Several underclassmen to make SDSU's season-opening depth chart
San Diego State head coach Rocky Long discussed several changes to his upcoming depth chart on Thursday and there are some listings that may come as a surprise to fans.
The official depth chart should be updated on GoAztecs.com as soon as tonight.
Overall, there will be as many as five players with zero game experience starting for the Aztecs, with several underclassmen making the two-deep as well.
Redshirt freshmen wide receivers Tim Wilson and Isiah Macklin are listed with the first team, while true freshman safety Tariq Thompson is also put down as a starting safety. Three other true freshmen will have back up roles with a solid amount of playing time.
Thompson, a product out of local high school St. Augustine, surpassed sophomore Trenton Thompson for the spot at Warrior safety. Trenton, who had a hamstring strain to start fall camp, took the majority of first team reps during spring ball. Tariq did enough in just a few weeks of fall camp to surge to the front for the job.
"To this point in our camp, [Tariq] has performed much better," Long said. "I think both those guys have the ability to play that spot. But both are inexperienced guys that continue to make a lot of mistakes. They're both going to play a lot and the one that is most consistent will play the most."
Wilson and Macklin are listed in front of senior returners Mikah Holder and Quest Truxton, who aren't even penciled in as true second teamers.
Instead, the depth chart will indicate an "OR" listed next to their names, with Fred Trevillion and Collin Andrews paring with the two respectively.
"It's based on performance in practice," Long said. "The other guys have more experience and you can base it on last year's performance but we don't do that around here. We base it on the performance daily. And [Trevillion and Wilson] have outperformed those other guys."
Holder missed the majority of spring camp and the first half of fall camp with hamstring issues.
Trevillion was one of the five players confirmed to have chicken pox. He was held out of practices for a week - longer than most. Up until then, he was showing flashes of becoming a potential No.1 receiver. Wilson'schickenpox test results came back negative but he was held out for three days to prevent potential spreading.
"I thought him and Tim Wilson were having the best camps until he was out for several days," Long said. "And Tim Wilson was only out for three."
Regardless of who starts, the receivers have enough deep talent to rotate throughout the year.
"We personally believe the quality has improved, but I don't think you prove that until they start any games," Long said. "I think we look better, and they're performing well in practice."
The starting offensive line is, as previously expected: LT Tyler Roemer, LG Daishawn Dixon, C Keith Ismael, RG Antonio Rosales and RT Ryan Pope.
Roemer and Ismael are redshirt freshmen, Dixon is a sophomore and Pope has yet to play a down entering his junior year (the JuCo transfer missed most of last season with a lung contusion injury).
"I think they'll get better as the season goes along," Long said, referring to the inexperience. "I mean, we have no choice. This is not like pro football where we can go get a guy off the wire or get a 12-year vet that wants to come out of retirement.
"They'll be alright and get better. And then the offensive line two years from now is going to be unbeilable.
True freshman Dominic Gudino is considered the backup interior lineman at the center and guard spots while the team's third offensive tackle, or "swing" tackle is still up for grabs between redshirt freshman Zach Thomas and senior Joe Salcedo.
Long has mentioned several times that true freshman only have a shot to play if they are "far away from the ball," referring to the skill position players. Gudino broke that saying by potentially lining up directly above the ball this season at center (or guard).
"I think he's second team at either one of them," Long said. "He can go in at any time and that's a tribute to him. True freshman don't play much but it's all based on performance. We don't care if they're 18 or 22."
Gudino most notably was put on his back during a pass-set rep against big nose tackle JonDarius Gardner during the first full-padded practice. He's improved ever since.
"He still has those freshman moments," said Long. "But he's improved with practice. He's probably exceeded our expectations."
Ryan Agnew is listed as the backup quarterback but Long said that Agnew will continue to split the backup reps 50/50 with Rutgers transfer Chris Laviano throughout the season.
"I think [Agnew] understands the scheme a bit better," Long said. "He's more comfortable with what we're trying to do."
At running back, there is no third-teamer listed behind Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington. Chase Jasmin suffered a knee strain during Wednesday's scrimmage and his return is pending. If Jasmin can't play, bulky walkon Tyler Wormhoudt will likely get the call up.
At tight end, sophomore Parker Houston is listed as David Well's backup. Senior Darryl Richardson took the majority of first-team reps at the start of camp and Houston suffered from a neck issue after this pass weekend but he's proven enough in practice to earn the role.
Wells is still considered as questionable to play in the season opener, but he has been participating in non-contact drills during the final week of fall camp.
"He hasn't done any skelly (7-on-7) yet, but he's done all the scout stuff," said Long.
On the defensive line, starting nose tackle Sergio Phillips is expected to return from his concussion protocol this Monday. Phillips has missed the past week of practice but is still the entrenched starter.
"He's clear he's ready," Long said.
Junior Noble Hall and sophomore Myles Cheatum, one of the camp MVPs from ASR's spring camp reports, are listed as starters at defensive end. That said, SDSU will play several DEs this season such as Anthony Luke, Randy Ricks, Damon Moore and Chibu Onyeukwu. Cheatum and Hall have practiced a bit at nose tackle since Phillips' absence.
"We have unproven guys but we have flexibility there," Long said. "I think our depth is quality depth. It helps when you alternate them and keep them fresh, especially when you play spread teams."
There will be another true freshman seeing the field this year, with OLB Andrew Aleki backing up Jay Henderson as the linebacker on the line of scrimmage.
At inside linebacker, Ronley Lakalaka will be paired with true sophomore Troy Cassidy. The local out of Carlsbad edged out Kyavah Tezino and Ryan Dunn.
Senior warrior safety Trey Lomax is expected to backup Aztec safety Parker Baldwin if he suffers an injury. If that happens, there is a strong chance freshman Tariq Thompson and true sophomore Trenton Thompson will be the starting warrior safeties.
"There's big concerns," Long said. "If something happens to Parker, we got rookies playing [at the warrior spots]."
Ron Smith and Kameron Kelly will start at corner, while Kyree Woods and Garrett Binkley will spell them.
On special teams, Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington are both shown as the only kick returners. Washington is also listed as the backup punt returner, behind Quest Truxton.