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March 23, 2012

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. Staff Writer Agustin Gonzalez is filling in for Edward Lewis this week.


Rickdoerr: Now that spring ball is over what do we know now that we didn't at the beginning?

Rick, to put it simply: A whole lot.

Even with projected starters such as Sam Meredith, Jordan Thomas, Alec Johnson, Nik Embernate and Walter Kazee sidelined with injuries, those who followed spring ball got to catch a glimpse of what kind of team this will be next season.

For the first time in five years, there were questions about who was going to line up under center every Saturday and take the first snap. Ryan Katz, the transfer from Oregon State, has undoubtedly looked like the best quarterback in camp and it will be absolutely shocking if he isn't the starter next year. He's gotten the most reps with the first team, and he'll provide a new dimension at the quarterback position with his mobility and ability to make plays out of the pocket.

Another glaring question mark was who would replace Ronnie Hillman and his 3,243 career rushing yards and 36 touchdowns. The answer is not one running back, but two, and maybe even three. Kazee looked good as the thunder to Hillman's lightning last year, and he'll be in the mix once again when he returns from his torn ACL. Aztec fans got to see a little bit of what Adam Muema could do, and he's had a fantastic spring, breaking off several long touchdown runs in practice. But the real diamond in the rough could be redshirt freshman Brandon Wright. He's been the breakout star of spring camp, showing an ability to run between the tackles and push the pile. Whenever he's gotten the ball, you expect positive yardage. Rocky Long could use all three in a committee next season depending on the situation.

But perhaps the biggest thing SDSU learned was that wide receiver - a weakness last year - could be the deepest and best position on the team. Brice Butler has been the most dynamic playmaker on the squad before injuring his shoulder, and he could put up the type of season Vincent Brown did two years ago. Colin Lockett will be even better in his second season at wideout, and Dylan Denso returns as well. Throw in Dominique Sandifer, Ezell Ruffin and newcomer Tim Vizzi, and this position will be stacked.

Vincent: What will next year's basketball starting lineup be? Also what can we expect? Sweet 16? Elite 8?

To tell you the truth, I have no idea, and I don't think SDSU's coaching staff does either. With six new talented players coming in, and only Tim Shelton and Garrett Green departing, the Aztecs will have at least 12 guys getting good playing time, unless someone redshirts. If you look at the versatility of next year's team (Jamaal Franklin can play as a wing or at the four, Winston Shepard has point guard skills at 6-foot-9, etc.), considering all of the different starting lineup combinations will make your head spin.

My best guess at the starting lineup for the start of the season (emphasis on guess) would be Xavier Thames, Chase Tapley, James Rahon, Franklin and J.J. O'Brien at the five. As the season progresses, I think Shepard cracks the starting lineup, Rahon goes back to being the first guard off the bench and Dwayne Polee and James Johnson snag some starts as well.

As far as expectations go, a few days after SDSU's loss to North Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament, Thames tweeted, "Where's the final four next year?? Because we will be there!!!" The Aztecs return four starters, have the best incoming recruiting class in program history, and expectations will be sky-high. I think if SDSU fails to make it to the Sweet 16, it will be a huge disappointment.

SleepingGiantsFan: Since this is SDSU's final season in the MWC, and the final season of the MWC for that matter, I'm curious whether there's been any special vibe around camp about winning the final MWC title or moving to the Big East.

If you ask Rocky Long this question, he'll say something along the lines of how it's the goal every year to win the conference championship, and this year is no different.

But you better believe there is a special vibe around the team this year. With a pillow-soft schedule and no back-to-back road games, the Aztecs could realistically put together a 10-win season, their first since 1977 when Claude Gilbert was the head coach and SDSU finished the year ranked 16th in the country. If you look at the amount of talent Boise State is losing, and if everything goes SDSU's way, the MWC title could be ripe for the picking.

The ramifications of SDSU moving to the Big East could be huge for this year's recruiting class as well. Three-star athlete Chris Seisay told us that the Big East move is playing a huge part in his recruiting, and it's a sentiment that could be echoed with more and more recruits this year. If the Aztecs do put together a nine or 10-win season, this recruiting class could be huge.

k5james: Any murmers of a possible early football commit?

We have in fact been hearing rumors that SDSU could have picked up an early commitment from a linebacker. We've heard he's at least very interested in SDSU and could be committed already, but he's been very tough to get on the phone to confirm this. Hang tight and we'll keep you updated.

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