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Maybe someday when San Diego State football coach Chuck Long calls a press conference in his office to name his starting quarterback, it will be a coronation. That’s what such a press conference would have been in the good, old days under Don Coryell.
Think of it as a passing of the torch under Coryell from Wayne Sevier to Rod Dowhower to Don Horn or Dennis Shaw to Brian Sipe to Jesse Frietas to Craig Penrose.
Heck, even Dan McGwire, to David Lowery to Tim Gutierrez to Billy Blanton would be nice.
Long named fifth-year senior Kevin O’Connell as his No. 1 quarterback on Thursday afternoon following the competitive spring between O’Connell and sophomore Kevin Craft.
“We decided that Kevin O’Connell will be the No. 1 quarterback going into training camp,” Long said. “We like what Kevin Craft has done in the spring as well. We like that competitive situation, and think it has raised Kevin O’Connell’s game to a higher level. We like where he’s at and he’s earned it.”
I like O’Connell’s ability as a quarterback who can run and throw to keep the defense off balance. The La Costa Canyon High alumnus has size, too, as a 6-foot-6, 225-pounder. He reminds me of the Detroit Lions’ second-round draft pick, Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton (6-3, 235). They’re big bodies who can run and throw.
Maybe, if the Aztecs can find a running game and improve their defense, this will be his breakthrough season. I thought it would be last year, but a thumb injury in the season opener set him and the program back.
Craft, a Valley Center High alumnus, gained experience as a redshirt freshman replacing O’Connell. He showed flashes of promise similar to O’Connell at that stage of his career in 2004.
As a redshirt freshman, O’Connell passed for 200 yards and ran for 100 against BYU and then nearly duplicated the double in an upset win at Air Force.
As a sophomore in 2005, he threw three touchdown passes and broke off a 61-yard run in a win at Utah. He threw for 271 yards in a rout of San Jose State.
“It’s my fifth year and you’d like to think that your four years lead up to this season and everything comes together for you,” O’Connell said. “But it still takes hard work. I have goals like everyone does that I won’t tell people, but they’re pretty lofty and most of them are team goals — winning games and getting places we haven’t in a while. It’s time and as a program we’re ready to take that next step and move on.”
— TOM SHANAHAN