Lofty goals for San Jose State

Posted by the San Francisco Chronicle July 31, 2012.

By John Crumpacker

San Jose State’s football fortunes have improved to such an extent in the third year under coach Mike MacIntyre that the Spartans are seriously talking about making a run for the WAC title in their last season before moving on to the Mountain West Conference.

Imagine that.

Just two years ago, San Jose State slogged through a 1-12 season in MacIntyre’s debut season with the Spartans. An improvement to 5-7 in 2011 has coach and players thinking big.

“We definitely have an opportunity to be WAC champion,” MacIntyre said Monday at Bay Area football media day at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco. “That’s our goal, to be WAC champion. We’re excited about the possibility. Hopefully, we can be the first WAC champion in football” in San Jose State history.

MacIntyre’s optimism has filtered down to his players, based on San Jose State’s improvement last season.

“I can see significant improvement each year,” tight end Ryan Otten said. “We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re faster, more disciplined and more confident. My expectations are high. Our focus this year is we’re trying to win the last WAC championship. We’re more than capable of taking care of business.”

This is the year to take care of business in the devalued WAC, down to seven football-playing schools for 2012 after Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada departed. Remaining are Louisiana Tech, Utah State, New Mexico State, Idaho, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, along with San Jose State.

The Spartans were picked to finish third in the WAC in a recent media poll.

“We have huge expectations,” defensive end Travis Johnson said. “We want to win them all. There’s no reason we can’t win them all if we play our best. It’s a total possibility.”

Players like Otten and Johnson give the Spartans reason for optimism. The 6-foot-5 Otten had 52 receptions for 739 yards and five touchdowns a year ago, but that was with Matt Faulkner throwing to him.

Faulkner is gone, and MacIntyre is weighing his options at quarterback among David Fales, Dasmen Stewart, Blake Jurich and Joe Gray.

“We’ve got to find a quarterback. That’s our challenge in fall camp,” MacIntyre said.

One thing MacIntyre has accomplished in his first two seasons in San Jose is to build depth.

“There’s more of us,” he said. “There’s more good football players. We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re faster, and we have more depth. Now we have to prove it on the football field.”

Johnson, a smallish defensive end, was chosen as the WAC preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Other honors candidates include Otten, tackle David Quisenberry, linebacker Keith Smith, punter Harrison Waid and wide receiver Noel Grigsby.

John Crumpacker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @crumpackeroncal