The 2020 Aztecs Football season left a lot to be desired for Aztecs fans. Most notably at the all important quarterback position. COVID challenges combined with a lingering injury to Lucas Johnson, hindered much of a true position battle last pre-season. Three different quarterbacks ended up splitting time for most of the abbreviated eight game season. The end of the year numbers reflected a passing offense that barely crossed the 1,000 yard mark and totaled six touchdown passes to five interceptions. Even at just eight games those numbers were very subpar for a combined effort.
Nationally, out of 127 teams, San Diego State ranked:
• 96th in completion percentage
• 115th in passing yards per game
• 112th in passing rating statistics.
Making The Case
This 2021 Spring and Fall camps showed a renewed optimism for the position not felt in quite some time on Montezuma Mesa. Veteran signal caller Lucas Johnson returning for his Senior campaign appears to be healthy and in fine shape. Jordon Brookshire, while not stellar last season, returns with another full off-season under his belt. Two newcomers join the mix this season. Heralded 4-star recruit and Mississippi State transfer Jalen Mayden comes to the Mesa in search of an offense that better suites his southpaw skillset. Lastly, true Freshman William Haskell of Arizona’s Ironwood High school brings his ultra athletic potential to the D1 level.
Arguably no Aztecs Quarterback room has ever held this much athleticism at one time. For whatever shortcomings this group may have executing the offense perfectly, the one common trait that breathes confidence into the offense from their position is that each player has the ability to make best use of being a dual threat. With this unit there should not be a reprise of backpedaling turnovers or sacks. Each player has the ability to move the chains with their legs if a busted route or blanket coverage ruins their passing progressions.
According to all reports from Head Coach Brady Hoke and staff, no single competitor has separated himself from the pack to earn QB1 status. With just under two weeks left before opening kickoff that decision, whoever it may be, must be made very soon after this weekends second scrimmage.
Unfortunately with this years home games being played in Carson, California for the second straight season, there will be no live scrimmage to be seen by the public let alone within the County of San Diego. But that won’t stop us from giving our best case for why each of these Aztecs should be QB1.
Below, the Sons of Montezuma each state their case for each Quarterback being the starter come opening kickoff vs New Mexico State. We’ll let you be the judge.
Why Jordon Brookshire Will Start at QB1
If any of you watched the latest season of Last Chance U (Football) on Netflix you may or may not have recognized the young QB celebrating a JUCO national championship and speaking about his love for the head coach at Laney College, San Diego native, John Beam.
That Quarterback happened to be Jordon Brookshire, current SDSU starting Quarterback contender. This stands out to me, showing Brookshire’s mental make up as a winner.
Not only did Brookshire lead the time to the California Community College Championship title game, but he LEAD Laney College racking up 5 touchdowns in route to the Championship victory.
No, Jordon is not the prototypical next level Quarterback standing at only 6 foot 1 inches tall, while possessing a solid–yet not spectacular arm strength or overly appealing visual arm motion.
Jordon does however possess the intangibles to win games–minus his first start vs Colorado last season which must be thrown out of the equation. Being the 3rd string guy in a new offense, in a shortened camp due to COVID, he can’t have had many reps with the first team offense until the week of the game.
Combine that with the fact that the matchup wasn’t even confirmed until two days before game time. Add in the travel to the Rocky Mountain area of Boulder, Colorado and those were some crazy circumstances for even a season long starter to deal with.
His second game against Colorado State at home with a normal week of preparation was a step up in production–but definitely nothing to write home about. He really started to put it together against BYU in the final game of the season. You could see the progression to getting more comfortable within the live action of the offense. All he did was go out and complete 21 of 31 for 230 with a TD and INT.
He did this all the while getting very little help from the running game as the ground performance faltered due to injury in the backfield and up front on the Offensive line. If you watch all three of his starts you’ll notice that even when he threw an incomplete pass or interception, most of the time he was making the correct read. The timing appeared to be the main factor for lack of success.
That and other improvements will only come with reps and playing time with the starting unit. This season he’ll have had starts under his belt and a full spring and fall camp to compete. I expect him to make a quantum leap in performance this season and don’t underestimate the young man because the name may not be the one we are familiar or comfortable with.
Why Lucas Johnson Will Start at QB1
Judging from the San Diego State fall camp reports you would think we were having a tallest “little person” contest. However, Lucas WILL be starting for Aztecs this year. However, my task of making a compelling argument for Lucas Johnson being named QB1 just might be a bigger challenge than you’d think–despite all the good that I’ve seen in him.
Johnson has had a college career hampered by constant injuries, thus leaving you to wonder if he is truly a good quarterback or not.
His most meaningful playing time came against Nevada last season and he started off on fire. He moved the offense with ease, and showed athleticism that has never been seen at the SDSU QB position. Then he pulled his hamstring, and was never the same in the game or for the rest of the season.
He finished that game 14 of 24 for 184 yards passing and one foul pass away from leading the Aztecs out of Reno with a National Televised victory.
So why should Johnson be the starter this year? Because he is probably better than the others. He has a much higher ceiling than Brookshire, and probably a higher floor than Mayden (only because of time in the system).
From observation it appears as though Lucas also has a leadership factor involved. Known for having a good and humorous attitude in the locker room, Lucas has the perception of being a guy the team can rally around. That magic was clearly on display that first half vs Nevada.
Yes, I’m judging this based on a half of healthy football against Nevada. However, that half was more impressive than anything Mayden or Brookshire has done at the college level. So yes, it appears Lucas Johnson is the tallest “little person”. If he is healthy and able, Lucas should get that opportunity to finally show what he can do in the red & black.
Why Jalen “Moose” Mayden Will Start at QB1
I may have the toughest case to fight for here. Quarterback Jalen Mayden is undoubtedly the most heralded player among his peers. Major expectations are present anytime you have a young man transfer in from the SEC Conference to the Mountain West. Other SEC Quarterbacks transferring into the Conference have panned out well for the most part. The most recent example is Arkansas transfer now San Jose State’s Championship leading QB1 Nick Starkel.
The last SEC Quarterback to transfer into San Diego State and play the QB1 position led the Aztecs to their first outright Mountain West Championship title. You didn’t forget about Kentucky transfer Max Smith did you? Shame on you.
Max totaled 1,529 yards and 13 touchdowns on 110 of 200 passes in 2015 for San Diego State and set the Aztec record for most games without an interception (10).
Can lightning strike twice? Maybe.
Jalen comes to the Aztecs with arguably more pedigree and athleticism than Smith. The former 4-star recruit out of Sachse High in Texas is primarily here in San Diego because of the coaching and philosophy changes taken place at Mississippi State under Head Coach Mike Leach.
From all reports Mayden has taken time to get familiar with Jeff Hecklinski’s offense and has shown improvement in running the show since the Spring game. The only way to catapult that progress is to get him the game reps and let the natural abilities of this 4-star recruit takeover.
In the Aztecs offense, the formations may have recently changed removing the ever present fullback position leading the charge to a power spread single back look, but the goal remains the same. Offensive Coordinator Hecklinski desires to be a tough, physical, downhill running offense that methodically puts strings of drives together to wear down the opposing defenses. The pressure on our Quarterback is not so heavy that the offense expects him to throw for 40 times and lead the team on his arm alone.
But if we must air it out more frequently to put greater points on the board than on the ground, SDSU also brought in Mayden’s Mississippi State teammate and fellow Texas native, Wide Receiver Tyrell Shavers. A big target like that must be capitalized along with Tight End Daniel Bellinger. Having the previous connection between Mayden and Shavers should absolutely be given the upmost chance as success.
All in all, everything i’ve seen from Jalen as a young man shows he has the intangibles of being a leader on and off the field. If he is dedicated in his time here in San Diego, these next two years should yield good results that all Aztecs fans can appreciate and be proud of.
Now Will Haskell is the most interesting option in Aztec Nation these days. The excitement level of Will’s physical talents, especially in the RPO game, is something everyone wants to see. But there have not been any indications that a true freshman is going to make that much of a leap to the top of the depth chart just yet.
But why not? There is so much emerging talent and athleticism just waiting to be developed through those crucial reps needed to lead this program to the future. Perhaps a season playing in never-never land of Carson, California is the perfect crash course needed.
Wouldn’t having a sophomore Will Haskell open up Aztecs Stadium next season primed and ready to lead be the ideal scenario? Did we mention the opening game set in our new home will be versus Arizona, home state of young Haskell. The conditions could be ripe for a big turning point in Aztecs football. So why not get this ball rolling now?
If our offense is predicated on running the ball with our stable of elusive backs Greg Bell, Chance Bell, Kaegun Williams, Jordan Byrd, and so on–let the young man slowly find his way in the offense by handing off the majority of the time.
But we know for a fact young Haskell is dedicated to SDSU for the long haul and knows the QB1 spot must be earned through hard work. But for us fans, wouldn’t it be fun?
Let us know your thoughts on who should be QB1 come opening kickoff this 2021 season. You can also interact with us on twitter at sonsofmonty.