Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cornerback Battleground: San Diego State

December 20, 2012 - #35 King Holder eyes his first career interception at the SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl.

2012 MWC Defensive Rankings


While the defending Mountain West co-champion San Diego State Aztecs return nine starters to their stout defense this season, there is a huge void in the secondary that sticks out like a sore thumb.

“On defense, we’ve got one area of concern – at cornerback,” head coach Rocky Long said. “We don’t have any corners who proved they can play. Other than that, everything looks pretty good.”

Will the Aztecs be able to make much needed improvements on their pass defense while replacing two senior starting cornerbacks? A run towards a second straight conference title could depend on it.

Here’s a breakdown of one of the most intriguing position battles taking place this month during Aztecs fall camp.

2012 Starters Lost

Leon McFadden 5’10” 190lbs
Inglewood, CA (St. John Bosco)

Career Stats: 8 INTs (2 TDs), 188 Tackles, 13 TFLs, 39 PBUs (SDSU record)

Originally recruited as a wide receiver, McFadden made the transition to cornerback at fall camp during his freshman year. The three-time First Team All-MWC selection would go on to play in every game of his collegiate career. As he gets set to make his pro debut with the Cleveland Browns, he will be remembered as one of the best cornerbacks in program history. His ability to read quarterbacks and attack the football will be greatly missed.

Josh Wade 6’0” 190lbs
San Diego, CA (Point Loma)

Career Stats: 1 INT, 78 Tackles 4 TFLs, 5 PBUs

After receiving minimal playing time during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Wade was named the starting right cornerback in 2011. Unfortunately he was put out for the entire season due to an achilles injury suffered during a summer scrimmage. He reclaimed his job in 2012 and stayed healthy enough to play in all 13 games.

2013 Left Cornerback Fall Camp Depth Chart

Mahbu Keels 6'1" 175lbs Junior
San Diego, CA (Mission Bay)

Keels played six different positions during his prep football career. His versatility helped Mission Bay to a 13-0 record and the CIF section title during his senior season in 2009. After an impressive showing during spring practices, he began fall camp listed as a starter.

Damontae Kazee 5'11" 175lbs RS Freshman
San Bernardino, CA (Cajon)

During his career at Cajon High, the brother of former Aztecs running back Walter Kazee earned three all-CIF selections by showcasing his talent on offense and defense. After redshirting in 2012, he took first team reps during spring practice and played well during the red and black game.

King Holder 5'10" 165lbs Junior
Oceanside, CA (Oceanside)

As the No. 3 cornerback, Holder received a lot playing time in 2012. He had a break out performance in the Poinsettia Bowl recording his first sack and interception as an Aztec. With the most collegiate experience on the depth chart, the former Oceanside standout should be a lock to fill the shoes of Leon McFadden. But first he has to work his way back up the depth chart while recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him out of spring practice.

2013 Right Cornerback Fall Camp Depth Chart

Pierre Romain 5'8" 165lbs Sophomore
Los Angeles, CA (Crenshaw)

After redshirting as a freshman in 2011, Romain spent the majority of 2012 on special teams. He is currently listed as the right side starter going into fall camp, but he'll be looking over his shoulders trying to hold on to his spot.

David Lamar 6'2" 180lbs Junior
San Diego, CA (Madison)

Lamar was listed as a wide receiver during his first two seasons before making the switch to cornerback in 2012. He participated in all 13 games, but received the majority of his playing time on special teams.

J.J. Whittaker 5'10" 180lbs Junior
Oceanside, CA (Oceanside)

Whittaker was a highly-touted recruit coming out of Oceanside, but the injury bug kept him off the field for the past three seasons. If he can stay healthy and work his way up the depth chart, we could witness the making of an epic comeback story.

Kevin Campano 5'10" 165lbs Junior
San Diego, CA (Scripps Ranch)

The Baker University transfer will try to work his way into the rotation after spending the 2012 season on the scout team. He was awarded co-Defensive Scout Player of the Year at the team banquet.

Incoming Freshmen Contenders

The cornerback battle is so wide open, two members of the 2013 recruiting class will have a legit chance to contribute as true freshmen this season.

Billy Vaughn Jr. 6'1" 180lbs
Los Angeles, CA (Dorsey)

Kalan Montgomery 6'1" 170lbs
Compton, CA (Dominguez)

Publisher’s Prediction

Expect King Holder to be No. 1 on the cornerback depth chart when the Aztecs open the season on Aug. 31st. Not only does he have the most collegiate experience out of all the corners, his ability to make plays all over the field will be too much to pass up.

So far Pierre Roman looks to be the heavy favorite to man the other side of the secondary, but if J.J. Whitaker can avoid his constant injury woes, we could be looking at a starting cornerback tandem of two Oceanside products.

2013 Season Opener

The Aztecs start their 2013 campaign against Eastern Illinois on August 31st at Qualcomm Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. pacific time followed by the annual KGB Skyshow. The game will be aired live on the Mountain West Digital Network.


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