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102. SAN DIEGO STATE COACH: Chuck Long (7-17 in two seasons).
LAST SEASON: 4-8 overall, 3-5 in Mountain West (fifth in league).
FINAL 2007 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 86th.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Wide receiver Vincent Brown caught 31 passes for 349 yards as a true freshman last season on a team that had two other wide receivers drafted. Brown should put up better numbers this season, assuming the Aztecs find a quarterback. Long has high hopes for sophomore defensive tackle Ernie Lawson, who is a projected starter after missing all of 2006 with a knee injury and playing part-time in 2007.
STAR POWER: Senior linebacker Russell Allen returns for his fourth season as a starter. Allen led the Aztecs with 119 tackles last season, including 10.6 per game against Mountain West teams. He set a school record with 22 tackles in a loss to Utah.
STRENGTHS: Nine starters return on defense. All three linebackers are back, and the secondary is strong as well with three starters returning. Other than a trip to Notre Dame, the early season schedule isn’t daunting.
WEAKNESSES: Quarterback Kevin O’Connell, a third-round pick of the New England Patriots, will be difficult to replace. Redshirt freshman Ryan Lindley ended the season as the No. 1 quarterback, but neither he nor any other QB on the roster has much experience. Junior college transfer Drew Westling hasn’t played on the Division I-A level and Kelsey Sokoloski – O’Connell’s backup last season – spent most of his time as a holder on special teams. The offensive line will have three new starters – each a redshirt freshman. The Aztecs need to find a pass rusher. They had just 15 sacks last season, and team leader Nick Osborn is gone. While nine starters return on defense, the Aztecs were 119th in rush defense last season.
THE BUZZ: The Aztecs had four players drafted off last season’s team, including the quarterback, but still couldn’t manage a win over a bowl team. The road trip to Notre Dame is the only game against a BCS opponent, and a fast start is crucial if San Diego State has any hopes of bowl eligibility.