Spring ball update: Upperclassmen show leadership, Aztecs receive COVID-19 vaccine

San+Diego+State+football+head+coach+Brady+Hoke+speaks+in+front+of+the+media+on+April+20%2C+2021+to+provide+an+update+on+spring+practices.

Courtesy of SDSU Athletics

San Diego State football head coach Brady Hoke speaks in front of the media on April 20, 2021 to provide an update on spring practices.

by Andrew Finley, Senior Staff Writer

After a full week of spring practices in the rear-view mirror, SDSU football is starting to fire on all cylinders. An inter-squad scrimmage to end week one gave the Aztecs a good feel of what they need to work on before spring workouts end in a couple of weeks. Head coach Brady Hoke said he saw a lot of good come out of the scrimmage. 

“I thought we went and competed,” Hoke said. “We played the style of football we wanted to play.” 

The players are also seeing the benefits of spring football that was missed last season. Senior cornerback Tayler Hawkins reflected on how beneficial the spring practices have been for him and the rest of the team.

“Spring is very beneficial because it’s all about us,” Hawkins said. “I think that we could get better as a team, actually working on our fundamentals, fine-tuning our techniques and just worrying about us.

“Getting better as a team as a whole and bringing back our identity and our culture.” 

Hoke mentioned that the team practiced on Monday morning with good energy and with great spring energy comes greater competition for positions. Hoke recognizes the importance of getting everyone reps and developing the entire program over just repping the returning guys who have the experience under their belts. 

“I think you learn a lot about your football team in spring ball,” Hoke said. “We got some guys who played a lot of snaps, and as we keep moving forward we want to still develop those young guys.”  

The 2020 spring presented only six practices before everything got shut down because of COVID-19. Hoke recognized the amount of development his young players have lost due to the lack of practice due to protocols. Senior leaders on the team are also feeling the pressure to get their young teammates up to speed. Being one of the few returners in the secondary, Hawkins said he’s one of those seniors who need to step up and lead. 

“I feel like I’m one of the more vocal guys, so I definitely need to bring some of the young guys along,” Hawkins said. “Show them how Aztec football as a (defensive back) is actually played.” 

With two weeks of spring camp remaining, two notable position battles have surfaced amongst the SDSU football program: jobs in the secondary and the starting quarterback role. With the Aztecs running their usual 3-3-5 defense, star cornerback Darren Hall graduating and with just two returners in the secondary, Hawkins and senior corner Trenton Thompson, defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix has said no starters have emerged as of yet but he mentioned some names that have stood out. 

“Dallas Branch has done a nice job, ” Mattix said of the junior cornerback. “He played a bit last year, and showed some good signs.”

Mattix continued, “If I were to say anyone (who’d start in the secondary) it’d probably be Trenton (Thompson). He has done a nice job solidifying as a starter.” 

  The battle for starting quarterback between senior Lucas Johnson, senior Jordan Brookshire and incoming sophomore Jalen Mayden from Mississippi State. Hoke gave no indication of any one of them claiming the starting role. 

“I think there’s great competition,” Hoke said about the quarterbacks. “I think Lucas (Johnson) is probably a little ahead, but I think the way Jordan (Brookshire) performed (in practice), and Jalen (Mayden) continuing to get familiar with some of the system, are doing a nice job.

“I think there’s a really good competitive fight going on at that position.” 

Off of the field, players and coaches are all starting to get their COVID-19 vaccines. As CSU and UC schools make the vaccine mandatory to be on their campuses, Hoke said that his entire coaching staff and almost half the players have been vaccinated. Some players, like Hawkins, are getting vaccinated for the first time ever. 

“I never got a vaccine before; my family has always been a little skeptical about it,” Hawkins said. “But I was like, you know, we’re probably gonna have to get it anyway, so I went ahead and got it.” 

Hawkins getting his vaccine encouraged the rest of his family to do the same. His teammates, however, still may need some coaxing. 

“Some of (my teammates) are a little skeptical,” Hawkins said. “My boy Trent Thompson said he wants nothing to do with it. A lot of other guys want nothing to do with it.” 

Hoke is aware of those who may be skeptical of getting the vaccine and respects their opinion. He said at the end of the day it’s their decision to get it or not. 

“(Getting vaccinated) is a decision that parents and young men have to make,” Hoke said. “I’m pretty pleased that our guys that we’ve encouraged, but at the same time it’s a personal decision. They have to make that decision that they feel is best for them.” 

 

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