Spartan Talk: Are the San Jose State Spartans on the decline?

InsideTheSpartans.com Publisher Jackson Moore takes a look at the hottest topics on the site's message boards.

Today's topic comes from the following InsideTheSpartans message board thread: Click here to read


There seems to be two consensuses about San Jose State's 2016 season.

From online media, the consensus is that 2016 will be a down year for San Jose State football. Previews continue to put the Spartans with a losing season and even Las Vegas pits the Spartans with just five wins.

From InsideTheSpartans.com’s message board users, the consensus is that the online media is flat-out wrong - though it did have fans questioning if the Spartans were really on the decline?

So are they? We are here to tell you, no - and here is why.

The Spartans were almost there in 2015

San Jose State played about as well as a 6-7 team possibly could last season. Of the Spartans’ seven losses only one was a game that the Spartans weren’t in.

- Back-to-back losses against BYU and Nevada were lost on a failed two-point conversion and overtime finish respectively.

- San Jose State outgained Auburn at Auburn and were within a possession in the fourth quarter.

- In early season losses at Air Force and Oregon State, the Spartans were still figuring out their QB situation and were either winning or trailing by one point before key injuries derailed close battles.

- SJSU was also ahead of Boise State at halftime and trailed by as few as 10 in the fourth quarter.

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The ball just didn’t quite bounce the Spartans’ way in 2015. When they won, they won convincingly. The Spartans did earn one tough overtime battle at UNLV, but they dominated matchups versus New Hampshire and Fresno State, as well as on the road at Hawaii. SJSU also pulled out two-possession wins versus New Mexico and in the Cure Bowl versus Georgia State.

Now look at the 2016 SJSU team. The Spartans do lose a few key seniors from last year, most notably Tyler Ervin, but return the majority of last year’s team that was close to getting over the hump. This is by no means a team on the decline - this is a team that is built to improve off of last year’s efforts.

From the boards: “This team was 6-7 last year and returns 16 starters. The recruiting has been good and some of the young players are getting bigger and will contribute this year. We have a bunch of great P5 transfers also. It's going to be a good year for anyone actually paying attention to what's going on with Spartan football.” - SpartanMark

Veteran coaches and impressive recruiting classes collide

For the last three years, former San Jose State Recruiting Coordinator Donte Williams led the charge of one of the biggest recruiting boosts to any Group of 5 program in recent years. It’s no surprise that Arizona is currently sitting 15th nationally since his arrival there.

The Spartans jumped from the 11th recruiting class in the Mountain West in 2013 up to third and second place finishes in 2014 and 2015 respectively. They continued to round out a solid 2016 class too after Williams’s departure.

Meanwhile, San Jose State enters its second year with veteran Al Borges at offensive coordinator and now addressed defensive shortcomings by adding veteran defensive coordinator Ron English. There aren’t many Group of 5 programs that have two coordinators with resumes like the Spartans’ two coordinators do.

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Now it’s time for SJSU’s impressive coordinators to capitalize on the recruiting talent brought in over this span.

From the board:

“From a pure coaching standpoint, that’s great. From the late 90’s to the early 2000’s those are two of the most well-known coordinators in all of college football. In terms of X’s and O’s, you are very fortunate to have those guys… Usually, X’s and O’s outweigh the coaches that are just known for their recruiting.” - Scout.com National Director of Recruiting Brandon Huffman special to InsideTheSpartans.com

Quarterback Standout

Mountain West football in the last two years has not been at its best and one factor has been a lack of capable quarterbacks. Some of these teams are still searching for their guy in 2016. The Spartans were one of those teams at the beginning of 2015, but now have no doubts going into 2016.

Kenny Potter won a quarterback battle just in time to get hurt last September. Once he returned, San Jose State’s coaching staff was fully committed to Potter.

Potter does not have the strongest arm in the conference, but he is a play-maker - one that can attack from a variety of different sets, perfectly suiting him for SJSU Offensive Coordinator Al Borges’s multiple offense.

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- Potter went for over 300 yards through the air in the overtime win at UNLV.

- He completed 80 percent of his passes versus New Mexico.

- Potter played four consecutive games with zero interceptions and at least 65 percent passing.

- He ran for 116 yards at Nevada - He als ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run en route to a bowl victory against Georgia State.

- As a first-year FBS player transferring from junior college, Potter finished with 1,984 yards on 67 percent completion with 15 touchdowns (and seven more rushing TDs) to just 7 interceptions - in eight full starts and three other appearances.

These numbers aren’t the most spectacular in the nation, but compared to the Mountain West competition it makes him a top-end conference QB.

Last year only four MW quarterbacks threw for more touchdowns than Potter, with only one of those doing it while throwing fewer interceptions. Potter’s 67.4 percent completion rate put him nearly four percent above the next conference competitor.

With a year under his belt and flashes of game-changing ability, Potter takes a step up in his senior year and eases the loss do-it-all running back Tyler Ervin. He showed flashes of being a leader and difference-maker with plays such as this 42-yard touchdown run in the Cure Bowl.

https://twitter.com/FootballRecruit/status/678414471967014912

Along with Potter, the Spartans do return a few other game-changers with players like tight end Billy Freeman, linebacker Christian Tago and an always-solid cast of defensive backs.

From the board: “Just because we lost Ervin and the D-line had some struggles last year doesn't automatically mean we will have a sub par season.” 7alma

Our guess?

San Jose State is not on the decline, but we are keeping expectations realistic.

It will be tough for the Spartans to unseat San Diego State for the West Division Title. A road game at Boise State will leave little room for additional error in conference play.

Non-conference matchups at Iowa State and Tulsa, and even a home matchup versus Utah paired with an FCS game makes for a very manageable slate prior to conference.

Our expectations: San Jose State gets over the hump and wins more of the tightly-contested fights, the new defensive staff shores up its ability to stop the run and SJSU Head Coach Ron Caragher leads the program to a bowl without getting in through the back door. The Spartans prove themselves as a solid team in 2016, but not quite enough to make a threat toward the conference race or to land in a major bowl game.

8-5 with a bowl victory.

From the board: (In response to a preview that gave the Spartans four wins coming against Portland State, Hawaii, Nevada and UNLV.)  “New Mexico, Fresno and AFA will all be wins so the record should be 7-5 (or better).” - SpartaRick

Today's topic comes from the following InsideTheSpartans message board thread: Click here to read


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