SDSU's Hoke building staff, program for future

SDSU's Hoke building staff, program for future

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SAN DIEGO -- Coming off a 2-10 2008 season, new San Diego State Head Coach Brady Hoke understood the Aztec program needed a lot of work to become a successful. Hoke came from Ball State, where he turned a floundering program around and made it into a nationally respected football team. In 2008 the Cardinals went 12-1 and finished No. 12 in the national rankings.

At San Diego State he stocked his coaching staff with experienced and successful coaches, namely offensive coordinator Al Borges and defensive coordinator Rocky Long.

"You've got two guys who have a great deal of experience," Hoke said proudly. "We are kind of a seasoned staff. We're not the youngest guys on the block. We've got a lot of guys who've coached a lot of football, been in a lot of different situations and I think, most of all, this is a group of good men who care about the kids and how they develop from an academic, social and obviously the athletic side of things."

Borges has been an offensive coordinator since 1986. His last stint with Auburn (2004-07). Long is a defensive specialist and incorporated his defensive prowess as the head coach of New Mexico (1998-2008) where he tutored BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, who served as Long's defensive coordinator from 1998-2002.

At Monday's press conference Mendenhall said it took only a few clips of film to see the effect Long has had on the SDSU defense. He says you can see it in "players running as fast as they can to the ball, jumping over piles to get there, gang tackling, interceptions, forced turnovers, and just chaos in general."

Mendenhall admitted he expects the SDSU game to be a difficult one, noticing the Aztecs are playing with more effort.

The No. 18 ranked Cougars (5-1, 2-0 MWC) head to San Diego Saturday to face a maturing Aztec team, but one that still has a lot of room to grow. SDSU is only 2-3 on the season having beaten Southern Utah and New Mexico State.

"We've got to find more consistency with how we play and attack every play, how we prepare mentally because this becomes a mental game and so we are trying to get there," Hoke said. "Hopefully we are a long way from where we want to be. I think our kids have done a good job with understanding the philosophy and the things we are trying to get done."

The Aztecs have some game-breakers on their team, namely WR Vincent Brown (37 rec., 631 yards, 6 TDs), but not enough to consistently get the Aztecs over the top.

SDSU is giving up more points than it scores (23.4/25.8), averaging less than three yards a carry on the ground, has four more turnovers than takeaways and is averaging just 37 percent on third downs. There is certainly room for improvement and Hoke hopes to see steady progress throughout the year.

But he knows long term success will depend on his work off the field.

Hoke has a long term plan, a solid staff and a handful of star-quality players. Those may not equal victory on Saturday, but as Mendenhall clearly pointed out the Aztecs are "well-prepared, athletic, and good enough to beat us."

Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. You can hear more from Coach Hoke during the pregame coverage on KSL Newsradio 102.7FM/1160AM beginning at 2 p.m.

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