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October 28, 2011

Mailbag on the Mesa

Editor's note: Every Friday ASR Publisher Edward Lewis will answer some questions from fans about the Aztecs in this weekly mailbag. Send questions to edwardflewis@yahoo.com, @EdwardLewisASR on Twitter, post questions on the message board or put questions on ASR's Facebook page.

Vince: Is Dillon Baxter confirmed as transferring to San Diego State, or is it just a possibility?

If I were an Aztec fan, I would be seriously offended when all these talking-head journalists say stuff like, Dillon Baxter "would undoubtedly be welcomed by San Diego State". The thing is, this isn't your older brother's SDSU. The Aztecs are actually good now. They have a program built around good character and good people, and the negative articles have almost disappeared, because the personalities on this squad are not individualistic. Now if you get Baxter, the dude brings a hundred pounds of baggage. He's an enigma, and some even go as far as to call him a cancer, or at the very least, a distraction.

Look, he's had 68 career carries for one touchdown in his two years at USC, but every single week there is a question and an article coming out about him from the Los Angeles area, usually talking about "Why doesn't he get more playing time?" or "Why did he miss practice again this week?" Imagine if Ryan Lindley, Ronnie Hillman and head coach Rocky Long had to answer questions like that about a guy who doesn't even play every single day. Pretty sure that wouldn't fly well.

He can win SDSU some games, no doubt. And I had a source tell me it will be entirely up to Long whether the Aztecs pursue him or not if he does indeed transfer. But I believe they only take him if he seriously cleans up his act.


Tom: How big is the Kendrick Mathis commitment this week? I've heard some fans say they weren't impressed with him. What do you think?

Can't really imagine why anybody would say that. If he wasn't the Aztecs' No. 1 target for the 2012 class, then he was certainly close. He is exactly the kind of recruit Brady Hoke and Rocky Long have gushed about since they got here. He plays quarterback because he's by far the best athlete on his high school team, and he has already fit into SDSU's 3-3-5 system when he was down here for a camp over the summer.

He's a very good safety, in addition to being the best athlete on his team. SDSU loved him, and now it has him. He might actually be the biggest recruit the Aztecs have locked up so far.


Ian: Who is the must-get recruit for Rocky Long this year that is not currently verballed to SDSU at the moment in your opinion?

This is a tough question because there are several big-name recruits the Aztecs would love to have. Nico Siragusa, Robert Lewis, Zach Hemmila, Devian Shelton, Eduardo Middleton and Alex Jackson would all be a coup. But I'll say Jonavaughn Williams would trump them all.

Williams is a 6-foot, 195-pound receiver who the Aztecs are enthralled with. In fact, they've had an offer out to him since he was a sophomore in high school. He's fast, he's big and he has offers from half the Pac-12, with UCLA reportedly close to offering as well. Plus, he's good friends with another coveted SDSU recruit, Kenny Orjioke. So if they get Williams, maybe they get Orjioke as well. He'd be my must-get recruit if I were SDSU.


Kyle: I was disappointed when I heard about the number of fans that attended SDSU's open practice a few weeks ago, and I was even more disappointed to hear how awesome New Mexico's Lobo Howl and other schools' Midnight Madnesses were. I think SDSU really dropped the ball here.

Honestly, this whole SDSU men's basketball preseason has been beyond perplexing to me. It all started with that first official open practice a few weeks ago. There wasn't any loud music, fun games, exciting giveaways, dunk contests, concerts or famous people in attendance. It was just an hour-long practice, which was cut about 15 minutes short because the women's basketball team's practice ran into the men's hour, and it's only highlight was a 10-minute layup line. Meanwhile over at New Mexico, like you mentioned, the Lobo Howl had around 6,000 people show up and I heard the Lobos really put on a show. And I'm sure most of you saw the Sportscenter Top 10 that weekend where several dunks from schools' Midnight Madness dunk contests made the highlight reel. I thought SDSU really missed the boat on a chance to sell more season tickets and put on a really nice performance for the fans.

Then you had this baffling press release about student tickets. Kids are no longer allowed to line up before 6 a.m. on the day of the ticket release date. One of the top two coolest parts about last year was seeing the gecko standing in line three or four days before tickets were released. It really added to the hype. Now, it's almost as if they don't want that hype and huge interest anymore. Then the other puzzling part of this is students can't get a guest ticket with their free ticket anymore either. So you can't just go with a friend who had an extra ticket. It just seems so strange that they aren't necessarily promoting students coming to the game, but rather making it more difficult.

And finally, perhaps the strangest part about this all is practices have been completely closed to the media. Nobody can see the team, which in turn makes it almost impossible to write about and give fans daily updates. So how do you drum up interest for a team that can't even get articles written about it? It's all just very weird to me, and instead of capitalizing on the hoopla and the craze of last year, it almost seems like they want to calm it down.


Rick: With all of the conference change talk going on A) do we end up losing Air Force and / or Boise State and B) is there anything positive to come out of all the conference jumping for the Aztecs?

The short answer is I have no idea. Neither does Long and neither does Jim Sterk. I'll guess and say Air Force and Boise State stay put, because I really don't think they want to pay the exit fee and then jump aboard the Titanic. Plus, by them staying, it would help make the Big East merge into C-USA and the Mountain West, which would presumably bring a BCS automatic qualifier bid. But I really have no clue.

As for the Aztecs, I think the biggest positive was Tommy Tuberville's comments the other day. The big markets and programs, such as UCLA and USC, had to cringe when they read those. SDSU is a hotbed for talent, it plays in a pro stadium, its city is comparable to none and it has a large audience it can reach. I'm not sure why a big-time conference wouldn't want it. If it gets into one, though, it could be because of Tuberville's words. And that would more than help recruiting, because as dumb as it sounds, a lot of these kids want to go to the Pac-12 or Big 10 just because it sounds cool.


Jerrold: Rocky has talked a lot about the success of TCU being attributable partly to recruiting seven or eight running backs. One or two stay at that position, the rest get moved to other positions. How many running backs did SDSU sign in Feb 2011 and how many does he plan to sign in Feb 2012?

SDSU signed four running backs last year, Sam Atoe, Chase Price, Brandon Wright and De'Saan Hardwick. Atoe did not qualify, however. This year, the Aztecs have one commitment from Alex Howard (who I just talked to yesterday, story will be up soon on his outstanding year) and could get one more running back if they snag Lewis.

But signing running backs isn't necessarily the goal. The goal is to sign the best athletes. Usually, that's the running back. But it can also be the quarterback or the receiver, as you've seen in guys like Mathis and Lloyd Mills. SDSU isn't just recruiting for positions, they're recruiting good players first and foremost, which I think is a big reason for this program's resurgence.


Talk more Aztecs with Publisher Edward Lewis on ASR's premium message board!


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