The season is here.
This Saturday marks the beginning of a new chapter for San Jose State football. It will be exactly eight months and thirty days after the visit to Spartan Stadium by the Stanford Cardinal on December 1st, 2001.
If you are a football junkie like me, those eight months and thirty days felt like an eternity.
The question on everyone's mind right now (besides whether or not Neal Parry will be allowed to play) is, just what kind of team does SJSU have this year?
Answer: probably a better one than last year, but not as strong as we'd like.
There are some positives, and a few negatives coming into this season. What does it all mean as far as wins and losses? I won't try and predict the outcome of every game at this point. Too much can happen during a season to try and guess how things will pan out in Week 13, when it's only Week 1.
· Upbeat Attitude! A "can do" feeling permeates the air around the Simpkins Stadium Center. Dr. Fitz Hill has done an outstanding job of preparing his team "emotionally" for the season.
· No New Defensive Coordinator! For the first time in several years, the Spartans aren't breaking in a new DC. Coach Ronnie Lee returning means the defensive players won't have to learn a new system. That, in and of itself, should make this year's defense better.
· QB Scott Rislov! This 4.0 GPA transfer student from Pierre, South Dakota has wrestled the starting QB position from a 5th year senior (Marcus Arroyo) who has (30) starts under his belt. Not an easy task.
Coach Hill's decision to go with Rislov tells me that we truly have some depth at the QB position.
· Games On TV! The Stanford game will be broadcasted locally on KRON Channel 4, and the UTEP game will be on the regional Fox Sports network. If the Spartans can rack up a few victories look for another game or two to be shown.
· Trestin George! This true freshman from Berkeley has really impressed to coaching staff, and has already landed the second team cornerback position. Look for him in the nickel position, and perhaps be a starter before the season is through.
· Neal Parry! What a story this is becoming. The national media has picked this up, and is running with it. This is great exposure for SJSU, and has the smell of Hollywood all over it.
· Kendrick Starling! This is one JC All-American who will actually play for SJSU this year. Look for him to have his coming out party against Stanford.
· Defensive Tackle. No knock on starters Kenji Green and Mike Beams, but this was supposed to be an area of major improvement for the Spartans.
However, JC All-American Eddie Brown is redshirting, and Adonis Forrest is not even listed on the two-deep depth chart. Green (6-2, 242) is a redshirt freshman, while Beams (6-2, 291) is a senior, he's only started a few games. Without Brown and Forrest (sounds like a law firm eh?), the lack of depth is down right scary.
· Nine Road Games. My feeling towards this season's schedule has already been previously documented (check the archives). 'Nuff said about this one.
· Only 63 Scholarship Players. This is the fewest in D1. The price SJSU is paying for recruiting so many JUCO transfer players, is a lack of overall team experience.
Lets start with the first four games of the season (I'll predict the following four games next time).
· August 31st @Arkansas State (in Little Rock) - ASU has a game under their belts, by virtue of playing Virginia Tech on August 25th. But, ASU was shellacked in Blacksburg, to the tune of 63-7. Ouch!
College football teams typically improve the most between the first and second games. So, look for the Indians to play much better.
However, because the ASU/VaTech game was last Sunday, this Saturday's game with the Spartans is on a short week for ASU.
The Indians, who have to travel 150 miles from Jonesboro to Little Rock for this contest, will also be without their starting QB Josh Driscoll. I look for a sluggish start by the Spartans, but a strong 2nd half.
Prediction: SJSU 31- ASU 17.
· September 7th @ Washington - Fitz Hill has recently spoken about the Spartans lack of depth. Well, this game will show that to be true.
The Huskies should be plenty mad after having played the previous week in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They will be itching to show their hometown fans what they can do.
Look for a lot of Spartans to play in this one, which is probably the only positive that will come from this game.
Prediction: Washington 52 - SJSU 13.
· September 14th @ Stanford - As I stated, WR Kendrick Starling will have his coming out party in Palo Alto against an inexperienced Cardinal defense. Look for a lot of scoring in this one by both teams.
SJSU 38 - Stanford 35.
· September 21st @ Illinois - I've always felt that the demise of Spartan football in the 90's was compounded by the departure of Head Coach Ron Turner after only one season ('92). Here's a chance for a bit of payback.
The defending Big-10 champs are not expected to be as strong as last year, most publications have them picked in the middle of the pack.
Although the Illini have a new QB, their offensive line is massive.
Watch out for the deep threat of WR Brandon Lloyd. Illinois and Champagne (the town) will be too much for the Spartans.
Prediction: Illinois 42 - SJSU 10
Other Predictions for '02:
· PK Nick Gilliam will kick a FG greater than 50 yards.
· 6-7 TE Courtney Anderson will become a star.
· There will be over 15K in attendance for the UTEP game.
· Neal Parry will not only play on the kick-off coverage team sometime this year, he'll make a tackle.
· (To quote Deonce): "We're gonna have us some fun!"
"If you don't have dreams, you've got nightmares."