Thu, Sep 01 2011 02:05 PM Posted By: John Philip Wyllie
D.J. Shields, the 2007 Mesa League Player of the Year, has plenty of company at the tight end position as he begins his third season with the SDSU football team. Towering 2010 freshman sensation Gavin Escobar is currently listed as the starter, but Shields expects to see plenty of action as he rotates in and out of the lineup with Alston Umuolo and Bryce Quigley.
With so much talent and depth at tight end, first-year head coach Rocky Long will often utilize multiple tight end formations. He will also attempt to cause mismatches by lining Umuolo and Quigley up as wide receivers against much smaller defensive backs. Besides his tight end duties, Shields, the former Bonita Vista two-way standout, will be used at times as a fullback and other times as an H-back.
“We’ve got four guys who can play tight end and we are all going to be in there rotating,” said Shields, who stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 240 pounds.
“Some of us are better blockers and some of us are better receivers, but collectively, we have a real strong group. Our offense is centered around our tight ends. We are all going to be out there working hard making it a better team.”
In the past, the Aztecs have taken advantage of Shields’ strength and blocking ability. He expects that will continue in 2011.
“I will often be used as a fullback and an adjuster moving around in the backfield,” he said. “Out wide I will probably be used more as a blocker, but I hope to catch a few balls too. I’ll do anything I have to do to help the team win some games.”
Shields likes the direction in which the team is moving and he is excited to be a part of what he expects will be another successful season.
“In my first two years here, I think we won a total of five games, so last year it was nice to go 9-4 (and win the Poinsettia Bowl). Now we want to build off of that. I think we have the foundation to do it.”
The Aztecs are solid in many positions. Quarterback Ryan Lindley (El Capitan) is among the best in the nation. Sophomore running back, Ronnie Hillman reminds a lot of people of former Aztec and Pro Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. The offensive line that was so effective last year is back — a year older and stronger and largely intact.
Other than a lack of depth on the line, last year’s much improved defense remains largely intact as well. And the kicking game, featuring former Castle Park Trojan and Southwestern College kicker Abel Perez and punter Brian Stahovich is about as good as it gets.
Put that all together and Aztec fans should be in for another exciting and successful year. For a sneak preview of the 2011 Aztecs squad, they can check out Saturday’s Aztecs Family Day, starting at 4 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium.
This free event will include an alumni flag football game, an intra-squad scrimmage (at 7 p.m.), autograph signings and a merchandise sale. The regular season kickoff against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is slated Sept. 3 at 7 p.m., also at the Q.
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