USA TODAY Sports
San Jose State QB Blake Jurich
QB Blake Jurich
Jurich is early in his fifth season at San Jose State, but he made his first career start last Thursday night against the FCS' North Dakota.
The senior is looking to replace the production of star quarterback David Fales, who threw for more than 4,000 yards and exactly 33 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons for the Spartans. Jurich only threw three incompletions in his 250-yard, three-touchdown debut, but he only has a tiny amount of experience against power-conference teams from his time as Fales' backup.
With starting running back Jarrod Lawson out again Saturday due to suspension, the offensive focus will be on a team veteran making his first road start against an elite team. The Spartans have the weapons Jurich needs to succeed through the air, but only time will tell if the SJSU quarterback has what it takes to keep it close in Auburn. He's entering completely new territory.
WRs Tyler Winston and Tyler Ervin
Winston was the Spartans' leading returner at wide receiver after posting 858 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. The converted defensive back became a reliable go-to target for Fales around the halfway point of SJSU's season, and he finished the year with 14.8 yards per catch.
Now that the speedy Chandler Jones is gone, Winston is the team's true No. 1 receiver, and he showed it in the season opener. Winston caught 10 passes—the next highest mark on the team was four—for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore did not play in San Jose State's first three games last season, so Saturday's trip to the Plains will be his first test against a defense from one of the top conferences.
Ervin is also an option for Jurich out wide, but he will be more of a playmaker in the return game. The junior took a punt back for a touchdown against North Dakota for the fourth special teams touchdown of his collegiate career. He missed the entire 2013 season with an injury, and his presence has already been a boost for a unit that could grab some much-needed momentum on the road Saturday.
DB Maurice McKnight
Defense was a constant struggle for the Spartans last season, but new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson—the former Texas and Michigan assistant, not the massive left tackle Auburn fans are more familiar with—seems to have already made a difference for Caragher's squad.
The former 3-star McKnight was a star in the win against North Dakota, notching five solo tackles and forcing a fumble on a sack in his debut. McKnight played both safety and cornerback for a Spartans secondary that had to replace a pair of starters, and his versatility could be a bonus against Auburn's high-powered offense.
“He is a young man who is mature beyond his years,” Caragher said, per the San Jose Mercury News' Jimmy Durkin. “He’s really evolved into playing a lot of positions on the field. We’re excited about that.”