By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: Head coach Dick Tomey had taken the Spartans from the depths of the Western Athletic Conference to respectability during his tenure, but with nearly a half-century of coaching behind him he was not prepared to deal with the disappointment that was a 2-10 season in 2009. Tomey, the only
coach to rank in the top-10 in both the WAC and the Pac-10 in coaching wins,
watched his squad stumble through the most recent campaign as the offense
showed difficulty getting on track.
Four times the program failed to score in double digits, the first of those
coming against fourth-ranked USC in the opener, 56-3. The squad showed some
fight in the second game of the season, a 24-14 setback versus 17th-ranked
Utah, but a week after that the team found itself being outscored by a margin
of 122-34. SJSU finally worked its way into the win column near the end of
September with a 19-9 victory over Cal Poly, but that did little to settle the
restlessness in the program. The WAC schedule was brutal for the Spartans as
they lost all but one of their encounters, that being a narrow 13-10 victory
over an inept New Mexico State program at home in late November. During a
three-game run versus Boise State, Nevada and Utah State the Spartans were
limited to a total of 23 points, while the defense was helpless in allowing a
combined 131 points.
Except for 2006 when Tomey guided the team to a 20-12 win over New Mexico in
the aptly named New Mexico Bowl, 2009 was more of the same for the squad as it
suffered yet another losing season and may have in fact brought Tomey to the
end of his coaching career as he announced his retirement from the game. And
really, who could blame him seeing as how the Spartans ranked third-to-last in
the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring with a mere 13.8 ppg. The team was
117th in the country in rushing (76.7 ypg) and was 119th in run defense (259.2
ypg). The exit of coach Tomey began a new era in SJSU football as first-year
man Mike MacIntyre stepped up and was anointed the next leader of the
Spartans. MacIntyre, who most recently was an assistant with Duke and also
spent some time at the pro level, has filled out his staff with several new
faces so it will be a growing process for everyone involved moving forward.
OFFENSE: Jordan La Secla may be a senior and the primary starter at
quarterback for the Spartans last season, but the coaching staff didn't want
to lock him in as the automatic starter for 2010, instead allowing Matt
Faulkner and Dasmen Stewart to also compete for the position. La Secla
completed almost 60 percent of his pass attempts in 2009, but his 10 TDs were
outweighed by 11 interceptions. Each of the three vying for the starting nod
have their own set of qualifications and that's what makes the decision so
"The thing that will be interesting, Brandon Rutley will play both ways. We're
going to have two-way players at San Jose State University," coach MacIntyre
announced heading into fall practice. "Brandon will be a primary running back
and then on defense he will play our nickelback, he's one of our best
defensive backs. I have a few other players on our football team that will do
that...I just thought it was a way to help our team depth-wise."
Rutley appeared in 10 games last year but generated just 59 yards on 30
carries, so using him on defense is just another way of getting the best
possible effort from a talented performer. Lamon Muldrow (592 yards, three
TDs) will again be a primary runner coming out of the backfield, but there are
a host of players that the head coach hopes to tap into as he tries to rescue
this team from the depths of the FBS. Considering 184 yards of Muldrow's total
came against Cal Poly, there is certainly a need for an intervention in this
Now a senior, receiver Jalal Beauchman is expected to pick up the pace this
year after logging just under three catches per game, resulting in 378 yards
and four scores in 2009. Josh Harrison matched Beauchman with 35 receptions,
but he averaged a pedestrian 8.5 yards per grab. Marquis Avery was expected to
be a crucial piece of the receiver puzzle, but it was announced in late July
that he had been declared ineligible and subsequently left school.
DEFENSE: There were few teams in college football last season that had as much
of a problem stopping opponents as the Spartans did. Just two years ago the
pass efficiency defense ranked second in the league and eight in the country
with a mark of 100.06, yet last year the group was picked apart.
Granted, the overall pass defense for the Spartans ranked second in the WAC
and 22nd in the nation with just 183.8 ypg surrendered, but much of that had
to do with the fact that opponents knew they could run on SJSU anytime they
"Duke (Ihenacho), if he keeps doing well, after coaching in the NFL for five
years, this young man has the ability to do it if all the breaks come his
way," is how much coach MacIntyre believes in one of the top defenders in the
WAC. "If he stays injury free he has a chance to play at the next level."
Ihenacho had his best season last year with his 89 tackles, but as a
linebacker in 2008 he was one of the top pass defenders with five
interceptions, so shifting him to the safety position might not have been the
best move. Nevertheless, Ihenacho is still a returning First Team All-WAC
performer from both 2009 and 2008 which means he already has a reputation for
being a big-time player on an otherwise average-at-best defense.
Another player to keep an eye on is defensive end Mohamed Marah who is
returning from a season-ending injury and could be one of the players that
coach MacIntyre tries to bend into his two-way system given that he's had
experience at linebacker and running back at SJSU as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: It was assumed that Tyler Cope would resume his place as both
the placekicker and the punter for the Spartans in 2010 after he converted
seven of 11 field goal attempts in 2009, but apparently that has all changed.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Cope has given up football altogether
and that means the coaching staff has had to scramble to find a replacement.
Early indications are that freshman Harrison Waid will take over both
positions and operate just as Cope did. Waid was a redshirt last year coming
out of Fremont High School in nearby Sunnyvale and showed tremendous promise
as a senior. Brandon Driver and Josh Harrison will take care of the punt
returns, while Ronnie Yell and Driver get their cracks at bringing back punts
for the Spartans in 2010.
OUTLOOK: So, what do the Spartans have to look forward to with the start of
the 2010 campaign? How about a trip to Tuscaloosa to challenge the reigning
national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Nothing like taking a beating right
out of the gate to prepare a team for the countless other letdowns that await
them on the schedule. A week later the squad heads to Madison to face off
against the Wisconsin Badgers, another ill-conceived matchup that will only
serve to bury SJSU in the national stats earlier than usual.
Getting Southern Utah and UC Davis at home to round out the non-conference
slate should be high points for the Spartans, but not so much the team's trip
to Salt Lake City to confront the Utah Utes. Playing a 13-game schedule for
the first time since 2002 will only drag out the inevitable for the Spartans
-- a less-than-satisfying outcome in the majority of outings.