Newly acquired coach Brady Hoke will be looked upon this season to turn around the last place Aztecs. Hoke is coming off a 12-1 season at Ball State and has his work cut out for him with a team who just suffered their first 10 loss season and has not had a winning season since 1998.
Although inexperienced, the Aztecs did have talent on the offensive side of the ball and with the addition of an offensive minded coach in Hoke, this could lead to great success through the air and on the ground. The offense is returning leading rusher, Atiy Henderson, reception leader Vincent Brown and Ryan Lindley at QB. Last year as freshman Lindley completed over 50% of his passes and threw for 16 TD’s. If he can grow and learn under Hoke’s system, Lindley can be dangerous this year especially with the talent that surrounds him. Henderson rushed for over 500 yards last season and if linemen Ikaika Moleta, Trask Iosefa, and Peter Nelson can improve on opening up holes from last season, Henderson will hope to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark this season.
Again, if the linemen can supply time and protection to Lindley he has a couple of solid targets to throw to. Brown led the team with over 60 receptions and accumulated over 600 yards receiving. With Darren Mougey not returning, veteran Robert Wallace will have to step up to be a constant number two receiver.
The defense was definitely the low point of the Aztecs team last season. They finished last in a majority of the conference defensive statistical categories, giving up on average 450 yards a game. Although the defense lost two of its stars, they are returning seven starters so the experience is in place. The question is if the defense can learn from their mistakes last season and improve upon what was an embarrassing display.
Although I do not see the Aztecs being bowl eligible this year I do believe they will improve. They have some tough road games at UCLA, Utah and Air Force, which will tell coach Hoke where this team stands in its maturing process.
‘09 Prediction: 4-8