The anticipated opening of Snapdragon Stadium has all Aztecs fans, the diehard and even those of a more recent vintage, excited for the upcoming college football season. Finally, the Red and Black will enjoy a true home field advantage with tens of thousands of supporters closer to the on-field action than they have ever been.
Early reviews indicate the new Mission Valley home of SDSU football will be the place to be on Saturdays this fall. The 100th Aztecs football team is getting ready to make some noise on a brand new stage—one complete with great sight lines, unique architecture, and terrific gameday amenities.
Among those just announced this week was the long awaited San Diego State Ale. A delicious golden ale specifically brewed for those football Saturdays tailgating with your friends. The specialized beer was created by local San Diego heavyweights in the craft beer industry, Alesmith Brewing Company.
This incredible offering fits perfectly paired with an already deep roster of Best Pizza and Brew, Cali BBQ, The Crack Shack, Everbowl, Gaglione Brothers, Hodad’s and The Taco Stand. Don’t forget to save some room for dessert at the new Snapdragon Stadium. The ultra-delicious Batch & Box cookie makers are there to help bring you through the 4th quarter sugar rush.
For many longtime Aztecs fans the only element that could make the opening of the new stadium any sweeter than chocolate chips, would be if the coaches and players can find a way to unlock the vast potential of the offense.
The run-oriented attacks of recent years have proven to be a winning approach. But SDSU’s most illustrious reputation traces back to brilliant passing designs from the great Don Coryell and innovator Ernie Zampese, coaches critical to the evolution of the passing offense in college and the National Football League.
Last year, San Diego State’s offense featured a balanced approach. The team passed for an average of 168 yards a game, ran for 175 yards a game, and scored 27.4 points a game, good for 7th in scoring offense in the Mountain West Conference and 9th in total offense. Again while surprising that Aztecs team was able to win the western division, a 12-2 overall record suggests this level of production can still somehow be effective.
But since our long held dreams of a new stadium have come true, can’t we also wish for an exciting, open brand of football to go with it? You know, ones that once featured thrilling deep posts to Patrick Rowe, or a take-the-lid-off-the-defense bomb to Darnay Scott, or even a quick slant to Az Hakim that gets taken to the house as he races past all defenders.
At one time, before the running game was the featured attraction, SDSU produced outstanding quarterbacks and wide receivers on the regular. Heading into 2022, the Aztecs appear primed to get a little more creative with the offensive approach with a new quarterback returning home for his final season.
Braxton Burmeister joins the Aztecs after stops at Oregon and, most recently, Virginia Tech. The senior signal caller enjoyed a successful season in 2021 with the Hokies throwing for 1,960 yards and 14 TDs on 142 completions in 255 attempts over 12 games.
Burmeister’s Passing Efficiency Rating of 135 tops the 129 mark posted by Lucas Johnson, SDSU’s main QB1 for the majority of last season. But Burmeister can also get it done on the ground. The speedy QB from nearby La Jolla ran 117 times for 521 yards a year ago, a 4.5 average per rush. Those numbers were also rumored to have been achieved despite what many called a rib injury suffered mid season.
While standing at a decent 6’1” stature, this quarterback brings an edge to the position that should inspire his teammates to elevate their games on the offensive side of the ball. Burmeister has already in fact wowed his fellow Aztecs teammates and the social media world with his tough work ethic in the weight room.
With an offensive line anchored by 1st-team all MWC preseason selection Alama Uluave and a receiving corps led by fellow MWC preseason 1st-team wideout Jesse Matthews, Burmeister will have talented players around him. The senior Matthews returns as the leading pass catcher from 2021.
Matthews, who prepped locally at Christian High, tallied 57 receptions for 642 yards and 9 TDs last year. His acrobatic catches and all-out style of play filled the highlight reels. This was especially the case towards the final 6 games of the season where Jesse generated the bulk of his receiving production which was among the leaders in all the nation.
Also looking to make his mark in his senior year is wide receiver Tyrell Shavers. Transferring in from Mississippi State last year, Shavers contributed 18 catches for 213 yards and 2 TDs in 2021. The tall, athletic receiver also wreaked havoc on special teams for the Aztecs blocking two punts and recovering another for a touchdown. Shavers and Matthews should be frequent targets of Burmeister very quickly.
Whichever receiver can step up behind them is still up in the air. The recent season ending injury to TJ Sullivan effectively clears out the top promising guy who was next in line. Many are eager to see if Brionne Penny may be the answer to this recent loss.
Offensive Coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Hecklinski will have plenty of options at running back with several talented newcomers and proven returners. Hecklinski has been with Head Coach Brady Hoke at Ball State and Michigan in addition to both of Hoke’s stints with the Aztecs.
The ball control, run heavy approach requires a diverse and talented group of ball carriers and the Aztecs are loaded with those. Chance Bell may get the first opportunity to replace departed stud Greg Bell. Chance finished second on the team with 72 rushing attempts for 341 yards in 2021.
Speedy Jordan Byrd will likely see time carrying the ball as he did last season when he racked up 246 yards on 37 rushes. While Byrd can certainly always receive more touches in this his final super-senior season, he will also be called upon to play heavy on special teams. The return game is one of most importance for Jordan where he was selected by the Mountain West Conference as the #1 preseason ranked returner.
Jaylon Armstead returns to bring a physical presence to the backfield. He will be joined by newcomers, Kenon Christon (USC transfer and former Madison High star), redshirt freshman Cam Davis, and incoming freshmen Lucky Sutton (Cathedral Catholic High) and Sheldon Canley in pushing for time on the field and a chance to showcase their skills.
Tight Ends are another story. Junior Jay Rudolph and new Washington transfer Mark Redman have bolstered a very young and talented group behind them.
SDSU seemingly has the talent this year to take huge strides forward on the offensive side of the ball. Will Coach Hoke and Hecklinski open up the offense in time with the arrival of the Red and Black’s shiny new stadium? We start to find out this Saturday, August 20 at 5:00 p.m. when the Aztecs play their first ever scrimmage game at the new Snapdragon Stadium. Think you got what it takes to tailgate with us? Come by the Yellow/South parking lot and look for our official Sons of Monty Tailgate flags to find us. We want to party with you!