November 14, 2008
By John Philip Wyllie
In the midst of suffering through what could be the worst season in the history of San Diego State football one would expect that by now the players would be completely demoralized and ready to mail it in. Not only do they have just one win to show for their last nine games, this season produced the most one-sided defeat (70-7) in Aztec history when they were humiliated on October 18 by the University of New Mexico. With undefeated eighth-ranked Utah invading the “Q” Saturday night, the potential for another embarrassing blow-out seems almost like a foregone conclusion.
In chatting with former Eastlake Titan and current Aztecs linebacker Marcus Yar-brough Wednesday night I learned that not only are the Aztecs not discouraged, they are actually looking forward to taking on the highly-touted Utes.
“This is definitely going to be a real big game for us. I think everybody is excited to play them. If we are fortunate enough to win, it will be the first time that San Diego State has ever beaten a Top Ten team.”
It would seem that eternal optimist and Aztec head coach Chuck Long has made an impact on his players thinking much more than he has on their ability to win football games.
Yarbrough believes that better days lie ahead both for himself and for his Aztecs. The 6’2” 245 lbs. linebacker signed with the Aztecs following a brilliant All-CIF career at Eastlake. Playing behind starting middle linebacker Luke Laolagi his role was limited initially to mostly special teams, but in recent weeks he has gained more playing time. Next season he expects that the Aztecs will incorporate more packages that will increase his involvement.
“The mental aspects (of playing college football) are a lot more intense,” according to Yarbrough. “The defense changes practically every week. Getting those concepts down and being consistent while performing (is very difficult). In high school you pretty much have a certain defense that you play. It (remains) consistent throughout the entire year. Here we are constantly changing and developing new defenses.”
With Laolagi firmly entrenched as the team’s starting middle linebacker and slated to return next year, Yarbrough was asked about the possibility of his relocation to the outside as a way of gaining more playing time. Being more of a run stopper than he is a pass defender Yarbrough thought that scenario unlikely.
“This year we have been playing around with packages where Luke and I are both in. I think we will continue run more packages next year. Sometimes both Luke and I will be in at the same time. At others it will be Luke and (Andrew) Preston. I think (coach Long) will rotate us. I think that could work out real well for all of us.”
Despite suffering through what can only be called a highly disappointing season Yarbrough remains optimistic about the direction of the program.
“Next year especially on the defensive side of the ball we have a lot of guys coming back. We will be losing just three seniors on the defense and everybody else will be back. We could be one of the top defensive teams in our conference.”
Time will tell.