Five Pressing Questions For Fall 2009 Camp

With the departure of some key defensive stars from last season, and a new offensive coordinator now on staff, there are some key questions that hopefully will be answered before the Spartans take the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 5th.

The San Jose State football team is approximately a month away from the start of the Fall 2009 camp, which will lead up to the eventual season kick-off against USC on September 5th. Although San Jose State has yet to release their pre-season practice schedule, based on the date of the opener against USC, the start of the fall camp should begin around the August 8–10 timeframe.

With the departure of some key defensive stars from last season, and a new offensive coordinator now on staff, there are some key questions that hopefully will be answered before the Spartans take the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 5th.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the 2009 Spartans football team, namely who would replace four-year starting place-kicker Jared Strubeck, was answered during the spring drills when Colorado University transfer Tyler Cope gained a strangle hold on the starting spot with a stellar performance throughout the spring.
There still remain five pressing questions that need to be answered during the month's worth of practices leading up to the season opener.

1) Who Will Start At Quarterback?
At the conclusion of the spring drills, InsideSparta wrote that Kyle Reed, who started eight games in 2008, had a strong hold on the number one spot. However, it appears that his being the starter is not set in stone. Junior Jordan LaSecla pushed himself past Myles Eden on the depth chart, and clearly has his eyes set on overtaking Reed. Expect a fierce battle during the month of August between Reed and LaSecla, which should benefit both players. Reed will need to show that he has learned to read progressions, not lock onto the primary receiver, and find the open man. LaSecla, who possesses a strong arm, will need to show that he can avoid turning the ball over, be it via fumble or interception. Both players showed improvement in those areas during the spring drills. While Reed is currently the leader, LaSecla may have something to say about that.

2) Who Will Replace NFL Cornerback tandem of Coye Francies and Christopher Owens?
The biggest holes to fill on the Spartans' defense this side of Jarron Gilbert, are the ones created with the departure of cornerbacks Coye Francies (Cleveland Browns) and Christopher Owens (Atlanta Falcons). During the spring, it appears that junior Devin Newsome, the most experienced defensive back on the roster, will move from safety to cornerback. That accounts for one of the replacements. Who the other will be may depend on the knee of Brandon Driver, a highly touted junior college transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College. Driver injured his knee in his final game of the 2008 season. At first it was thought that the injury was severe enough that he would miss all of the 2009 season. That possibility forced several BCS level schools that were recruiting Driver to look elsewhere. San Jose State did not waiver in their desire to sign Driver, so he will be joinging the Spartans this summer. InsideSparta briefly spoke with Driver during the spring drills, while he was watching from the sidelines. Driver stated his rehab was going very well, and that he may be cleared to play in 2009. If so, that will go a long way in SJSU's attempt to rebuild their secondary. Should Driver not be available, the second cornerback role will come down to the battle between senior Austin Carter and three sophomores (Peyton Thompson, Alex Germany, and Ralph Johnson), none of whom that have ever started a game at the FBS level.

3) Will Offensive Coordinator Terry Malley Really Improve The Spartan Offense?
The easy answer is yes, only because one could argue that it couldn't get any worse than it was in 2008. Perhaps a better question is: How much will the offense improve? Judging from the spring practices, it appears the offense has a chance to be considerably better than it was in 2008. The players are excited with the changes, and the offensive line looked vastly improved, and is in much better health than it was last year. Still, the offense is very much a work in progress, and has a long way to go. Terry Malley, who is officially the Quarterback Coach, has shown a commanding presence during practices. The offensive players appear to be responding well to his tutelage. Still, Malley is making the transition back to college football after several years in the Arena Football League. How much improvement he's able to bring to the Spartans offense will probably not really be known until after the season begins.

4) Who's Going To Carry The Rock?
San Jose State has nice problem at tailback in 2009. Too many good players, and only one football. Despite the departure of last season's leading rusher Yonus Davis, a former All-WAC performer, the Spartans find themselves much deeper at tailback than they have been since the 2006 season. This is due in part to the return of Patrick Perry and Dominique Hunsucker from injuries that kept them both sidelined in 2008 (Perry was also out in 2007). Also returning after redshirting in 2008 is speedster Cameron Island. JC transfer Lamon Muldrow (Sierra College) gives the Spartans a weapon they have lacked the past two years, namely a power back that can fill the role of a workhorse. The top freshman in 2008, Brandon Rutley showed flashes of greatness last season, and provides the ability to line-up in the Wildcat formation (as a QB). Senior Chris Reese, a former linebacker, had a very good spring, showing off his ability to get tough yards up the middle. Who is going to become "the guy" is anybody's guess at this point. In the case of Hunsucker, the top rated recruit in the 2006 class, it's possible he could bounce back to the defensive side of the ball. Due to team needs, Hunsucker has yet to find a permanent, stable home for his talented skills. With two years of eligibility remaining, it's time the coaches decide what to do with him.

5) Will WR Marquis Avery Earn A Starting Role?
Watching his highlights from Fullerton College, it's easy to see why the Spartan coaches were thrilled to sign Marquis Avery (6-4, 205). His ability to go up and get the football reminds many people of former San Jose State WR James Jones (now with the Green Bay Packers). Avery dominated at the junior college level, and appears to have the physical talent to do the same at the FBS level. But, will he even be a starter for the Spartans in 2009? As mentioned, San Jose State possesses one of the best WR corps in school history. Kevin Jurovich, an All-WAC performer, was granted an additional year of eligibility, due to an illness that kept him sidelined nearly all of last season. Jalal Beauchman, Josh Harrison, and Mike Avila all have considerable playing experience over Avery. The Spartans coaching staff was confidant enough in the depth at WR that they moved Terrance Williams, the number three receiver the past two seasons, to move to tight end. In an interview with InsideSparta back in May, WR Coach Ken Margerum expressed concern over Avery not having played in over a year, and described his performance during the early part of the spring drills as "shaky", citing dropped passes. Margerum was pleased with how strong Avery finished the spring. Whether that strong finish carries into the fall, or whether the rust from a season off continues will be something the coaches look closely at. At this point, it appears that Avery is fighting for the number three spot, with Josh Harrison and Mike Avila; with Jurovich and Beauchman holding the top two spots.

Additonal Fall Camp Notes:
As part of the acclimatization process, the NCAA rules only allow for one practice session a day during the first five days. Full pads are allowed to be worn beginning with the fifth practice session. Two-a-days are allowed beginning with the sixth practice session, but cannot be held on consecutive days.




Mike Morgan is Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at mike@insidesparta.com


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