Know The Foe :: Aztec Q&A With The San Diego Union-Tribune's Brent Schrotenboer

Know The Foe :: San Diego State
The 2010 Aggie football season opener means it's time the return of our Know The Foe feature for its third season. The season opener against Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State gives us the opportunity to talk to Brent Schrotenboer who covers the Aztecs for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Aztecs are entering year two of the Brady Hoke era, what differences if any have you seen in team's attitude/coaching strategy from last season to the opening game of this season?
Two things stand out: 1. A better understanding of the offense and defense. 2. A heightened sense of expectations on the team as a result. The team is more businesslike than it has been in previous years. That’s an important step.

How much should Aggie fans read into SDSU's 47-0 victory over Nicholls State? Sure, Nicholls State is an FCS team, but SDSU hasn't manhandled a team like that since the Idaho game in 2008.
I don’t think you can read much into it except that a wins helps build momentum and confidence. We don’t know yet how much this team has improved or how good it can be based on a game like that. But being 1-0 for the first time since 2004 is another important step for a team that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1998.

What can the Aggie fans expect to see from the Aztec offense when SDSU has the ball.
It’s a pro-style offense that is intent on running the ball effectively this year after finishing 116th out of 120 FBS teams last year in rushing. Running the ball is a priority but it does have the skill players to do much more than that. WR Vincent Brown is expected to play on Sundays next year. Sixth-year senior WR DeMarco Sampson can take over games. Additionally, TE Alston Umuolo is an all-conference pick that many expect to benefit from opponents that focus too much on Sampson and Brown.

Most Aggie fans are familiar with what SDSU defensive coordinator Rocky Long does with his famed 3-3-5 defense from his days as head coach at New Mexico. Has he added any new wrinkles since becoming the defensive coordinator at SDSU.
The only new wrinkles are having his players learn to make “audibles” on defense – pre-snap changes to the defensive play according to what the opposing offense is doing. His players are still learning the defense. This is the next step in that process. Also, better man-to-man coverage by the cornerbacks means SDSU will be able to blitz more often than they did last year, when they weren’t as good in man coverage and held back the blitzing as a result.

Who are some key players to watch for on offense and defense for SDSU
QB Ryan Lindley, a third-year starter; WRs Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, RBs Davon Brown and Ronnie Hillman.

LBs Miles Burris and Marcus Yarbrough, Safeties Darryn Lewis and Andrew Preston.

Who is one player on offense and on defense that may not be a household name for SDSU but could have a big game against the Aggies?
Safety Andrew Preston is a linebacker/safety hybrid who is capable of having a big game. TE Alston Umuolo is due for breakout performance after one catch last week.

What do the Aztecs need to do to the Aggies if they want to leave Las Cruces with a victory?
Stay composed on the road, where they’ve had difficulty winning for several years. Run the ball effectively, which would be a fairly eventful accomplishment for them.

What will the Aggies need to do to the Aztecs if they want to avenge last year's 34-17 loss?
Clamp down on the run and keep effective tabs on WRs Brown and Sampson (and prevent big yards after catches from both). Offensively, effective run-blocking and an effective running game helps against SDSU’s blitz-happy defense.

What's your predicted outcome (score)?
SDSU 30, NMSU 24