San Jose State Spartans Preview
  2011 SEASON IN REVIEW:It was an up-and-down season for the Spartans in 2011, the team often hinting at bigger things to come but never quite getting over the hump as they finished 5-7 overall and a game under .500 (3-4) in WAC action.

It was a truly ugly start to the campaign as the squad was easily handled by neighboring Stanford in enemy territory, 57-3. A week later, SJSU was pitted against another Pac-12 program and made it a little more respectable but still fell to UCLA on the road, 27-17. Conference foe Nevada was next on the slate and the Spartans nearly stunned the Wolf Pack in their home opener before bowing by a field goal, 17-14.

Head coach Mike MacIntyre, in his second year with the program, put his players in position to not only pick up their first win of the season against New Mexico State (34-24), but followed that up with a 38-31 victory versus Colorado State as well. By the middle of October the Spartans were a more respectable 3-4, with hopes of a possible postseason appearance, but those dreams were dashed with three straight defeats against Louisiana Tech, Idaho and Utah State.

Even though it was too late to make enough of a difference in terms of bowl eligibility, SJSU managed to navigate through both Navy and Fresno State successfully by identical scores of 27-24 to close out the campaign.

The Spartans finished the season ranked second-to-last in the WAC in rushing (101.8 ypg), total offense (378.7 ypg) and scoring offense (24.5 ppg) and while the group was also last in the conference and 100th in the nation in sacks per game with just 1.33, the good news was that defensive end Travis Johnson led the league and was 10th nationally with 0.79 sacks per outing. Back for another go in 2012, Johnson enters the season third among active FBS players with 19.0 career sacks.

By keeping his team competitive down to the wire, MacIntyre was rewarded with a contract extension through the 2017 season.

S 1 at Stanford
S 8 vs. UC Davis
S15 vs. Colorado State
S22 at San Diego State
S29 at Navy
O13 vs. Utah State
O20 at UTSA
O27 vs. Texas State
N 3 at Idaho
N10 at New Mexico State
N17 vs. BYU
N24 vs. Louisiana Tech
WR Jabari Carr
OT David Quessenberry
OL Nicholas Kaspar
TE Peter Tuitupou
TE Ryan Otten
WR Chandler Jones
WR Noel Grigsby

DT Travis Raciti
DE Travis Johnson
LB Keith Smith
CB Ronnie Yell
S James Orth

P Harrison Waid

OFFENSE:The Spartans have plenty of returning starters when it comes to receivers, the only problem is those players will have to learn to work with a new quarterback. Dasmen Stewart saw some time under center for the Spartans in four games a year ago, but his limited action is by no means an indication that he'll be handed the offense here in 2012. Stewart completed just 40.4 percent of his 52 pass attempts with 1 interception, which means Blake Jurich and David Fales will be given a fighting chance to show what they can do as well.

In fact, it is Fales, a transfer from Monterey Peninsula College, who is quite possibly the best option for the offense at this point, having connected on close to 62 percent of his attempts for 4,635 yards and 37 touchdowns as an all-conference performer. Noel Grigsby (89 receptions), Chandler Jones (61) and Jabari Carr (33) all bring solid receiving skills to the table and can stretch the field for the Spartans, while tight end Ryan Otten (52 receptions, 739 yards, 5 TDs in 2011) is considered one of the top players at his position, not only in the WAC but the nation as well.

In addition to filling the quarterback position, SJSU will also have to find a replacement for running back Brandon Rutley who accounted for 903 of the team's 1,22 rushing yards and all but five of their TDs on the ground. Seniors De'Leon Eskridge and Ina Liaina should have something to say about filling that void.

DEFENSE:The run defense for the Spartans a year ago left a lot to be desired as they permitted a whopping 204.3 ypg, ranking them seventh in the conference and 106th in the country. Bringing back only two returning starters along the defensive line in Travis Raciti and Travis Johnson means the group could possibly be weaker yet in that department.

However, Johnson can be a beast coming off his end position and might be able to make up for the fact that the line will be revamped to some degree. A First- Team All-WAC performer Johnson, this year's WAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and a member of both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award watch lists, was one of 19 semifinalists for the Hendricks Award last year and placed second in the league in sacks with 9.5, which means he can cause quite a bit of havoc for offensive linemen on any given play.

"Travis has earned every bit of that," coach MacIntyre says of Johnson's preseason accolades. "He's a playmaker. He blocked kicks that were big in the (2011) Hawaii game. He just makes a lot of plays and he's also a team captain. I think he is a heck of a football player."

The better news for the unit is that the top two tacklers are back for another turn in linebacker Keith Smith and defensive back James Orth. Smith led the team with 104 stops and was also first with 3 forced fumbles, while Orth accounted for 78 takedowns and logged 4 interceptions to pace the group in that department.

SPECIAL TEAMS:In 2011, Harrison Waid was primarily the punter for the Spartans, knocking 16 of his 52 opportunities inside the 20-yard line as he averaged 42.8 yards per kick, but in addition to handling those duties once again, Waid will also be the placekicker for the squad. The junior did get a chance to try out his kicking skills last year as he converted all four of his PAT tries and was 2-of-5 on field goal attempts, but he'll have to show that he can consistently knock through kicks if he wants to retain the job the whole way through.

OUTLOOK:Like other current teams in the WAC, San Jose State will be joining the Mountain West Conference beginning next season so this is the final chance for the Spartans to make their mark in this league. The team has been picked to finish third in the conference and while the squad would like to believe that decision has been based on its talent, it has more to do with how poor the rest of the league is expected to perform.

"The good thing is the teams picked one and two come to our place," MacIntyre said of Louisiana Tech and Utah State. "That gives us a chance to play the best at home this year and we have a great home schedule."

The squad could conceivably put together a four-game win streak in the second half of the season with UTSA, Texas State, Idaho and New Mexico State all bunched together on the schedule, but the road leading up to those meetings will be filled with several difficult matchups. San Jose State kicks off with Stanford, then catches a break with UC Davis before clashing with Colorado State, San Diego State and Navy. On the back end the Spartans are slated to combat both BYU and Louisiana Tech, but even though those two meetings are at home, so in no way does that mean the squad will be competitive through to the end.

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor

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