San Jose State Players To Watch In 2007.

Look out for the likely return of Dwight Lowery at cornerback, defensive MVP, Matt Castelo, and at Quarterback, Adam Tafralis, whom has earned a spot at the helm of the USS Tomey. Coach Tomey will declare the QB position open battle entering the spring, but it's hard to imagine that senior-to-be Adam Tafralis would not have the inside edge after 21 TD's and just seven interceptions this season.

How improbable was San Jose State winning nine games this season, including the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 23? There isn't even a trophy case for the football team on campus.

There really hasn't been a need for one, as the Spartans last won a conference title or a bowl game since back in 1990, when some of the current San Jose State players were still in diapers.

"You know, a lot of things have happened with us this year that haven't happened in a while. We're going to have to figure it out," second-year coach Dick Tomey to the San Jose Mercury News. "But we'll find a good place for it."

San Jose State finished the season 9-4, which is one more victory than the Spartans totaled the past three seasons (2003-05) combined. That ninth win came Dec. 23 in the New Mexico Bowl, as San Jose State defeated New Mexico, 20-12, in what was essentially a road game in front of nearly 35,000 fans.

"It feels amazing," San Jose State quarterback Adam Tafralis told the Mercury News. "It's just amazing to be part of something that's bigger than all of us. The Bay Area's a hard place to gain respect as a team, especially when you've been as down as we have. But I think we're making strides to become one of those elite-type teams."

After a scoreless first quarter, Tafralis threw his first of three scoring passes of the game and the Spartans never trailed. Tafralis finished with 209 yards and zero interceptions. However, offensive MVP honors went to senior wide receiver James Jones, who had six grabs for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Junior linebacker Matt Castelo took home the defensive MVP hardware with 18 tackles and two forced fumbles.

"Neither of those guys (Jones and Castelo) made first team all-conference," Tomey said. "I think the coaches in the conference are crazy."

GAME OF THE YEAR: San Jose State 35, Stanford 34, Sept. 9 -- It's easy to overlook this game considering Stanford went into the tank this season and eventually cost coach Walt Harris his job. However, at the time, this was as important a win as the San Jose State program has had since 1990.

Yonus Davis rushed for 184 yards in leading the comeback effort from 27-7 down in front of the third-largest crowd in school history. Sure, most of them were Stanford fans, but no matter. This is the game that propelled the Spartans to nine wins this season.

And how about the defense not allowing the Cardinal a single second-half point, allowing the offense to comeback from a 34-21 halftime deficit.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LB Matt Castelo -- It's tough overlooking QB Adam Tafralis and CB Dwight Lowery, but Castelo was the anchor of the defense, with four games this season with at least 18 tackles. He called the defense, moved his teammates into position, and on top of being a coach on the field, he led the WAC in tackles.

He was also the defensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl with 18 tackles and two forced fumbles. And while it didn't show up on the stat sheet, he was stellar in pass coverage as well.

FAST FORWARD: Coach Dick Tomey signed a contract extension in early December, meaning he's on board through at least 2010. And while that's a good sign, especially for recruiting, this team returns almost every player of significance outside of the WR position. The defense should be loaded in 2007, perhaps the best in the conference, even surpassing Boise State if Tomey can find a playmaker or two. The Spartans should be vying for another bowl invite.

However, it's worth noting, this offense needs speed desperately, while an every-down back would allow diminutive-speedster Yonus Davis to be more of a third-down specialist.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know if it was our best game as a defense, but it was our most important. We proved to a lot of people that we can play football at San Jose State." -- San Jose State LB Matt Castelo, to the San Jose Mercury News, after making 18 tackles in his team's 20-12 victory over New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 23.

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2007: CB Dwight Lowery -- Hard to see Lowery coming out after just one season of D-1 football, although having landed on several All-American teams after leading the nation in takeaways with 11 -- including nine interceptions -- it's not improbable. Still, Lowery should be back, but look for opposing offenses to avoid throwing to his side much.

LB Matt Castelo -- The defensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl with 18 tackles and two forced fumbles, Castelo also registered two of the nation's eight 20-tackle games this season. The leader of the defense this season as a junior, Lowery and him should serve as the No. 1 defensive duo in the WAC in 2007.

QB Adam Tafralis -- After losing the starting job to Juco transfer Sean Flynn in spring camp, Tafralis took advantage of a second chance after Flynn suffered multiple injuries in fall camp. The junior, and now two-year starter, completed 66 percent of his passes this season for 2,284 yards, 21 TD tosses and just seven interceptions. It's hard to imagine coach Dick Tomey not having a sense of loyalty to Tafralis come spring and fall camp, no matter what Flynn does.

PRO PROSPECTS: The Spartans are a year away in a sense with several 2008 draft prospects including LB Matt Castelo, CB Dwight Lowery and then, in 2009, CB Christopher Owens.

WR James Jones -- While he had a huge showing in the New Mexico Bowl with six receptions for 106 yards and two scores, Jones isn't likely to be drafted. Same for possession receiver John Broussard. However, Jones, and possibly even Broussard, too, should see at least an NFL training camp invite.

ROSTER REPORT: QB Sean Flynn, who was the starter as recently as the last week of fall camp before a groin injury sidelined him, took a medical redshirt and will have junior eligibility in 2007. It's likely that coach Dick Tomey will declare the quarterback position an open battle entering the spring, but it's hard to imagine that senior-to-be Adam Tafralis wouldn't have the inside edge after 21 TD tosses and just seven interceptions this season.

RB Yonus Davis became the 11th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards. The junior had 23 yards on eight carries in the New Mexico Bowl and finished the season with 1,007.

DT Shane Lapka, a senior, finished his career on the field, returning from three torn knee ligaments against Nevada back in October to take the field toward the end of the New Mexico Bowl for a few snaps.

"Just being out here for the game, even for a few plays, really put a smile on my face," Lapka told the Mercury News. "It brings tears to my eyes, being able to come back and go out there and be part of this again."


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