By Liz Alper
Photo courtesy goaztecs.com
August 15, 2019 (San Diego) - With a new season two weeks away, SDSU football head coach Rocky Long, senior quarterback Ryan Agnew and junior safety Tariq Thompson sat down with the media today.
“We’ve been through 15 practices so far. We’re making progress," Long began. "Not nearly as a fast as I would like to make progress, but we’re making progress. Hopefully here in the next week, we’ll make a lot of progress before we get into game-planning for the first game.”
There are still a lot of questions about the Aztecs' defensive line. "...We’ve had an influx of new guys including a couple of junior college players that are struggling right now with assignments as we require our defensive linemen to do a lot more than they do at most places. So those guys are physically able, but whether they’re ready to play or not, they’re not. Hopefully they’ll be ready to play by the first game. I think that we’ve had some pleasant surprises up there though. We moved Cam Thomas to nose tackle and he’s done a really good job. Keshawn Banks has done a really good job and those two are starting for us..."
Brady Hoke makes his return to the Aztecs' coaching staff this season. Long talked about the advantages of his return. “Obviously, he’s a very experienced coach. I’ve said it before, I think he’s the best defensive line coach ever. So he knows what he’s doing and because of his coaching path, the players know that he knows what he’s doing. I guess that’s an intangible that they know they have a very experienced coach. And he’s been in our system before, too, so it’s not like he’s learning our system along with them. He already knows our system …All great coaches know the techniques, they know how to teach the techniques, they know how to motivate. All great coaches do all those things.”
Long talked about some freshmen that have caught his eye. "Out of the new freshman that we have, you can already tell there’s at least seven—they’re not ready to play yet—but you can just tell by their athletic ability and their attitude that they are going to be really, really good players here someday. It won’t be this year, so there’s no reason to talk about it. But just talent-wise coming in as freshmen, I think this is our best recruiting class. There’s more of them out there that I believe can be really, really good players than any other freshman class I’ve had.”
Agnew discussed being the starter this year and if the preparation being a starter is any different. “Every year is a new year. It’s a lot easier coming in being the starting quarterback, but every year is going to be new experiences. (There’s) new guys on the team, new guys stepping up and making plays, and new guys becoming star players...I wouldn’t say the preparation is any different. Even though I was the backup last year, you still had to come in thinking you were going to start week one. I guess the only difference this year is the leadership role. All the offense looks at you as the starting quarterback. You have to know what every single player is supposed to do on the field because they might not know exactly. They’re going to look to you for some guidance and I just have to be ready to give them all the knowledge I can give them, hopefully point them in the right direction."
Thompson said what he feels the hallmark of this year's defense will be. “I’m hoping it’s turnovers. I’m hoping we force a lot of turnovers this year. We’ve taken a big step back in turnovers since 2016, so hopefully we can get that (number) back up and become one of the top teams nationally in turnovers (forced).”
The Aztecs kick off their season on August 31 at 6 p.m. against Weber State.