SPORTS

Perez Picked to Start at Corner for Aztecs

September 4, 2009

By John Philip Wyllie

Jose Perez and the rest of the Aztecs start the year under a new coach and against a PAC 10 power the UCLA Bruins

Jose Perez and the rest of the Aztecs start the year under a new coach and against a PAC 10 power the UCLA Bruins

 With what has been described as a particularly intense preseason training camp now behind them, the San Diego State coaches have selected the starting offense and defense  that will take the field (fires permitting) in the Rose Bowl on Saturday when the Aztecs open their 2009 season against the UCLA Bruins. Among those selected to start was former All-CIF Oceanside High School wide receiver, Jose Perez. Perez, as he did last year, will be trying to break up passes as a member of the Aztecs’ secondary rather than catch them as a member of their receiving corps. This year however, he will be doing it much more often now that he has earned a starting position. His conversion from dangerous receiver to ball hawking defensive back is now complete and he couldn’t be happier.

 “I came in here as a high profile wide receiver. At the time I arrived we had some great receivers and some of our corners were hurt and we didn’t have that much depth. They figured that I had quickness, good feet, good size (and that he might make a good DB).”

 Figuring that switching to cornerback would both help the team out and get him more playing time Perez embraced the new role. 

 “You have to be confident, quick and tough (to play cornerback).” Perez is all of those. “Playing the corner you are out there on an island,” he said following Tuesday’s practice. 

 He likes the challenge of pitting his skills one on one against the receivers that he faces, but he sees these individual match-ups as a part of something much bigger. He plays down his own very important role. Perez has adopted the team concept that has been preached by new Aztec coach Brady Hoke and his coaching staff from day one.

 “It all starts with the team. The defensive lineman and the linebackers bring the pressure. All I have to do is cover my guy. It is not just me doing my job, it is all about the team.”

 Last year, the injury-plagued Aztecs limped to a 2-10 record. This year, a hopefully healthier team with a completely new coaching staff and many key returnees hopes to be significantly better.

 “(The coaches) came in here in January very hard-nosed changing the atmosphere and getting guys to work out often and toughen up. All in all this off-season and camp have been great. We have been playing hard and giving 110% every time. That is what we are trying to do, change this program.”

 This change will likely not happen overnight. It may in fact take several years, but it appears that at least this coaching staff is headed in the right direction. In order to make any significant improvement the Aztecs have to do a better job of retaining more of the stellar high school athletes that this county produces. Perez is one of them and he and others like him could be influential in bringing others in.

 “I often go back to (Oceanside H.S.) and talk to coach Carroll and some of his players. I have told them about our great facilities our atmosphere and our coaches and tell them how they might be able to get playing time here. I tell them that we have the best facilities on the West coast and that school-wise it is great. Oceanside is usually a power in San Diego. If we could get some of those guys to come here that would be awesome,” Perez said.   

 Planning for the future is one thing, but at the moment the Aztecs face a tough challenge in opening with UCLA.

 “Facing a big team like that is always a great challenge. They are a well known team and a PAC-10 power. It is an awesome feeling knowing that we are going over there to play on their home field. We are excited about it. We just can’t wait to get out there on Saturday.”

 Hopefully, the air quality threatened by the L.A. fires will be acceptable by game time.

 (Editor’s note: the LA fires have subsided to the point that the air quality is at acceptable levels and the game will go on as scheduled).

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