By: John Wilner/Mercury News
San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre jogged onto the field Friday for the first practice of his first training camp wearing a gray T-shirt. On the back, in bright blue letters, were four words: “NO EXCUSES. NO REGRETS.”
“You can go through life making excuses about why you didn’t accomplish something, and you’ll regret it,” MacIntyre said. “But we’re not going to make excuses, and we’re not going to have any regrets.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Why did you take this job?’ I tell them, ‘This place is a gold mine.’ We’re going to be successful. It’s going to happen. And today was the first step.”
The three-hour, helmets-only practice — full-contact workouts don’t start until next week — was heavy on enthusiasm and brisk in its pace.
MacIntyre’s offseason emphasis on conditioning was noticeable, as the Spartans looked as fresh in the final period as they did in the first.
“It was a different experience than I’ve had the last three years,” senior guard Isaac Leatiota said. “It was more intense. The coaches were on top of us every minute. If we were standing around getting water, they were on us. I loved it.”
There’s more intensity coming. The Spartans have one month to prepare for the season opener at Alabama, which is No. 1 in the coaches’ preseason poll, and their to-do list could stretch from San Jose to Tuscaloosa.
Here’s a preview of their three-week training camp.
>In addition to its dearth of top-tier talent, SJSU lacks quality depth at many positions — a shortcoming that has plagued the program for years.
To compensate, MacIntyre will evaluate players in multiple roles. Tailback Brandon Rutley will be given a chance at nickel back. H-back Wade O’Neill will also try linebacker, and tight end Ryan Otten might spend time at defensive end.
Several other players have switched positions to fill holes: James Orth and Devin Newsome moved to receiver from defensive back, for instance. And Dominique Hunsucker, the former Valley Christian star, has moved from running back to safety.
Big shoes to fill
The biggest hole might be at receiver following the departures of Kevin Jurovich, who exhausted his eligibility, and Marquis Avery, who left school because of academic problems. They combined for 102 catches and seven touchdowns and leave behind an unproven unit.
Josh Harrison and Jalal Beauchman are the presumptive starters but will face plenty of competition from Newsome, Orth, junior Michael Avilia and a handful of newcomers.
The Spartans also must identify a replacement for free safety Tanner Burns, who led the team in tackles last season but followed his father, Keith, the former SJSU defensive coordinator who’s now at Kansas State. (Hunsucker was listed as the starter entering training camp.)
Positions of strength
The Spartans should be solid along the offensive line, where four starters return, and fairly flush at tailback with Rutley, Lamon Muldrow (who rushed for a team-high 592 yards last year) and transfer David Freeman, who started two games for Washington in 2008 but left UW for academic reasons.
SJSU also has a veteran quarterback, senior Jordan La Secla, who must fend off challenges from transfer Matt Faulkner and freshman Dasmen Stewart. (MacIntyre said he plans to name a starter “a few weeks into camp.”)
The strongest unit defensively should be the secondary, which features strong safety Duke Ihenacho, a first-team all-conference performer the past two seasons. Cornerbacks Peyton Thompson and Ronnie Yell combined for 17 starts last season and stabilized the position.
In addition to his laser focus on conditioning, MacIntyre stressed self-discipline throughout the offseason: Dress properly; sit in the front of the classroom; be five minutes early; and listen.
“If you’re disciplined in life,” he said, “then on the field you’re a more disciplined team.”
Given the brutal early-season schedule (at Alabama, at Wisconsin, at Utah), MacIntyre might want to broaden his definition of discipline to include such qualities as resolve, confidence and courage.
Installing the new playbook
MacIntyre has implemented a power running attack that takes advantage of the depth at tailback, makes use of a fullback (or H-back) and features Otten, the promising young tight end.
But it will take time for the players to master the offense and for the quarterbacks to get comfortable with their position coach, John DeFilippo, who wasn’t hired until April.
The defensive playbook also has been rewritten to generate more pressure on the quarterback and contain opponents’ running games. Asked if the system had become second nature, defensive end Mohamed Marah smiled and said: “It’s getting there.”