Aztecs vying for starting roles in football camp

SAN DIEGO -- The Aztecs have a little over one week remaining in fall camp before they kick off the football season against Weber State on August 31.

Some starting spots are still up for grabs and several players have to prove to Rocky Long that they deserve one.

After posting three straight seasons of 10 or more wins, the Aztecs football team finished the 2018 season unsatisfied.

"Finishing 7-6 is not the Aztec expectation," said senior tight end Parker Houston. "We want to finish with double-digit wins. We want to finish on top of the conference and we want to be in a prestigious bowl game."

"Started off strong, ended terrible. That's pretty much how you can sum it up," said senior quarterback Ryan Agnew. "You can break it down Xs and Os, you can break it down numbers-wise, but at the beginning of the season we were finishing games, winning close ones. At the end of the season, we were losing them and not finishing games so we want to get to that point where we can start and finish every single football game from game one to game 12."

The groundwork for that begins in fall camp, where ninth year head coach Rocky Long admits practices are grueling.

"It's miserable. There's only one reason to go through that misery and that's when you get on a real field and you win and you have the pride of winning so then it's worth it," said Long. "If you have all that misery and you don't win, my goodness it's hard to believe it's worth it."

For junior offensive lineman Keith Ismael, this marks his fourth training camp with the Aztecs, where he says every day in practice offers vital experience.

"A lot of guys delete their social medias and go ghost for awhile to really just focus and grind because you only get a certain amount of practices before the season and those practices are vital," said Ismael. "Each day you have to attack to get better because you can't have a day missed. That's a day you missed getting better and a day you lose, something you can't afford."

"I think we all just got to stay focused and the last few days of camp is what's going to help build us, instead of the first few because we're still learning," said senior running back Juwan Washington. "But I think the last week in camp is where we really start gelling together as a team."

And if the Aztecs want to return the winning standard to the Mesa, they know they've got their work cut out for them.

"Everything is a race," said Long. "Every agility drill is a race, there's winner and losers. Every single time they do something there's winners and losers. Winners are treated like winners and losers are treated like losers."

"The best will come out and the best will play," said Ismael. "We need the best guys out there to go win every game and eventually win the championship because that's the standard."

The Aztecs season opener is August 31 at 6 p.m. against Weber State.

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