The Spartans are the trendy pick in the WAC for a breakout season.
New coach Dick Tomey, the former Arizona coach who built the "Desert Swarm" defense.
"It's something totally wacky," senior defensive tackle Kinji Green said of the defense. "It's its own defense. It's unique. Sometimes it might look like there's two D-linemen, sometimes it looks like five."
Tomey will institute a West Coast offense and develop the skills of sophomore quarterback Adam Tafralis. Tafralis played in nine games last season, three of them as the starter.
The offensive strength is the wideouts, led by senior Rufus Skillern.
"He's tall and smart," Tomey said of the 6-foot-1 Skillern.
The defense boasts so much raw talent that 94-tackle man Ezekiel Staples isn't even expected to start. Safety Josh Powell and Green will lead a unit that gave up at least 40 points six times last year, so there's plenty of work to do.
Tomey likes what he has seen out of the Spartans so far. He also likes the new, more football-friendly administration, and the coaching staff he was able to build.
"I don't think I've ever been any place where so many positive things have occurred in such a short period of time," he said.
KEY EARLY-SEASON GAME: at San Diego State
The first two games, vs. Eastern Washington and at Illinois probably aren't effective tests of Dick Tomey's impact. But San Diego State, a team San Jose State should be able to compete with, will give fans an idea where the Spartans stand.
THE SPARTANS WILL GO 8-3 IF:
They can jell quickly and confuse opponents with their defense. The offense won't be dynamic, but it should score enough to win games in the 20s.
THE SPARTANS WILL GO 3-8 IF:
The defense leaks again. The Spartans have been a poor defensive team in recent years, and they lack the offensive talent to score in bunches on a regular basis.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"You want your program to be known for the things that are not God-given. You want to be known for the things that are achieved through hard work and passion and perseverance, being physical and tough and impossible to discourage." -- San Jose State coach Dick Tomey, on the Spartans' reputation for having good athletes.
MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: S Josh Powell
Powell, who made 101 tackles last year, must pull together this defense. The group has shown flashes of high-level play - the fourth quarter against Boise State last year, for example -- but has been humiliated far too many times.
BREAKOUT STAR: DT Kinji Green
His happiness with the "Desert Swarm" defense is a sign that he expects big things out of himself. He hasn't had a sack since 2002; expect that to change.
NEWCOMER TO WATCH: QB J.P. Greco
The backup redshirted last year. Adam Tafralis is unproven as a starting quarterback, so Greco better be ready to play.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
Offense -- QB Adam Tafralis, RB Yonus Davis, FB James T. Callier, WR Rufus Skillern, WR James Jones, TE Bryan Watje, OLT Amadeo Novella, OLG Marcel Burrough, C Matt Cantu, ORG John Booker, ORT John Toensfeldt
ROSTER REPORT: Coach Dick Tomey expects to add as many as 35 players to the roster this fall.
The Spartans kick off the season with a home opener versus Eastern Washington, a national championship contender in Division 1-AA, that visits San Jose this Saturday.
Get your tickets by calling 408-924-SJTX today!
Also look for the two way tailgate hosted by the #1 San Jose State fan site, SpartanThunder.com, and the #1 Eastern Washington fan site, EAG Sports.com!.
Just look for the SpartanThunder and EAGSports banners in the fan fiesta tailgate section located on the east field!
Go State! Ground the Eagles!!
Credit: Fox Sports affiliates for partial content