NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 17: Javone Lawson #4 of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns catches a pass as he is tackled by Leon McFadden #2 of the San Diego State Aztecs during the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 17, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
On Monday, the Aztecs open up their 2012 football training camp. San Diego State's program is in the middle of the most successful run in its history.
SDSU has made two straight bowl appearances, a program first. To make it three, they'll have to overcome the loss of some serious talent.
Ronnie Hillman, Ryan Lindley, Miles Burris and Jerome Long, were all selected in the NFL Draft. The Aztecs only have 11 returning starters (6 offensive, 5 defensive).
So, most of the so-called "experts" are saying San Diego State is a fringe bowl team. They might make it, they might not. Head coach Rocky Long is not a big fan of those people.
"The guys who try to say what your depth chart is and what your strengths and weaknesses are ... are you kidding me?" said Long. "You know, I'm with those guys every day. Maybe (the prognosticators) know more than I do, but we see completely different things."
Long sees a group of guys who may not have the star power yet, but may be a lot deeper than 2011's roster.
"Ryan Lindley was a great quarterback," said Long. "He might be the greatest quarterback who's ever played here. But last year, I was scared if Ryan got hurt, because I didn't know who the backup would be. This year, we have two guys fighting for the job."
Those guys are senior Ryan Katz and sophomore Adam Dingwell. Katz would seem to have the upper hand. He's a transfer from Oregon State who already has 14 collegiate starts under his belt and what scouts consider a cannon for an arm.
Defensively, the Aztecs might be even better than they were last year, especially in the secondary. Senior Leon McFadden is the Mountain West Conference preseason Defensive Player of the Year and will be joining his former teammates in the NFL next year.
So, despite a lack of household names, coach Long seems to feel the publishers are way off base when they say the Aztecs will struggle to reach the post-season in 2012.
"I hear about some of the great players we have coming back, and the guys we're gonna miss, and that's not how I'd view our team," said Long." I read all those magazines. I wouldn't view our team the same way they do, no way."