Tag Archives: San Diego State

Maestro of Returns

Utah State wide receiver/kickoff returner Savon Scarver’s foot speed and elusiveness have put him on a historic pace. Although he has returned just eight kickoffs in 2019, the Aggie speedster is averaging nearly 43.8 yards per kickoff return. As of press date, he is the all-time leader in career kickoff return average in the Mountain West Conference. He has several attributes that distinguish him in this phase of his game.

Technique

Since his insertion into the team’s kickoff return game back in 2017, Scarver has excelled on right returns that feature a double team. During this season (2017), the Aggies would occasionally double team the R4 (fourth man in from the outside-in) on the opposing team’s kickoff coverage unit (with their right tackle and right guard). One of the reasons he is effective on these types of returns surrounds his ability to swerve through traffic. His swivel hips allow him to stay on a north-south trek without losing speed. Many of these returns during that year featured a five-man front (left tackle, left guard, center, right guard and right tackle) on the Aggies kickoff return team (five men on the front line).

On this kickoff return against New Mexico State in the 2017 Arizona Bowl, Scarver’s balance and underrated core strength prevent him from losing speed as he navigates through traffic. Prior to any of that happening, however, it is his underrated ability to catch the ball coming forward that allows him to get on top of the kickoff return unit. Many of the all-time best kickoff returners gain one-to-two steps by creating a lean with their posture as they field the ball.

Top-end speed

Scarver’s 101-yard kickoff return against Nevada on October 19, 2019 came out of a 4-2 kickoff return front (six-man front). Normally, many of these fronts feature four of the blockers in the six-man front aligned 10-to-12 yards from the ball. The two centers (right center and left center) normally align approximately 15-to-20 yards from the ball in-between the left guard and right guard. On this return, the Aggies front featured the two centers aligned 10 yards from the kickoff team with its left and right guards aligned in-between the tackles and centers.

The Aggies used an inverted 2-4 kickoff return alignment on their first return versus Nevada in 2019. The two guards (left and right) align at the 45-yard line in-between the tackles (aligned at the 49-yard line) and centers (aligned at the 46-yard line).

This front allows the Aggies left tackle (37 Sam Lockett, 6’0 190, S-FR) and left guard (25 Jarrod Green, 5’11 180, CB-SOPH.) to execute a double team on the fourth man in from the right (Nevada’s L4 in their blocking designation). At that point, Scarver is asked to pop the return going to his left. As opposed to bouncing the return, he squeezed it back vertically off the block of the team’s right wing (47 Logan Lee, 6’4 245, TE-JR.) versus the third man in from the right side (Nevada’s L3). It took just one small swivel from Scarver to elude Nevada’s placekicker in the middle of the field. Once he did, the former Centennial HS (Nev.) prep level track star easily ran away from Nevada’s kickoff coverage unit en route to his 101-yard touchdown. The former 21.5-second 200-meter speedster once set a state record with a 37.8-second time in the 300-meter hurdles. He is not going to be caught once he reaches his top gear.

Areas of improvement

When we first saw Scarver back in 2017, we felt as if he had an opportunity to develop into a top-notch wide receiver prospect as well. While he can break down the cushion of unsuspecting defensive backs, he has not been totally reliable as a pass receiver. He let a quick slant carom off of his shoulder pads against LSU in the fourth quarter after beating Tigers senior cornerback Kristian Fulton off the line of scrimmage. A possession earlier, his speed varied on a post route and then he was unable to wrestle the ball away from LSU safety Grant Delpit.

Scarver caught five passes for 90 yards in a 23-17 win over San Diego State on September 21, 2019.

Of quarterback Jordan Love’s three interceptions versus LSU, two were on targets to Scarver. On the first interception, he beat LSU cornerback Derek Stingley off the line of scrimmage on a fade pattern but Love underthrew the ball and Stingley picked it off. Overall, his physical ability shined on occasion against LSU’s cornerbacks but he wasted too much time at the line of scrimmage. Physical corners can deter his paths.

At this point, he has morphed into an elite return specialist by trade. For him to become a dual-threat in the true sense of the word, Scarver needs to return to his early season form. If so, he could help re-ignite Love’s draft stock over the last month of the season. The two should be on more of the same page in their third season together.

Q&A with San Diego State’s Nick Bawden: ‘The leading man’

There aren’t many quarterbacks who give up the ball and decide to become lead fullbacks.  Former San Diego State Aztecs fullback Nick Bawden did that and more.  After starting two games for the Aztecs at quarterback in 2014, he made a successful transition to the position.  Bawden was the lead blocker for two 2,000-yard running backs in his career.   He gives a lot of the credit to current San Diego State offensive coordinator Jeff Horton.  DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous caught up with Bawden during the week of 2018 Senior Bowl practices this past January.

Bawden (No. 15 pictured) blocked for two 2,000-yard rushers after starting two games at quarterback in 2014.

 

Corey: Wanted to ask you a little bit about working with Jeff Horton as the offensive coordinator (San Diego State). He is a guy I had some familiarity with and we worked together for awhile (St. Louis Rams). He had a lot of good things to say about you. Not only on your approach, but just how smart you were. Talk a little bit about your ability to grasp a number of different pro-style concepts.

Bawden: Starting with my intellect for football. I just love the game. Student of the game. Trying to learn as much as I can from as many people…reaching out to people on Instagram, stuff like that. I learned so much from Coach Horton. That’s pretty cool that you guys go way back, cause he’s been so influential in my life. I can’t thank him enough for all that he’s done. He’s really taken the time to help me learn this game the way I have.

Corey: You’re being asked to block on a lot of counters and do some of the things that an NFL fullback would be asked to do. It’s one thing to do it and get to the assignment, but then there is another to do it and finish with some ‘Nasty’. I like ‘Nasty’, and you’ve got a lot of that in you. Talk about ‘Nasty’ and why that’s important for you…to send a message when you connect on people.

Bawden: Yeah, I mean there’s not many of us left. A fullback has got to be the most physical guy on the field at all times. Whether that’s in special teams or running iso (lead isolations), running counters, like you said. That’s just my mentality. I want to impact the game to where linebackers are thinking about me and not where the ball is.

Corey: You’ve blocked for two 2,000-yard rushers (Donnell Pumphrey, Rashaad Penny) among others. You’ve also blocked for Juwan (Washington) and did he come close to a thousand this year?

Bawden: He was close yeah but not quite (759 yards, 6 yards per carry, 7 TDs).

Corey: The year before (2016), the 2,000 and 1,000-yard double (Pumphrey and Penny).

Bawden: Yeah.

Corey: What does that mean to you?

Bawden: It’s been incredible. Like I said, there’s nine other guys on the field so it wasn’t just me.   We’ve had some really good O-linemen and some really good tight ends. But I’ve been put in a really good position and that’s all thanks to Coach Horton.

Corey: What’s the one thing you want NFL scouts to know that you’re going to bring to the next level that they may not know as much about right now?

 Bawden: Just my versatility. I can line up in the I-formation and run Iso (fullback lead isolations) all day, but I can run down and cover kicks, cover punts, be on kickoff return, be on punt return. Be on all of them. I want to be a core special teams guy and be able to contribute any way I can.

Corey: No doubt. Thanks a lot for your time.

Bawden: Absolutely.

Corey: One more question. Who was the toughest opponent you went against in school?

Bawden: Individual player?

Corey: Yeah, individual player.

Bawden: I’d say Harrison Phillips, the D-tackle from Stanford.   He’s actually out here this week (Senior Bowl). We’re training together down in San Diego.

Corey: Y’all beat them this year.

Bawden: We did. We did. He had like ten tackles against us at nose though (11 tackles, ½ QB sack, ½ tackle for loss), so that was pretty crazy.

Corey: Yeah, I actually announced one of your games this year.

Bawden: Oh really. Which one?

Corey: Northern Illinois (CBS Sports Network).

Bawden: Okay. That was a dogfight.

Corey: Enjoyed watching you.