. Jarron Gilbert (6-5, 240, So.) will start opposite him after an '05 campaign that found him making 22 tackles and three sacks. The tackles will be senior Freddy McCutcheon (6-2, 295) and junior Josh Pulu (6-2, 283).

The secondary will be Dwight Lowery () and Christopher Owens (5-10, 170, So) at the corners with Colin Maher (6-1, 190, Fr.) going at strong safety and hometown Kevin Jurovich (6-0, 175, So.) as free safety.

The Spartan kicker is Jared Strubeck. Strubeck received Honorable Mention on Freshman All-America teams last year. Waylon Prathor (6-3, 229, Jr.) is back for his third season at punter, having averaged 39.3 yards per kick last year. 38 of his 74 punts either landed inside the 20 yard-line or were called for a fair catch. Lowery will handle both kickoff and punt returns for San Jose--he returned four kicks for touchdowns last year.

Tomey's team hosts Boise State, Fresno State, Louisiana Tech and Utah State in the WAC, while they travel to take on Nevada, Hawai'i, New Mexico State and Idaho.

EA Sports simulations predict wins over Cal Poly and Utah State only. That amounts to a 1-7 WAC record and 2-10 overall. The Utah State game could go either way. Idaho and New Mexico State present upset opportunities. Tomey coaches for Arizona in the PAC-10; wins over the Vandals and Aggies would show as a coach in the WAC, he can move the team forward.

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