The Texas Longhorns (0-1,0-0) will welcome the San Jose State Spartans (1-1,0-0) to Austin on Saturday as Texas looks to rebound from a season opening 51-41 defeat at the hands of Maryland. The Spartans come into the game with a loss in the season opener to South Florida (42-22) and a victory last weekend against Cal Poly (34-13). Let’s take a look at the San Jose State offense.
Entering 2017, the Spartans had a question mark at the QB position. Sophomore Josh Love had one career start under his belt and entered into a competition with Montel Aaron during fall camp. During the opener against South Florida, Love received the start and threw 2 quick touchdowns before tossing 3 interceptions and giving way to Aaron late in the game. Love received another start this past weekend against Cal Poly, but was pulled after throwing for 29 yards on 4 of 9 attempts. Aaron took over and helped San Jose State pull away by throwing for 3 touchdowns and 183 yards. The redshirt freshman stands at 6’5″ and has the ability to use his legs along with his arm to beat opponents. Even if head coach Brent Brennan continues to ride the hot hand and give Aaron the start against Texas, it would not be surprising to see both quarterbacks play.
First year offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder is no stranger to Austin. The youngest offensive coordinator in the country served as an assistant wide receivers coach at Texas last year. Sowder also had a previous stop at Baylor in 2009 and 2010 as an assistant wide receivers coach, where he learned the veer and shoot offense under head coach Art Briles and offensive coordinator Dino Babers.
San Jose State has struggled to run the ball thus far, only recording 1 rushing touchdown. Junior Malike Roberson led the Spartans in rushing in 2016, but has only averaged 3 yards per carry this season. The only rushing touchdown of the season belongs to sophomore Zamore Zigler, who through 2 games leads the team in rushing with 141 yards on 21 carries. Zigler is seen as an explosive back who is able to use his speed well in the open field. Senior Brandon Monroe also plays a key role in the rushing attack. At 241 pounds, Monroe serves as a fullback in the San Jose State offense, but has also received 12 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per carry.
The Spartans struggled to get their ground game going against South Florida, gaining 109 yards on 38 attempts, before exploding for 271 rushing yards against Cal Poly. With 4 players capable of handling the load and youth at the quarterback position, San Jose State will look to establish the ground game early and often against the Longhorns.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Through 2 games, the MVP of the San Jose State offense has been receiver Bailey Gaither. The sophomore is averaging 17.3 yards a catch and has caught 3 touchdowns. Gaither will operate primarily out of the slot, with juniors Justin Holmes and Tre Hartley manning the outside wide receiver positions. Holmes and Hartley each have a touchdown on the season and have combined for 131 yards. The only other receiver who has recorded a catch on the year is redshirt freshman Jaquan Blackwell, who has hauled in 4 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Tight end Josh Oliver is tied for the team lead in receptions with 9, which is 6 more than he caught all of 2016. The 6’5″ 253 pound junior is a very capable blocker who has the ability to flex out as a receiver and create matchup problems. Oliver will far and away be the best tight end on the field on Saturday, and must be accounted for in the run and pass game.
San Jose State had the luxury of returning all 5 starting offensive lineman from 2016. The veteran unit starts 4 seniors and a sophomore. In total, the 5 starters have 123 career starts between them. Seniors Jeremiah Kolone and Nate Velichko have combined to start 68 games over the course of their respective careers, with Kolone earning honorable mention All-Mountain West in 2016. Troy Kowalski, the lone sophomore, started 9 games as a freshman at left tackle.
The Spartans have only allowed 3 sacks through the first two games, but much of that can be attributed to the quick passing game that is a part of the veer and shoot. Despite the experience the offensive line has, they proved to be vulnerable against South Florida, struggling to open lanes in the run game. The front 7 for Texas will need to do a better job of filling gaps and playing sound football against an inferior offensive line.