San Jose State University's Brent Brennan is not waiting to spring into spring practice. The second-year Spartan head coach opens the team's spring practice Tuesday, February 27, in CEFCU Stadium for the first of 15 scheduled practice opportunities.
"For us, it is getting back to practicing football -- blocking and tackling, throwing and catching, all that stuff. My goal with starting early is it gives us a chance to coach our players again, give us a chance to get back in the scheme they still are learning," said Brennan.
"For our players, the more they do the things we want them to do offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, the better they will get at it. To get back out on the field now is really important to us. We moved up spring practice at least a month so we could get going, get coaching, get out on the field and start improving our football program."
When spring practice begins, the Spartans will have 13 returning starters among 46 overall returning letterwinners and 19 redshirts from a year ago. Five members of the December 2017 signing class will get their first taste of San Jose State football.
NEXT IN LINE
On paper, the biggest holes to fill are in the offensive line and defensive secondary. The Spartans lost four starters in the offensive line, but have junior Troy Kowalski and sophomore Jackson Snyder back at their respective left and right tackle positions. Senior Jake Colman and junior Dominic Fredrickson each had one start last season. Fredrickson also has two starts from 2016. Community college transfer Korey Mariboho, one of the five December 2017 signees, has a chance to make an early strong impression.
In the defensive secondary, the Spartans lost three starters. Cornerback Dakari Monroe finished last season with a flourish coming up with a pair of interceptions in the season-finale win over Wyoming. Safeties Jonathan Lenard, Jr., and Trevon Bierria have starting experience. Bobby Brown, II, Jalen Nelson and Nehemiah Shelton are three community college transfers anxious to show what they can do this spring.
"It's going to be interesting to see how the guys that are here are going to handle the offensive line stuff. We lost so many players at that spot. In the secondary, we have some new players there we signed that could come in for spring practice. That's going to be one that's fun to watch," Brennan said about those two position groups.
QUARTERBACKS, RECEIVERS AND RUNNING BACKS A PLENTY
The Spartan coach has a returning starter at quarterback in Montel Aaron. With eight starts on his resume, Aaron passed for 1,531 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior Josh Love, who started the other five games last season, senior Michael Carrillo and redshirt freshmen Terrell Carter and Ryan Johnson will get their turns leading the offense.
"Quarterback is going to be interesting. Montel (Aaron) finished the season as the starter. He's got a lot of work to do, but everyone does. We have the two freshmen quarterbacks (Terrell Carter and Ryan Johnson) and we want to see what they can do," Brennan said.
"Obviously Josh (Love) has played and Michael (Carrillo) and Josh can do good things. That thing will be ongoing. I'm sure that's where the eyes of the public will be. I'm excited to see those guys slug it out this spring."
The Spartan quarterbacks will have an experienced crew of receivers. The top six pass catchers, wide receivers Tre Hartley, JaQuan Blackwell, Tre Walker, Justin Holmes and Bailey Gaither and tight end Josh Oliver return.
Tyler Nevens, the team's leading rusher in 2017 with 670 yards, Malike Roberson and DeJon Packer, who collectively accounted for more than 80 percent of last year's rushing yardage top the list of running backs. Zamore Zigler, the Spartans' number-two rusher last year, is beginning the spring as a cornerback hopeful.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS & SPECIALISTS TO COUNT ON
Though the Spartans lost Frank Ginda, the 2017 national leader in tackles per game, San Jose State has returning starters Ethan Aguayo and Jamal Scott to anchor a linebacking corps. Sophomores Tysyn Parker and Alii Matau started games as freshmen last season.
About the most certain aspect of the Spartans in spring practice is the kick-scoring unit with placekicker Bryce Crawford, holder Josh Love and snapper Harrison Hoffman. In the last two seasons, Crawford converted 30-of-35 field goals including a school record five from 50 or more yards.
SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN
The practice schedule is three days a week with a week off for spring break after the Saturday, March 24 Spring Game at 1:15 p.m. in CEFCU Stadium. The Spartans return from spring break on April 3 for the final three practice opportunities.
"We didn't want to cram in four practices a week and try to get it all done before spring break. We want to give their bodies a chance to heal in between practices and continue our strength and conditioning. The other thought about early spring practice is if you do get somebody injured, they have more time to recover and have a larger window for being in the weight room before they take their break for the summer," concluded the Spartans head coach.