Friday, July 31, 2015

Despite key losses, Toreros appear primed for another playoff berth

Quick Hits

Location: San Diego, CA
Home Site: Walter J. Zable Field at Torero Stadium
Team Colors: Torero Blue (Columbia), Navy & White
Division: I (FCS)
Conference: Pioneer Football League
Championships: 6 (PFL)
Head Coach: Dale Lindsey (3rd Season, 17-6)
Official Website:

2014 Recap: 9-3 (7-1 PFL Champions)

En route to their first-ever berth in the FCS Playoffs, the "Kardiac Toreros" scratched and clawed their way to the PFL title with five come-from-behind victories, including two that were decided by last-second touchdown passes.

The historic postseason run was short lived after a 52-14 loss at Montana in the first round.

"We ran into a buzzsaw," said USD head coach Dale Lindsey. "I think we were over-matched and out-manned that day, but [the FCS Playoffs] was a great experience and it's one we would like to experience again."

Impact Losses

LB Una Hamala
SS Joe LaBarbera
K David Last
LB Troy McClelland
FS Matt Miller
CB Toney Sawyer
QB Keith Williams

2015 Outlook

For the second straight season, the Toreros will be seeking a new starting quarterback after Keith Williams decided to transfer prior to spring practice. Redshirt senior Trey Wheeler, who was edged for the job last season, will be involved in another competitive battle. His fellow contenders include Grossmont High product Anthony Lawrence, USC transfer Chris Willson, and Devon Palomino.

Jonah Hodges made his USD debut last season and rushed for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns. The transfer from Cal also set the school's single-game rushing record after racking up 273 yards against Stetson. He'll be teamed up with senior Dallas Kessman to continue the traditional one-two punch ground game.

Despite losing three starting receivers, the Toreros still hope to maintain a balanced offense. While tight end Ross Dwelley is the leading returner, fellow sophomores Trevor Barney and Justin Priest will likely be chosen to succeed Reggie Bell and Brandon White as the primary targets. Led by senior Pono Keni, the USD offense should be well protected by four returning starters on the offensive line.

There was no sophomore slump for cornerback Jamal Agnew in 2014. The Point Loma product led the FCS in passes defended per game (2.1) and broke the USD single-season record for pass breakups (19). Agnew returns for his third year to help anchor a defense that will begin the season with five new starters.

Meanwhile the defensive line should remain stout thanks to the return of Jamal Newman, Jonathan Peterson, Brandon Pulealii, and Josh Williams.

The Toreros will take on an FBS program for the first time in school history when they open the season against the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium. This will be the first gridiron meeting between the two local universities since their lone match-up in 1961 when the Aztecs came away with a 42-12 victory.

"We're very honored that San Diego State would want to play us," Lindsey said. "There's possibly upwards of 50,000 people who will be there. It's the only place that I know of where you can play a road game at home, but we're looking forward to it."

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