Aztec Football 2013 Season Outlook: Quarterbacks
The second installment of Mick McGrane's season outlook focuses on the quarterbacks.
The Aztec Offense
San Diego State's regular-season average of 35.1 points last season marked its highest output since 1996 when the team averaged 38.9. SDSU's total of 427 points ranked as the sixth most in program history, with only the 1969 (464), 1990 (459), 2010 (455), 1996 (428) and 1964 (423) squads surpassing last season's total. SDSU concluded the season ranked No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 36 nationally in scoring offense with an average of 32.85 points per contest.
And while matching those numbers in 2013 will be no small feat given attrition and new faces, it should be noted that when UCLA went 10-2 under Toledo in 1998, the Bruins finished the regular season ranked fifth nationally in scoring offense (40.5) and eighth in total offense (482.6). They also set school records for total offense (5,487 yards), passing yards (3,658) and passing touchdowns (29).
The Aztecs return seven starters on offense, with junior Adam Dingwell (five starts in 2012) having emerged from spring drills as No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback.
SDSU returns two of its top four rushers from a year ago, including a junior who has rushed for more than 100 yards eight times in just 19 games.
Five of the team's top eight receivers return, but the roster also features five wide receivers who redshirted last season and three others who were part of this year's recruiting class.
Despite the departure of the All-American Escobar, the Aztecs still boast a talented group of tight ends, as well as an offensive line that includes three players who combined for 32 starts in 2012.
When starting quarterback Ryan Katz was lost for the season due to a fractured ankle suffered at Nevada in Week 8 last year, the keys to offense were handed to sophomore Adam Dingwell. Having spent his redshirt freshman season at SDSU behind four-year starter Ryan Lindley, Dingwell had attempted exactly one pass --- an incompletion.
Now the job is Dingwell's to lose. Faced with the task of replacing Katz, a player who had started 14 games against Pac-12 competition while at Oregon State, Dingwell never flinched. In what was arguably the turning point en route to securing their first Mountain West title, the Aztecs rallied from a 10-point deficit to defeat Nevada, 39-38, in overtime. In relief of Katz, who left the game after only two series, Dingwell proceeded to complete 14-of-23 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns to beat UNLV the following week before running his record to 3-0 when the Aztecs knocked off No. 19 Boise State, 21-19, on the road in Week 10.
Dingwell (6-4, 210) finished the season completing 83-of-144 attempts (57.6 percent) for 939 yards and eight touchdowns. He has yet to lose a regular-season game.
"He's got great work ethic and he's a pretty smart football player," Toledo said. "He's got the physical ability. The biggest problem I see with him right now is his accuracy (Dingwell threw seven interceptions in six games). We need to complete more passes than we have been. We need to be able to make routine plays and hit open receivers."
Quinn Kaehler (6-4, 215), a junior transfer from Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., and senior Jake Bernards (6-5, 215), emerged from spring drills ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the depth chart. Kaehler arrives having thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 38 touchdowns last season.
"He's got a lot of what you want in a quarterback," Toledo said. "We'd like him to be more athletic, faster, and he needs to develop a stronger arm. But he's got everything else. He's very smart. He knows where everybody is on the field and he knows what's going on. I think we could put him in a game and he'd be able to manage everything just fine."
Tomorrow: The running backs