Arduous early-season schedule may benefit San Jose State


POSTED: Tuesday, September 01, 2009


For his first three years of high school, Carl Ihenacho gravitated to the basketball court rather than the football field.

“;I just never thought of playing football,”; Ihenacho said. “;We tried to play Pop Warner; my mom didn't like it, so we just played basketball.”;

It wasn't until the summer prior to his senior season that Ihenacho, at the urging of his brother Duke, decided to give football a try.

With Carl now entering his senior year at San Jose State, there are probably a few offensive coordinators around the Western Athletic Conference wishing his mother had gotten her way instead.

Ihenacho has since grown into a 6-foot-3, 256-pound defensive end and a leader of the Spartans' defense.

He put together a breakout junior season in which he recorded 64 tackles, including 18 1/2 for losses in earning second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors.

He led the nation in tackles for losses after dropping ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage six times against New Mexico State. But a broken thumb limited his numbers in the Spartans' final four games, but didn't keep him out of the lineup.

Now he's one of 15 returning starters as the Spartans look to make a move up the WAC standings.

“;This is the most senior team we've had,”; SJSU head coach Dick Tomey said. “;They've spilled a lot of blood for San Jose State and played with a lot of heart.”;





        Friday Central Arkansas

        Sept. 12 at Washington St.*

        Sept. 19 at UNLV

        Sept. 30 at Louisiana Tech

        Oct. 10 Fresno State

        Oct. 17 at Idaho

        Oct. 24 Boise State

        Oct. 31 at Nevada

        Nov. 7 Utah State

        Nov. 14 New Mexico State

        Nov. 21 at San Jose State

        Nov. 28 Navy

        Dec. 5 Wisconsin

        *-at Qwest Field in Seattle

The Spartans jumped out to a 5-2 start and won their first three WAC games last season. But injuries contributed to a 1-4 finish, and they struggled to muster any offense once quarterback Kyle Reed went down against Boise State. The Spartans ended the year last in the WAC in both scoring (18.7 points per game) and total offense (282.8).

“;We were not a good offense a year ago by any description,”; Tomey said.

Reed returns this season and will share time with junior Jordan La Secla in Saturday's opener against USC.

Kevin Jurovich, a second-team All-WAC receiver in 2007, is back after missing most of last season due to illness. Jalal Beauchman was limited to four games by an injury and also gives the Spartans a downfield threat.

While Carl Ihenacho anchors the defensive front, Duke Ihenacho, an All-WAC first-team pick a year ago, returns to the secondary. The junior rover tied for the league lead with five interceptions, returning two for TDs.

Tomey entered fall camp energized by the return of 52 letterwinners and the challenge of a schedule that opens with USC, Utah and Stanford.

“;We're going to find out about ourselves early in the season. By the conference season there's going to be very few questions about who we are,”; Tomey said.

“;I think the fact that we have a tough schedule has been so helpful for us because guys have raised the bar in the weight room and the offseason.”;