UNC Football: San Diego State Scouting Report


San Diego State’s home opener went according to script.  The Aztecs looked sharp, efficient, and consistent in their week one matchup against Northern Arizona.  The balanced offense and solid defense did not reveal any obvious flaws.

And unlike the Tar Heels, they didn’t need a spectacular surge of six turnovers in the second half to pull away on the scoreboard.

While it is still early in the season, team leaders and playmakers are emerging and player roles are quickly becoming established.  While the Tar Heels may still have a few minor problems to solve as a team, they at least have a good idea as to what to expect from their week two opponent.


Who? Quinn Kaehler

What about him? Quinn Kaehler’s week one stats were mediocre at best, but they didn’t need to be anything more.

Kaehler finished week one 18 for 29 with 205 yards and one touchdown.  He did a little bit of everything.  He threw the ball down the field, managed the game, and got the ball into the endzone.  While he did not have jaw-dropping numbers, he didn’t need to against a non-FBS opponent like Northern Arizona.

Last week’s performance seems to be the norm for Kaehler.  In 2013, he threw for 3,007 yards and 19 touchdowns.  The biggest threat he poses for the Tar Heels is that he is part of a multi-dimensional offense.  If the Heels can stop the Aztec ground game, Kaehler will have to make plays downfield – which will spell danger more for San Diego State than for North Carolina.

Running Backs

Who? Donnel Pumphrey, Chase Price

What about them?  Despite losing their leading rusher last year, the backfield still looks to be the most important part of the Aztec offense.

San Diego State relies on their running backs to make plays.  They draw attention from the defense, making the quarterback’s job easier.  They sustain drives and milk the clock, keeping their defense off the field.  And, most importantly, they make plays.

Donnel Pumphrey ran for an impressive 111 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns in week one.  Back-up Chase Price added 41 yards and a touchdown.  What was most impressive was their ability to consistently scamper into the secondary of the defense and occasionally break free for 20-30 yards.

The Tar Heels only allowed 157 rushing yards against Liberty in week one, but will be facing a different monster in the Aztecs.  Stopping the run will be the Heels’ main focus coming into week two.

Wide Receiver

Who? Ezell Ruffin

What about him?  For this team, travelling on the ground is more efficient than through the air.

In some cases, receivers are the most dangerous players on the field.  In other cases, like for the Aztecs, they are just as good as their quarterback makes them.

Ezell Ruffin had 53 receiving yards and 4 receptions against Northern Arizona in week one.  Ruffin can make plays after the catch and is most effective when he has room to run.  While his stats were more or less unimpressive against an inferior opponent, Ruffin can be valuable as he is one of Kaehler’s favorite targets when San Diego State is forced to go to the air.  But as far as this season goes, we don’t exactly know what to expect from him.

Defensive Secondary

Who? J.J. Whittaker

What about him? He is one of the few proven players among an untested group.

San Diego State only truly has one returning defensive back with game experience, and that is senior cornerback J.J. Whittaker. Whittaker can cause turnovers and shut down receivers.

As for the rest of the Aztec secondary, it is uncertain as what they can do.  Predominantly, this secondary should focus on not giving up big plays, and not blowing simple assignments.  Their defensive line will not be able to overcompensate if they make a mistake like in week one, as North Carolina is better than your average Mountain West opponent.

Defensive Linemen

Who? Dontrell Onuoha, Sam Meredith

What about them? While just about every position on defense has been in question, this defensive line has been steady.

The Aztecs only allowed 3.7 yards per carry in 2013, and a mere 3.4 yards a carry in week one.  In 2013, they consistently put pressure on the quarterback, and when they got to him, they met him with a huge hit.  If there is one thing to watch for from this defensive line, it would be there relentless physicality and big hits in the open field.

With a dynamic starting quarterback like Marquise Williams under center, however, the defensive line will not only need to be able to rush the quarterback, but also contain him.  Look for San Diego State to try to keep Williams in the pocket and avoid his dangerous scrambling ability.


A team’s capabilities are not fully revealed after one week.  While the Tar Heels are labeled as explosive and fast and the Aztecs are consistent and solid, they are both unproven, and look forward to their respective tests in week two.