Every coach worth his whistle repeats this mantra: don’t look too far ahead.
So what in the name of old-school was San Diego State’s Rocky Long doing peeking into the future?
Long’s Aztecs play visiting South Alabama on Saturday at Qualcomm. After going toes up against California, that should be the only thing on his mind.
And, really, it is.
SDSU needs to prove its venture into the Pac-12 landscape wasn’t an indicator of what’s in store. What it can’t do is let the Bears maul them twice.
Be bummed about Saturday’s stinker and this Saturday brings a similar odor.
“People a lot of times don’t realize that how teams come back from hard defeats, hard losses, or adversity of any kind has a lot to do with how the team leadership reacts and how they take it and how they proceed from there,” Long said.
“I’ve been on teams where leaders of the team were depressed the whole next week and guess what? One loss makes another loss. This group is probably upset and depressed that something happened to them that they didn’t think would happen to them, but I think that they’re going to get over it and move on and get ready to play the next game.”
Sounds good Coach, but what about that door we cracked about the future?
Long did say he’s finally named a starting quarterback in Maxwell Smith. He’s just not as certain about SDSU’s offense when looking at his crystal ball.
The Aztecs’ pro-style approach of sticking on the ground is no longer the norm. Teams around college football spread out their players, get their play-makers in space and watch the scoreboard twirl.
But not so this Saturday, or any Saturday, that SDSU tees it up.
“You can continue to fight it, or you can join up,” Long said of possibly going from the equivalent of a pager to a high-speed Internet connection. “That’s one of my biggest dilemmas right now. We can’t join up this year, but we can join up next year and run the same offense and then we’d probably have a better chance to evaluate quarterbacks.”
Trouble with Long’s approach is that when prep standouts arrive on campus, they’re not used to standing under center. Most high school squads playing under the Friday night lights mimic the college game. Having a good spread has nothing to do with the post-game meal.
“In this day and age in football, if you’re not willing to run the triple-option and your quarterback doesn’t play well, your chances of winning go way down,” Long said.
“If you have an efficient quarterback and you play good defense, you can still win. But if you don’t have a good defense you need a great quarterback to win, and there are very few great quarterbacks in this world. The NFL only has about 10 of them and they pay a lot better than we do.”
The Aztecs finally settled their tab at quarterback. The battle between Smith and Christian Chapman reached a conclusion, but not until Week 3.
“What we’re struggling with, and it might make us change our offense eventually, is evaluating quarterbacks out of high school because most high school quarterbacks run a spread-type offense and you have no idea how they’re going to develop in a pro-style offense,” Long said.
“The NFL is having the exact same issue. The top two quarterbacks picked this year in the draft were out of spread teams. One of them just had a great day, and one of them was absolutely horrible.”
Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota won and Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, didn’t.
The contrast reveals what Long shares with his NFL colleagues: casting your offensive fate with a quarterback not accustomed to running your system.
“So I don’t know how long you would expect it to take for them to develop,” he said.
Just maybe the time has come for Long to switch.