One of the most successful regular seasons in SJSU football history has the opportunity to become the schools winningest on Saturday. The Spartans take on Louisiana Tech University, the offense that leads all of collegiate football averaging just more than 582 yards per game, in the season finale at Spartan Stadium.This game could have been a final-week showdown for the Western Athletic Conference championship, but Utah State should confidently defeat Idaho on Saturday to claim the conference title. Instead, SJSU is playing for something it seems to cherish to the same degree becoming the best major-level football team the school has ever seen.The 1987 Spartan team won 10 games, the tenth being a win over Eastern Michigan in the California Bowl. With a win Saturday, they would become the first team in school history to win 10 regular season games. Looking further into the future, should SJSU receive a bowl invitation and win, the teams potential 11 wins would be the most the school has ever won since becoming a major football program in 1950.Our kids want to go down as winning the most football games of any football team in the history of San Jose State University, head coach Mike MacIntyre said. Thats pretty special. Theyll have that on their picture for the rest of their lives in their office and the seniors will be able to say they built something when no one even gave them a chance.For what theyve done even to this point, even if we dont win the next two, which we plan to, this senior class has really persevered and Im proud of them, but their goal is to be the best San Jose State team, win-wise, ever in the history of the school and we have a shot at that.When thinking of the magnitude of this game and how it could rewrite SJSU football record books, junior linebacker Vince Buhagiar thought of a memorable quote by Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team.Great moments come from great opportunities, Buhagiar said, quoting Brooks. For the past few weeks Ive had that is my head and what we have here is a great opportunity so were hoping to make some great moments and memories out of it.From Buhagiar to other members of the Spartan defense, the phrases fast-paced and keep up were tossed around describing the prolific Bulldogs offense.We have to play to their tempo, said junior defensive back Bene Benwikere about the LA Tech offense. They have a lot of timing a precision. We have to make sure we read our keys and play mentally tough.The game features two quarterbacks found toward the summit of many collegiate passing statistical categories. SJSUs David Fales is the most accurate passer among the college ranks, completing 72.5 percentage of his throws, and is fourth nationally in passing yards.The Bulldogs Colby Cameron, however, ranks higher than Fales in a couple of significant categories. The two are tied for ninth in the country with 28 TD passes, but Cameron has completed more passes for more yards and has thrown 6 fewer interceptions than Fales. Cameron ranks second in the nation with 3,679 passing yards and third with 321 completions.Junior linebacker Keith Smith, the WACs reigning Defensive Player of the Week, said a key for the defense in stopping Cameron lead the Bulldog offense is to get its coverage alignments correct at the line of scrimmage.(Cameron) has a lot of weapons and their coaching scheme, that fast-paced offense, is difficult to deal with, he said.Fales said he cant be too worried with how well the LA Tech offense is clicking, he has to make sure the Spartan offense stays focused.We know that they will put the numbers up, he said. Our defense is putting together a good game plan to slow them down too, but theyre a good offense so we have to be ready to keep going and keep scoring.MacIntyre said he glad to have coach Terry Malley, who spent 14 seasons as an offensive coach with the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League, because LA Tech is putting up arena league numbers.Our defense needs to step up and slow them down and keep them well below their scoring average, MacIntyre said. I dont think you can say you can just say shut them down, nobody has. But I do think we can slow them down and prevent their scoring from being as high as it has been.The LA Tech defense is not as dominant as its offense, though. It ranks 124th in the country in total defense, allowing 518.5 yards per game. MacIntyre, however, said those numbers may be construed because of the Bulldogs offenses ability to score quickly. La Techs defense has played 68 more plays on the defense than the next busiest defense in the WAC.Theyre never out of it, MacIntyre said describing how dominant the Bulldogs offense can be. Our kids, when they see the film, theyll see the scores, how quick they score. Theyll see that theyre never out of it. So we need to keep putting on more steam, over and over and over.For the second week in a row, SJSU will play on ESPN2. Smith, who recorded a conference-best 19 tackles in last weekends 20-14 win over BYU, said the game will be a perfect stage for us.Last game of the season, what a better way than to have it at home on national TV? Smith said. Its a big game, again. I feel like we showed up last week and if we prepared better than we did last week, or even just as good, I feel like were going to fare well.
INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.
Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.
NFL teams love it.
Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.
"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."
These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.
"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.
Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.
"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."
The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.
McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.
"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."
Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.
McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."
He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.
"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."
Not a burden.
"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.
He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.
"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.
That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.
The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.
"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.
Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:
CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."
JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.
JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.
ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.
JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.
ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.
DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."
CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.
ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.
The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.
"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.
"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."
Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.
With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.
His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.
He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.
Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.
Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.
His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.
Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.
His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.