Feb. 19, 2014
San Jose State University football coach Ron Caraghercan welcome as many as 45 returning letterwinners to the start of the Spartans' 2014 spring football practice, Friday, February 21, at 11:00 a.m.
As one of the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams to begin spring practice, the Spartans have 15 practices planned until Saturday, March 22, the date of the annual Spring Game.
Entering his second season at San Jose State, Caragher has 17 returning starters from the 2013 team that finished 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the University's debut season in the Mountain West Conference. Only five returning starters from a year ago, center David Peterson, defensive tackle Travis Raciti, linebacker Sean Bacon, cornerback Dasheon Frierson, and safety Forrest Hightower, are seniors. Linebacker Vince Buhagiar, who has 29 career starts, but missed the entire 2013 season, is another senior with significant staring experience.
Buhagiar and Raciti are two of the six players to earn either All-Mountain West Conference accolades in 2013 or All-Western Athletic Conference honors in 2012. Kicker Austin Lopez, whose 88.6 percent career field goal accuracy will be among the top-five for 2014 players; wide receiver Tyler Winston, the Mountain West's 2013 Freshman of the Year; kick returner Tyler Ervin, who holds the University record with three kickoff returns for a touchdown in his career; and tight end Billy Freeman, an honorable mention All-Mountain West choice, are four more Spartans to earn all-conference recognition.
The most visible competition will be for the number-one quarterback role. Two-year starter David Fales led San Jose State to a 17-8 win-loss record and threw for 8,382 yards and 66 touchdowns. Senior Blake Jurich, the number two on the depth chart the last two seasons, has 20 passing attempts since joining the program. Junior Joe Gray completed the one pass he threw in 2011. Sophomore Jason Habash and junior college transfer Malik Watson, who completed 56 percent of his passes in 2013 for Contra Costa College also are in the mix this spring.
The next Spartan quarterback will have returning starters David Peterson at center and Wes Schweitzer at left tackle in the offensive line and proven pass catchers in Winston and Jabari Carr at wide receivers, Freeman at tight end and running backs Tim Crawley, Thomas Tucker and Jarrod Lawson- six players with 20 or more receptions a year ago. Lawson is the top returning rusher gaining 788 yards and scoring four touchdowns - all from the fourth game of 2013 on.
Defensively, San Jose State will install a new scheme and explore all options to replace first-team All-Mountain West players Keith Smith, a linebacker who is ninth all-time among FBS players with 476 career tackles, and cornerback Bené Benwikere who shares the Spartans' lead in career interceptions with 14. Jimmy Pruitt, a cornerback in 2012 and a starting safety in 2013 returns to a cornerback role this spring.
Linebacker Christian Tagois San Jose State's top returning tackler with 90 stops in 11 games. He also led the Spartans with 10.5 tackles for loss and shared the team lead with 4.0 quarterback sacks.
Practices will be on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to go along with a Saturday, March 8 session and the Spring Game. Weekday practices typically run from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. either in Spartan Stadium or the adjacent practice field.
Returning Letterwinners - 45 (21 offense, 23 defense, 1 kicker)
Letterwinners Lost - 20 (13 offense, 6 defense, 1 kicker)
Defense - Isaiah Irving, LB, Tony Popovich, DT; Travis Raciti, DT, Nate Falo, DT; Sean Bacon, LB, Eugene Taylor, LB; Christian Tago, LB; Dasheon Frierson, CB, Jimmy Pruitt, S; Forrest Hightower, S; Simon Connette, S
Kicker - Austin Lopez, PK
Starters Lost - 9 (6 offense, 2 defense, 1 kicker)