San Diego State football in rebuilding mode

The year 2012 might be the one that the San Diego State Aztecs resemble the New Mexico teams Rocky Long coached last decade a defense-first program that relies on offense to control the tempo and protect the other side of the football.

The Aztecs lost two NFL-caliber wide receivers in 2010 and then said good-bye to a four-year starting quarterback and the Mountain West Conference’s two-time leading rusher. Now, SDSU finds itself reloading on offense and Long is in his comfort zone of building a foundation based on defense.

A strong defense will help San Diego State make the transition from the Mountain West Conference to the Big East in 2013 a smoother one because it will allow SDSU to keep the scoring down and have a chance to win more games as it transitions into a BCS program. When Long coached at New Mexico, the program became an annual postseason contender because the defense finished in the top 30 for five consecutive seasons.

Another part of that transitional strategy is to recruit versatile athletes who can play more than one position or can switch positions if they can’t crack the lineup at positions they played in high school or were recruited to play for the Aztecs.

SDSU signed kicker/punter Seamus McMorrow, a freshman out of San Diego’s St. Augustine High School, with hopes that he might be able to handle both kicking and punting giving the Aztecs an extra body to use elsewhere.

San Diego State also is recruiting more athletic quarterbacks with the understanding that they, too, can switch if needed.

“We’re back to athletes that I think the day of the classic drop-back quarterback is fading fast,” Long said. “The idea is that the best two quarterbacks stay at quarterbacks because I think that’s the most important position on you team. If a guy is not going to be one of the two top quarterbacks, well a drop-back guy can’t replace (anybody) any place else. An athlete can play a whole bunch of places; wide receiver, running back, defensive back, linebacker.”

TOP OF THE CLASS

WR Bryce Butler (USC, Norcross, Ga.) Butler was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and comes to SDSU after graduating from USC, so he’ll have one year to play with the Aztecs. He had 20 receptions for 292 yards for the Trojans in 2009. He’ll provide a potent combination with Colin Lockett and Dominique Sandifer.

QB Ryan Katz (Oregon State, Santa Monica, Calif.) Katz, like Butler, has graduated he played at Oregon State with 14 career starts with the Beavers and has one year of eligibility remaining. In 2010, Katz threw for nearly 2,400 yards and 18 TDs. With the departure of four-year starter Ryan Lindley, Katz has the opportunity to step in and play right away.

OL Justin Aysse (Long Beach Community College, Long Beach, Calif.) Aysse is a former Marine who will have a chance to compete on a unit that has four seniors. He was a second-team all-conference selection and a team captain, and he earned a Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon and both a Good Conduct and National Defense medal after serving on tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “He’s got a good chance of being mature enough to handle the physical (toll),” Long said of Aysse. “I know I’m not going to make him mad, I’ll tell you that.”

TE Aaron Boesch (Santa Monica College, Oak Harbor, Wash.) Boesch steps into what is becoming Tight End U after the Aztecs had so much success utilizing Gavin Escobar, Alston Umuolo and Bryce Quigley last season. Umuolo graduated and Quigley is moving to the offensive line, giving Boesch a chance to earn immediate playing time. He had 26 receptions for 388 yards and five TDs last season for Santa Monica.