San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley has a pretty long to-do list for this summer:
1. Work with new receivers
2. Work on becoming a better leader
3. Work on mastering the offense
Lindley has been through plenty in his Aztecs career, but how well he does everything on his to-do list will go a long way toward determining what type of season his team has in 2011. Granted, not everything will be on his shoulders. But Lindley is skilled enough and smart enough to know that he is a big key in the offense.
He is coming off the best season of his career, having thrown for 3,830 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He finally got help from his running game in the form of Ronnie Hillman, and had his always-reliable receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, who both went over 1,000 yards.
But much is different in San Diego this season. Brown and Sampson are gone. Coach Brady Hoke is gone, along with offensive coordinator Al Borges. So Lindley has taken it upon himself to step up as a leader, not only to help break in his new receivers, but to rally his teammates as well.
"It’s been a new experience," Lindley said in a phone interview. "The quarterback position is a leadership role, but the past three years I’ve been playing there’s been a strong senior leader in the receivers room and this year they’re young. There’s not a senior in the group. I stepped up a little bit, to take on more of a vocal role, getting these guys ready and letting them know what it takes to compete."
Lindley tried out several different styles with his receivers during practice. He got on them when they made mistakes, but then realized it would be much better to just pull them aside and explain what they did wrong.
"There’s a time and place to get in a guy’s grill, but you have to understand and remember they’re younger guys working their way in," Lindley said. "As long as they’re not making the same mistake over and over, there's no reason to get on a guy like that."
Among those who could fill in nicely is Dylan Denso, who had a breakout spring. Dominique Sandifer could also be a go-to player. Also, San Diego State could utilize the tight end position even more. Gavin Escobar had a great season as a true freshman in 2010, and Alston Umuolo is back from injury.
For Lindley, all these changes come with a new coordinator in Andy Ludwig -- the third coordinator he has played for in his San Diego State career. But the offensive scheme remains relatively the same. In fact, new coach Rocky Long had Ludwig keep the same terminology so his players would not have to learn an entirely new offense. Ludwig has added in his own wrinkles, though, and Lindley wants to be as in sync with his new coach as possible.
"I need to get into Coach Ludwig’s head and know what he’s going to call. When a quarterback can know and anticipate what the coordinator is going to call, it works best," Lindley said. "With Coach Ludwig, it started to come at the end of spring. With film study, by fall camp I’m highly confident we’ll have that down."