One of Brady Hoke’s top priorities upon taking over as coach at San Diego State was toughening up a talented but underachieving program.
So he made offseason conditioning more intense, with drills that included one-on-one hand-to-hand battles on mats.
“Everything was based on competing,” junior receiver Vincent Brown said. “And there were consequences for winning and losing.”
In addition, preseason practices became more physical, with players going through the notoriously tough Oklahoma drill daily.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve done that a couple times during camp,” senior middle linebacker Luke Laolagi said of the high-impact drill. “But (this preseason) we did that every single day.”
The Aztecs are 1-2 after losing to Idaho on Saturday, 34-20. But Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, whose Falcons host San Diego State on Saturday, believes he sees a tougher team.
“They’re just firmer at the point of attack on blocks,” he said. “They’re better running the football, better in pass protection and they’ve got guys that are healthy.”
The Aztecs have improved their run defense somewhat — they rank 66th among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, allowing 135 yards per game after finishing last season ranked second-to-last (247.5). But they still are struggling to run the ball (they rank 112th in the FBS with 81 rushing yards per game).
Hoke said this week he feels his team has “made some progress” toward becoming tougher, but, “Obviously, we don’t feel we’re where we need to be.”