For Hodgkiss, the opportunity to start for the entire year presented itself when an unfortunate rash of injuries ended the seasons for Dustin Gabriel and David Tafuna, both of whom would have figured prominently in the mix in the defensive backfield. Hodgkiss remained as the only strong safety with good game experience.
"It's hard to say that it was an opportunity to start since some guys who I'm really close to and respect a lot had to go down for me to start," said Hodgkiss. "I'm obviously happy for any opportunity I have to play. It's just unfortunate that those guys are gone for the year."
Hodgkiss has been a steady force in the Cougar secondary since assuming the role. He has long been considered one of the better coverage safeties on the team and put his abilities on display this past game against Eastern Washington by retuning an interception for a touchdown on the first series of the game.
"That was awesome," said Hodgkiss. "It's something you don't think about a lot as a defensive player - thinking you'll score a touchdown - but now that it happened I'm very thankful that I'll be able to finish my career with getting into the endzone at least once."
On that play, Hodgkiss took advantage of a good pass rush up front, which forced Eastern Washington's quarterback to attempt a floating pass out in the flat. Hodgkiss was able to jump and take the pass all the way back for the touchdown.
"It's just about being where you should be and making the play," said Hodgkiss. "We got good pressure on that play and I just stayed with the coverage and was able to pick it off."
Meanwhile, Chris Bolden has made a big impact playing weakside linebacker, rotating ever increasingly with starter David Nixon as Bolden becomes more and more comfortable in the system. Last game saw Bolden make several standout defensive plays, as he played a key role in holding Eastern Washington to just seven points on the game.
"We did a great job," said Bolden. "We usually do a great job since we're a great defense. I'm grateful to have seen my opportunities increase over the past three games. Anything to do to help is what I'm all about and what all of us are all about."
Bolden is currently tied for second on the team in sacks, and he has the fifth most tackles-for-a-loss while playing behind starter David Nixon. Bolden has increasingly blurred the line between starter and backup at his position, as his reps have increased noticeably over the past three games.
"I'm playing better and coaches are seeing that," said Bolden. "I'm more disciplined and I simply know my role better than I did at the start of the season, and I know it certainly more than I did last year."
Last game saw Bolden brutally hit quarterback Matt Nichols - when Eastern Washington was backed up just short of their own goal line - in a play that almost went for a safety.
"Man, I was excited about that," said Bolden. "I hit him real good, which is what you always want, and I thought it was a safety at the time. That's why I was so excited about it. It was a sweet sack, but yeah, it would have been great if it went for a safety."
-Running Back Harvey Unga dressed, but did not participate in Monday's practice due to an injured foot. Unga will have his foot further evaluated and hopes to return to practice soon.
-Wild fires around Southern California prevented San Diego State from practicing Monday for the upcoming matchup against the Cougars. If they're not able to practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, they may be forced to postpone this Saturday's game.