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By Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For videos of Kyahva Tenzino's, Myles Cheatum's, Ryan Agnew's and John Baron's portion of the press conference, click “read more” and scroll down.
December 11, 2018 (San Diego) - With a bowl game a week away, SDSU football brought in a plethora of players to talk to the media today, including a rare appearance from senior kicker John Baron II. Joining him were obviously Rocky Long, junior linebacker Kyahva Tenzino, junior defensive end Myles Cheatum and junior quarterback Ryan Agnew.
“Seems like a long time since we’ve played a game and we’ve still got over a week before we actually get to play," Long lamented in his opening statement. "The good part about it is we’re practicing and Thursday, we’ll start to game prep... The bad deal is when you have this much time on your hands, you watch more and more film. And the more film I watch, the better they (Ohio) get. I think that one week of preparation before you play most games is probably plenty for a coach. When you have basically three weeks to prepare for a team, you see more and more things that they do well. I don’t know if that’s good on my psyche or not. But obviously we’re getting a lot out of these first two weeks developing our team for next year basically.”
What makes Ohio so good after watching film? “You have the opinion that they’re a run team first, which they have been late in the season, and they’ve been really, really good at it. Then you go back earlier in the season to try to find out who played the best defense against them and what I found out looking back is that their quarterback is really, really accurate with the football. Earlier in the season they weren’t running it quite as well, so he had to throw it more and they were still able to win games because he threw it so well. Late in the season they’re running the ball so well that they haven’t relied on the passing game as much. So if you put both halves of the season together, they can do both, which obviously makes it a lot harder on you.”
Long continued to scout Ohio, starting with where they create the most stress on a defense. “Now this sounds old school, and it is, but I think for all levels it’s always up front. If you control the line of scrimmage on offense or defense, your chances of winning the game are much, much better..."
He then moved to the offense. “They’re a spread offense. They will get into some two tight-end formations, but they’re not any kind of option team. They’ll run a little speed option, which means the quarterback carries the ball and if you try and tackle him, he pitches it to a pitch back. But they don’t read the line of scrimmage. They’re a zone read spread team. When he rides the running back into the line of scrimmage, he’s reading someone at the line of scrimmage. If that guys closes, the quarterback keeps it. If that guy doesn’t close, he hands it to the running back. Now, they also use that action for play-action pass, too. They want to run it because they want to control the clock and they want to control the ball. But they’re in a spread formation, so they can throw it all over the park if they want to and early in the season, they had to in a couple of games and they threw it really, really well.”
Lastly, Long talked about where his concerns were with Ohio's defense. “All those teams in that league are very physical up front. They’re not going to fool us, unless they put in a different defense. They line up in standard formations at the line of scrimmage and they play pretty standard coverages. But they’re very physical up front on both offense and defense, and they execute well. We’re a little bit different on defense. We move guys; we blitz guys, we do all that kind of stuff to try and confuse the other team. They don’t do that, they just execute well.”
Agnew compared them to some other teams that the Aztecs have played this year. “They’re a good group, a couple of all-conference players on their defense, very stout defensive line, very good front seven. Very tough against the run with guys on the back end that can make plays. Kind of similar to Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois in the past. They’re going to be a good defense, tough to scheme up, great coaching, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
As usual, Long announced the quarterback situation for the bowl game. “It’s going to be the same as we spent the last half of the season. Christian (Chapman) will start; Ryan (Agnew) will play in the game somewhere along the way, and whichever quarterback we think gives us the best chance to win, that’s who will finish it out.”
Long talked about the progress of the Aztecs' young offensive line. “I think that didn’t bother us at all going into the season because the young guys coming back had some experience. Because of injury and some other things that have happened, I don’t think our offensive line played to the expectation level that we had going into the season. That’s one of the reasons we didn’t score as many points. Now, some of it had to do with Juwan (Washington) getting hurt and Christian (Chapman) getting hurt. I mean, you can point to all kinds of things, but I think the offensive line with injuries and such probably didn’t play as well as we thought they would. But they’re almost all coming back, so there’s a chance they’ll play much, much better next year.”
Are the Bobcats and Aztecs the same? “I think our philosophies are the same. The way we go about it is not even close to the same. I mean, they’re almost exclusively a one-back formation team, and we’re a two-back formation team. But the philosophy is we want to run the ball first. We want to keep the ball from the other team. We want to use field position and time of possession to give us the best chance to win. I think the philosophies are very similar. The way we go about it is completely different.”
Long said Ohio is similar to Nevada, UNLV and New Mexico. “We’ve played several teams that have similar schemes. The teams we’ve played with similar schemes aren’t nearly as patient as Ohio is. I mean, Nevada runs a similar scheme, New Mexico runs a similar scheme, UNLV runs a similar scheme, but those schools aren’t as patient as these guys. These guys will take three- and four-yard gains in the running game and be very happy with it, where those teams I’m talking about there if you only get three or four yards running the ball, they’d just as soon throw it. These guys are a lot more patient.”
Tenzino was the recipient of three team awards this year: the John Simcox Memorial Trophy for MVP, the Byron H. Chase Memorial Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year, the Dr. R. Hardy/C.E. Peterson Memorial Trophy Captain’s Award. Asked how the honor felt: “It meant a lot because that’s what the team thought of me. Just for the guys to think that of me was a big honor. I’m so grateful and blessed to have my teammates think that of me. I couldn’t be able to have those awards or do the things I did this season without those guys. I just thank them and the coaches for that.”
Cheatum, a Texas native, talked about how it feels going home to play and what makes Texas football so special. “Always getting an opportunity to get to play in a bowl game is special. We don’t take that lightly. Getting to go back home again is extra special for the Texas guys because our families don’t get to see us play all of the time. You get an opportunity for (your family) and friends to come that wouldn’t necessarily get to see you play. It gives you a little juice and energy.
“It’s the pride. You want to represent where you are from well. It’s the same when you are playing against Texas guys. It comes down to where you are from or where they are from. It could be 10-to-15 minutes apart from another school and you want to have that edge over them. You see them out in the grocery store or at different places, you have a little extra swagger if you beat them.“
Agnew, also from Texas, also shared his experience growing up and playing Texas football. “Football is a religion down there. When you say that, it speaks true, you know, the entire town. It’s kind of like in the movie Friday Night Lights, driving through town and they say ‘closed, going to the game.’ That’s what it kind of felt like growing up in my hometown, kind of the same way. Football is religion down there, so it’ll be awesome to go back playing in front of the home crowd and see all the support there.”
Agnew said he's most looking forward to going home to food. “Going home to Whataburger, going home to Costa Vida, Baker Brothers. The food is what I’m looking forward to going home to and then just having friends and family there ... So having all my friends, family and past coaches just being there and getting the support from them is going to be awesome.”
Agnew was the winner of the Offensive Player of the Year award. He talked about how this felt. “Like John (Baron) said, the most important thing is that it’s voted on by the players, the guys in the locker room, the guys you spend the most time with starting in January. Those guys giving us those accolades mean the world to us. Even though we earned the accolades, we wouldn’t be able to do it without our teammates...Without the offensive line, receivers, running backs and tight ends, I wouldn’t have played as well as I did.”
John Baron II won the Most Valuable Special Teams Player award, the Captain's Award and Most Inspirational Player award. He talked about winning all three. “Before the other night, I never received an award from SDSU at a banquet, so it was a really big honor for me and I know how huge it is and how special it is. I really appreciated it and I think it says a lot about your teammates on certain awards that they vote for and about your coaches and how they think about you. So I’m just really honored and blessed that I got to receive them, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to the game.”