The San Jose State Spartans enter 2014 with huge shoes to fill and little momentum from 2013 to build upon. The Spartans scraped and clawed their way to a .500 record and were shut out of a bowl game. That was with 4,000-yard quarterback and now Chicago Bear David Fales directing the offense.
The Spartans are only one season removed from an 11-win season and will look to get back to that level in 2014. In order to reach that, they will have to plug huge holes on offense and turn around a dreadful defense. All in all, it may be too much to ask for in one offseason.
As noted above, the Spartans will be without star quarterback Fales. They also lost Fales’ go-to guy and the team’s leading receiver in Christian Jones. The WR posted a 1,000-yard season a year ago. That’s huge production to replace in one offseason.
Senior Blake Jurich and junior Joe Gray are battling for the job to replace Fales. It will be a battle that will most likely extend into fall camp. For now, it seems Gray has the inside track as he outperformed Jurich in the spring game by a wide margin.
Even with the losses, the offense won’t be void of playmakers. Last season’s leading rusher, Jarrod Lawson, returns after averaging almost five yards a carry a year ago. On the outside, freshman Tyler Winston had a breakout year playing behind Jones and Spartan fans should expect even better things from him this year.
If the Spartans can settle the quarterback situation, they should have enough talent to put points on the board at a good clip again this season.
Defense was anything but a strength for San Jose State a year ago. The Spartans were one of the absolute worst defensive teams in the country, finishing 1o5th in points allowed. Any team that allows 35 points a contest is going to struggle to win games and the Spartans need to find a way to improve that number drastically this season.
Enter Greg Robinson, former Texas Longhorns and Denver Broncos‘ assistant. Robinson will be tasked with improving on the terrible defensive effort from a year ago. He will reportedly return the team to a 4-3 scheme that was successful for the Spartans two seasons ago.
He will need to find some playmakers, especially given that interception leader Bene Benwikere has taken his talent to the Carolina Panthers. It’s a tall order for Robinson, and he will need to answer the call for the Spartans to improve.
The MWC is a competitive one, and 2014 should be no different. The Spartans must learn to be a great road team as they have seven games away from Spartan Stadium. Add to that the fact that one of those away games is against defending SEC champion Auburn University and you’ve got one tough schedule to navigate.
Toughest games: Sept. 6 at Auburn, Sept. 20 at Minnesota, Nov. 8 at Fresno State, Nov. 21 at Utah State and Nov. 29 at San Diego State.
The Spartans will most likely start in a hole, going 1-2 in their first three games. When they get into conference play, they should be in most every game and will have the chance to improve on their win total from last season. They must first solve the quarterback position and make serious progress on defense.
If they don’t, the Spartans could be headed for a 5-7 season at best in 2014.