HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … San Diego.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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San Diego (9-3 IN 2018)
Pioneer Football League (USD finished 1st in 2018)
COACH: Dale Lindsey – At School: 7th year (55-16) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2018 (First Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 37.8 ppg (10th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 29.2 ppg (70th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 12 @ Davidson: This was a real nail-biter for the Toreros last year (see the paragraph below). USD will be challenged once again in the conference race, and this game will be one of them.
SUM IT UP: The Toreros posted their third-straight 8-0 record in the PFL and haven't lost a conference game since Oct. 10, 2015. But last year saw USD get challenged more than previous years. The Toreros narrowly beat Dayton 36-34 and edged Davidson 56-52 in a game that saw USD down 31-7 in the second quarter.
The rest of the conference is licking its chops to knock off the Toreros, who return five starters on offense and eight on defense. They lose six All-Conference players, including veteran quarterback Anthony Lawrence. But a ton of talent still returns, including seven All-PFL performers.
Replacing the quarterback is question No. 1 for this team. Reid Sinnett looks like the leader to win the job, but Mason Randall and Alex Farina are also in the hunt. Not far behind that No. 1 question is USD needing to replace four starting offensive linemen. Aidan Valencia is the lone returning starter. The offensive weapons are impressive, though. Michael Bandy is a HERO Sports Preseason All-American who had 1,698 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns in 2018. Michael Armstead is also a dangerous threat at wide receiver. The team's leading rusher Emilio Martinez (710 yards and nine TDs) is back as well.
The defense is another area that has some questions. The unit wasn't as dominant in 2018 compared to previous seasons, allowing 29.2 points a game last year. That mark is up from 17.5 in 2017 and 15.6 in 2016, two seasons in which USD got first-round playoff wins. A lot of experience is back, though, suggesting improvements are coming. Linebacker Kama Kamaka was the top tackler last year and is back along with six of the top 11 tacklers. Nick Friedel is a star on the defensive line to keep an eye on after earning HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors.
OUR TAKE: Anthony Lawrence was a special quarterback for this program. And anytime a football team needs to replace four starting offensive line, there is a concern. But the Toreros have serious weapons at wide receiver and running back to still put up some points. And we expect the defense to get back to playing like it wants to. USD is still the favorite in the PFL standings. But this should be the most competitive season yet where maybe the first-place team doesn't finish 8-0. Several teams are closing the gap. But until one actually knocks off the Toreros, they're still the top dogs.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./WR Michael Bandy (HERO Sports Preseason All-American, 88 rec. for 1,698 yards and 14 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./DL Jacob Bergstrom (HERO Sports Sophomore All-American, 13 TFLs and 6.5 sacks); Jr./RB Emilio Martinez (HERO Sports Sophomore AA, 710 yards rushing and 9 TDs); Jr./DL Nick Friedel (HERO Sports Sophomore AA, 9.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks); So./TE Dalton Kincaid (HERO Sports Freshman All-American, 24 rec. for 374 yards and 11 TDs); Sr./WR Michael Armstead (All-Conference First Team as a RS); Sr./OL Aidan Valencia (AC Second Team); Jr./LB Kama Kamaka (AC Second Team, leading tackler with 69 total); Jr./P Tanner Kuljian (AC Second Team); Sr./CB David Tolbert (AC Honorable Mention, 48 tackles and 15 PD)
THE QUOTE: "As a perennial top-25 Division-I FCS program, we pride ourselves on scheduling top opponents and giving our scholar-athletes the opportunity to compete against some of the most accomplished programs in the country." — Executive Director of Athletics Bill McGillis said after USD announced multi-game series against UC Davis and Cal Poly
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's USD Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The PFL
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast