San Jose State Spartans preparing another elite quarterback against Cal Poly

After facing USC’s Williams and OSU’s Uiagalelei, next up for SJSU is former Washington QB Sam Huard on Saturday

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Derrick Odum is preparing the San Jose State defense to face its third five-star quarterback in a row, something he hasn’t done in his 25 years as a coach.

To begin the season, SJSU (0-2) has faced a slew of quarterbacks. In their season opener, the Spartans faced USC’s Caleb Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and Oregon State’s DJ Uiagalelei on Sunday.

Cal Poly’s Sam Huard, a transfer from the University of Washington and the third-best quarterback in the 2021 recruiting class, is up next. Quinn Ewers of the University of Texas and Williams were ranked higher than him.

“I don’t think it’s probably ever been done to face the top quarterbacks in their class three weeks in a row to start the season,” Odum said. “But it’s a fantastic challenge, and the guys are looking forward to it.” As a player, you want to play against the best players.”

The FCS Mustangs arrive at Spartan Stadium for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game after defeating the University of San Diego 27-10. In his Cal Poly debut, Huard passed for 368 yards and a touchdown.

Huard is Damon Huard’s son and Brock Huard’s nephew, both of whom played at Washington and in the NFL.

Williams, Uiagalelei, and Huard are all transfer quarterbacks who represent the current transfer landscape.

Williams transferred from the University of Oklahoma to the University of Southern California to join head coach Lincoln Riley. After leading Clemson to a 10-3 record last season, Uiagalelei transferred to Oregon State. Huard transferred to San Luis Obispo after two seasons with the Huskies after being pushed down the depth chart by Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr.

“It’s hard at that quarterback position because only one guy gets to play,” SJSU head coach Brent Brennan said of the transfer quarterback’s current situation. “With the introduction of the transfer portal and NIL, quarterbacks can now be purchased and paid for.”

“I believe that will become the norm in college football.” That’s what I think you should expect.”

SJSU’s defense struggled in its first two games against the two highly regarded quarterbacks, surrendering 517 yards and seven touchdowns through the air.

Even though each quarterback has a different play style, leaders on the SJSU defense believe there are common threads between the highly touted quarterbacks they faced.

“Five star (quarterbacks) they all play the same way really,” SJSU cornerback DJ Harvey said. “(Huard) enjoys throwing the ball. They enjoy giving their receivers space. Tighter coverage will be the focus this week.”

Increasing Pressure on the QB

SJSU averaged 3.5 sacks per game in 2022. The Spartans have 2.5 sacks after two games this season.

On Sunday, no play exemplified the lack of pressure on the quarterback more than Uiagalelei’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Noga. The Spartans only ran three times, but Uiagalelei had nearly six seconds in the pocket before throwing a laser to Noga in the back of the end zone.

“I could have made a sandwich back there,” Uiagalelei said after the game, referring to the play.

After losing All-Conference defensive tackles Junior Fehoko and Cade Hall to the NFL draft and graduation, SJSU is still looking for a breakout star on the front seven.

“We want to get as much to the quarterback as we can,” Odum said. “(The front seven) is putting in a lot of effort. It’s a focus, and they’re eager to get out there and play another game so they can get going a little bit.”

The tight ends’ return

The emergence of tight ends Sam Olson and Dominick Mazotti was one of the bright spots in the loss to Oregon State.

Olson had six receptions for 60 yards and one touchdown for SJSU when he recovered quarterback Chevan Cordeiro’s fumble in the end zone. Mazotti did not play against USC, but he did catch two passes for 16 yards and was a key blocker in run packages against OSU.

“It was great to have Dom back,” said Brennan. “We really missed him last week, and he’s a big part of our offense.”

Because running back Kairee Robinson and wide receiver Justin Lockhart are out for the foreseeable future, the offense could benefit from more tight end production. This week, Lockhart did not practice.

“I thought Sam did some really good stuff,” Brennan added, “and that’s exciting because we’ve been kind of waiting for Sam to return to form.” He’s had a few strange injuries over the last two seasons. As a result, we’ve been missing him terribly. And, as a true freshman in 2020, he was a very impactful player for us, so we’re excited to see Sam get going.”

Harvey was on the practice field this week and said he is ready to go Saturday, which is a good sign for the Spartans. Harvey had to be helped off the field after suffering a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game.

— Cordeiro is 241 yards shy of the 10,000-yard passing yardage mark in his career. He will become the 141st Division I quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards or more in his career.

— The game against Oregon State on Sunday was the first sellout at Spartan Stadium since 2003. The official attendance was 20,337, the highest since 2013.

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