April 14, 2024
“They're the head of our offense, they’re the reason why we do good. They worked hard this offseason and I think they’re gonna prove a lot of people wrong this year," said SJSU QB Chevan Cordeiro.

SAN JOSE — San Jose State’s young offensive line experienced a lot of growing pains last season.

With games against No. 6 ranked USC, Oregon State and Mid-American Conference champion Toledo over the first month of this season, the group — which returns five starters — has an opportunity to quickly show how much it has improved.

“It’s really important to have them back,” said SJSU quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. “They’re the head of our offense, they’re the reason why we do good. They worked hard this offseason and I think they’re gonna prove a lot of people wrong this year.”

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 29: San Jose State quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (2) is hoisted in the end zone by Jaime Navarro (54) after a Spartan touchdown in the third quarter against Nevada, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

SJSU’s offensive line is one of the most experienced groups as the Spartans head into their season opener Aug. 26 at USC. But the group had a difficult time finding its groove last season.

Cordeiro was sacked 42 times last season. Only 11 schools of the 131 FBC teams allowed more sacks, and it was the third-most in the Mountain West.

But with a year of experience under their belt, there is optimism the offensive line will be much improved.

Tackle Jaime Navarro and center Anthony Pardue, both in their third seasons, anchor the line. Not only are they the most seasoned of the group, they were part of the 2020 team that won the first Mountain West championship in school history. Navarro, who is 6-foot-3, 288 pounds is a three-year starter and started every game for the Spartans during their championship run. Pardue (6-foot-4, 317 pounds), switched to center from guard last season, starting all 12 games under center for SJSU.

San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan holds the Dick Tomey Legacay Trophy while getting a hug from Jaime Navarro after the Spartans defeated Hawaii 27-14, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

Also penciled in as starters are tackle Fernando Carmona Jr. (6-foot-5, 325 pounds) and guard James McNorton (6-foot-5, 269 pounds), a pair of sophomores.

Carmona started every game last season as a freshman, and the former power forward — he was a highly-recruited basketball player out of Las Vegas High — was selected to the Third Team preseason Athlon Sports All-Mountain West Offense team in June.

McNorton started nine games last season after transferring from Washington State.

Three players who started at least one game last season are battling in camp for the guard spot: junior Marist Talavou, sophomore Malik Williams and sixth-year senior Tyler Ostrom.

“With the chemistry we built over the years and from last season, I’m confident that this will be one of the best offensive lines SJSU has ever seen,” Navarro said.

There is no question the unit is being counted on for better things in 2023, starting with keeping Cordiero, their star quarterback, on his feet.

Cordiero was sacked at least three times in seven of SJSU’s 12 games, including a staggering seven times in their opener against Portland State. SJSU still managed to win seven games and play in a bowl game, and Cordiero passed for 3,250 yards and 23 touchdowns. But Cordiero was sacked five times in each of their three Mountain West losses — to Fresno State, Utah State and San Diego State.

San Jose State’s Kairee Robinson (32) jumps on San Jose State’s Anthony Pardue (74) in celebration of scoring a touchdown against Colorado State in the second half at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

Spartan fans know the pain of losing a quarterback because of bad protection. During the 2021 season, quarterback Nick Starkel was sacked six times against Western Michigan with the last sack causing Starkel to suffer a left-arm injury which forced him to miss a significant chunk of the season.

The O-line has a special role on the team aside from making pancake blocks and protecting their quarterback from 230-pound defensive lineman. The O-line is often tagged to be the group that keeps things loose at practice and in the locker room.

Widely known around the teams as the “hot boyz,” the Spartans’ offensive line can be seen dancing around the field or cracking jokes in the weight room.

The hot boyz was a name given to the offensive line group by former SJSU center Trevor Robbins. The goal of the name was to give the O-line an identity of being a fearsome bunch who connect the offense through character and chemistry.

“We kind of just carry that mantra with us and just carry that sense of pride of being the biggest, baddest SOBs here,” Carmona said.

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“I fully embrace it,” said offensive line coach Josh Oglesby. “If they want to be the hot boys, then we’re the hot boys. I love it.”

This season, the offensive line could be the Spartans’ offensive X-factor. With depth at skill position groups such as wide receiver and running back along with Cordeiro returning, it will be up to the O-line to connect it all together.

The shared continuity of the group has made it easier for the rest of the offense to get up to speed as the season approaches. SJSU head coach Brent Brennan said he is pleased with where the group is as training camp comes to a close.

“The O-line is exciting because those guys played a lot together last year and I think it’s one of those things that the only way to get good at that as a group is by playing,” Brennan said. “I’m hopeful that those reps then and those reps in practice now will just continue to accelerate their development and really become a cohesive unit that can play together and be effective for us, protecting the quarterback and running the football. I’m excited about that.”

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