Projected starters (2012 stats)
- WAR #27 Eric Pinkins – RS Sr., 6-foot-3, 215 pounds (65 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, two pass break-ups, one fumble recovery, one defensive touchdown)
- AZ #20 Nat Berhe – RS Sr., 5-foot-11, 190 pounds (94 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, five pass break-ups, one fumble recovery)
- WAR #39 Rene Siluano – Sr., 5-foot-10, 180 pounds (31 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, one pass break up, one forced fumble)
Note: WAR is the Warrior safety position, AZ is the Aztec safety position
Key reserves (2012 stats)
- WAR #26 Marcus Andrews – RS Sr., 6-foot, 190 pounds (27 tackles, one interception, four pass break-ups, one fumble recovery)
- WAR #6 Gabe Lemon – RS Sr., 5-foot-10, 195 pounds (31 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two pass break-ups)
- AZ #30 Darius Guillory – RS So., 5-foot-10, 185 pounds (Nine tackles)
- AZ/WAR #33 Brandon Wright – RS So., 5-foot-11, 205 pounds (Two tackles)
Players to watch
- AZ #20 Nat Berhe – RS Sr., 5-foot-11, 190 pounds – The leading tackler on the Aztec defense, Berhe finished the 2012 season with 94 total tackles. Keep an eye on him throughout the year as he nears a spot in the top 10 in school history for total tackles and solo tackles. Through three seasons, Berhe has 137 solo tackles and 200 total tackles. Former safety Chris Johnson (1990-1993) currently sits at No. 10 all-time with 168 solo tackles, while former safety Darrell Lewis (1991-1993) is ranked 10th in school history with 279 total tackles. See below for a list of the top 10 tacklers in San Diego State history, both total and solo.
- AZ/WAR #33 Brandon Wright – RS So., 5-foot-11, 205 pounds – Due to a ton of depth at running back, Wright was moved to safety during fall camp in 2012. Although he was able to contribute on special teams, notably kickoff returns, the sudden switch made it hard for him to see the field on defense. Look for Wright to continue to play well on special teams, but also make a push for playing time on the defensive side of the ball with a full offseason to better learn his new position.
San Diego State currently has four safety commits, but don’t expect any of them to jump ahead of the veteran safeties on the depth chart. If Trey Lomax, Joe Morrow, Brandon Porter and Malik Smith sign with Aztecs as planned, all four will almost undoubtedly redshirt.
San Diego State returns a very experienced group of safeties, and along with the linebackers, they are the clear strength of the defense. With five seniors, each with significant playing time throughout their careers, expect this group to be a dominant force in 2013.
Berhe has been a tackling machine in his three seasons with the Aztecs, and look for him to continue his stellar play. Pinkins, a physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, is an aggressive, hard-hitting safety who displayed his playmaking ability in 2012. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Fresno State, and almost did the same against BYU had it not been for an illegal block penalty.
Siluano, Andrews and Lemon have shown to be solid players over the past three seasons, and all will see the field often as Rocky Long likes to rotate his defensive players. Keep an eye on Siluano and Andrews throughout spring practice and fall camp as they battle for the third starting spot alongside Berhe and Pinkins.
Guillory, Wright, Stan Sedberry and Tony Bell, all redshirt sophomores, are four younger safeties who will play a key role on special teams in 2013, and could potentially see time on defense. It will be an important year of development for the young safeties (Add redshirt freshman Kendrick Mathis to the bunch), as they will be heavily relied on in 2014 when the five seniors above them are gone.
Nat Berhe will finish his collegiate career in the top 10 in school history in total tackles and solo tackles, and will be a first-team all-conference selection in 2013.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the special teams of the 2013 San Diego State Aztecs
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by Hunter Hewitt