San Diego State football released its depth chart for the 2017 season on Thursday, Aug. 24.
The chart, which details the projected starter and backup at all 30 positions, is chock full of freshmen and features names that may be unfamiliar to fans.
“There might be some surprises for you but there are no surprises for me,” head coach Rocky Long said of the depth chart.
Many freshmen jumped upperclassmen who have played in previous years, a testament to the depth and talent on this young team.
On the offense, redshirt junior quarterback Christian Chapman will be at the helm for his second full season. Since he took the job from Max Smith in the Mountain West Conference championship game in 2015, the Aztecs have gone 13-3, winning two straight MWC titles and launching themselves into the national spotlight with two dominant bowl wins over the University of Cincinnati and University of Houston.
Junior Ryan Agnew is listed as the backup, but Long said that that could change by season’s start as he continues to battle with senior Chris Laviano, a transfer from Rurtgers University.
Taking over the coveted backfield spot is senior running back Rashaad Penny who will take over for Donnel Pumphrey. Penny ran for 1037 yards on 7.5 yards per carry in the 2016 season.
He will head a running back group that will consist of redshirt sophomore Juwan Washington - who was declared the backup - as well as redshirt freshman Chase Jasmin and, if Jasmin’s knee issues persist, junior Tyler Wormhoudt.
Some of the biggest surprises came on the wings, as two redshirt freshmen - Isiah Macklin and Tim Wilson Jr. - were named the starting wide receivers. The freshmen jumped two seniors - Mikah Holder and Quest Truxton - who were featured players last season. Macklin and Wilson have impressed in practice, and were surprise performers at the Fan Fest scrimmage.
Holder and Truxton were listed behind junior receiver Fred Trevillion, one of the eight players who missed time because of chickenpox.
Holder and Truxton are featured players in special teams, as Holder is listed as the starting holder and Truxton will be the punt returner for the second year in a row.
“That’s a great deal, that’s what I want,” special teams coordinator Bobby Hauck said of Holder’s position. “I tried to convince (Mike May) to not put his name on the depth chart.”
The offensive line includes two freshmen among three underclassmen. Redshirt freshman Tyler Roemer will man the blind side as the left tackle, sophomore Daishawn Dixon will work as the left guard and redshirt freshman Keith Ismael will start at center. Senior Antonio Rosales - the lone returning starter on the line- and junior Ryan Pope are marked as right guard and right tackle, respectively.
Long said that despite the release of the depth chart, the offensive line will continue to change as camp progresses.
“We said we’d put out a depth chart today so we did,” Long said. “But there is no one assured of their spot until actual gameday.”
Long, offensive coordinator Jeff Horton and offensive line coach Mike Schmidt have spent most of camp moving the five starters, plus a handful of backups, from position to position.
“We want to have the best five guys out there,” Long said, “regardless of position.”
The defense features more returnees, with junior linebacker Ronley Lakalaka manning the middle linebacker position and junior safety Parker Baldwin in the center of the defensive backfield.
Beside Baldwin will be freshman safety Tariq Thompson, who locals might recognize from his years at Saint Augustine High School in San Diego. Thompson, who was not listed on the original depth chart, beat out sophomore Trenton Thompson for the starting spot.
Another local, sophomore linebacker Troy Cassidy, will work from the inside linebacker position alongside Lakalaka. Cassidy jumped seniors Ryan Dunn and Tyler Morris for the starting spot.
Morris missed over a week of practice with chickenpox.
Sophomore defensive end Myles Cheatum will take over for senior defensive end Dakota Turner, who is likely out for the season after tearing his ACL at the Fan Fest on Saturday, Aug. 19.
Junior Noble Hall, who started at defensive tackle last season, made the switch to his natural position of defensive end and will start.
Inside will be senior defensive lineman Sergio Phillips, one of only three seniors starting on defense.
The other two will work from the defensive backfield: cornerback Kameron Kelly, who is making the transition from safety, and safety Trey Lomax, who will also serve as an emergency backup behind Baldwin.
Also listed in the defensive backfield are freshman safety Darren Hall, and sophomore cornerback Kyree Woods, among others.
Some other expected inclusions are redshirt sophomore cornerback Ron Smith as starter, junior John Baron II as starting kicker, senior Nick Bawden as starting full back and senior David Wells as starting tight end.
Wells is still recovering from a Jones fracture, but Long said Wells is expected to be back by the Aztecs’ season opener against UC Davis on September 2.
Long said he is excited by the depth of his team, but expects the talent to take time to fully develop.
“We will be good eventually,” Long said, “but not until around week five."