SAN DIEGO – Ahead of a season where team vaccination rates will be top of mind in college athletics, San Diego State’s head football coach Thursday said a majority of the team has gotten the shot, but declined to delve into specifics.
The Aztecs begin fall camp this weekend in hopes of taking another step toward normalcy. But when Brady Hoke, the team’s second-year head coach, was asked about how many of his players had the COVID-19 vaccine, he said he preferred not to give any number.
“We’ve got a good majority of our team who have made the decision to get the vaccination and we keep educating everybody on our football team,” Hoke said. “I really like the progress we’ve made. I look forward to being back to a normal football preparation.”
Hoke, who also coached at Ball State, Michigan and in an interim capacity at Tennessee, said he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about the team’s vaccination rate, the same sentiment he shares in discussing injuries.
Asked about the exact percentage, he said, “I would think we’re way above any kind of national averages.”
“What would be the national (average)? Let me think,” he said. “It’s good, Lee. Believe me. Take my word.”
Although there is no mandate for college athletes to get the vaccine, similar discussions are playing out in college and professional locker rooms across the country.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said last month that “pretty close to 90%” of his players have gotten the vaccine, SI reported. Their in-state rival Auburn was at about 60% as of late July, placing them outside of the six SEC teams to reach the 80% threshold, reporting by AL.com shows.
More than 90% of players at LSU are vaccinated, according to The Advocate. At the University of Wisconsin, the number for football players was reported at over 85%, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In the professional ranks, The Associated Press reported Wednesday a total of 27 NFL teams have vaccination rates above 85% with nine teams saying more than 95% of their players are vaccinated.
‘We could step up in every position’
Coming off a 4-4 season, senior running back Greg Bell believes the Aztecs have to redeem themselves in 2021, noting part of the reason he returned for his senior season was to bring home a title.
“I don’t think last year we set the standard to San Diego State’s potential,” Bell said. “I wanted to come back and win a championship for San Diego and for this team as well.”
The Chula Vista native also hopes to see more consistency in their offense this year.
“I mean, we could step up in every position, so I think it’s going to change this year,” Bell said.
Bell rushed for 637 yards and scored six touchdowns a season ago. He also caught 11 passes for 114 yards and had one receiving touchdown.
Quarterback competition ahead
Heading into the season, it’s unclear who the team’s signal caller will be.
Hoke said there’s a competition at the quarterback position between seniors Jordan Brookshire and Lucas Johnson and sophomore transfer Jalen Mayden. Although Carson Baker had the majority of snaps a season ago, Brookshire completed 56.7% of his passes in three games in 2020, throwing for 410 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Johnson finished with a 58.3% completion percentage in limited action with one passing touchdown.
“Being consistent on running the offense and taking charge of the offense consistently down in, down out,” Hoke explained. “I think all three need to be more decisiveness, especially when you look at some timing routes and some of those kinds of things.”
The Aztecs’ first game of the season is Sept. 4 against New Mexico.