SJSU's training camp is nearly a week old, but for our purposes, the festivities are just getting underway: the Monday afternoon session marked the first full-contact workout.
Until then, per NCAA rules, SJSU was in shells (shorts, jersey, helmet).
It's often difficult to differentiate the issues that must be addressed in training camp from those that will surface during the regular season. For that reason, several topics below will likely be recurring themes for the Spartans from now 'til November.
But all four must be closely monitored this month.
The departure of De'Leon Eskridge leaves a void in the backfield. The Spartans weren't a run-oriented offense last year, but Eskridge nonetheless had 207 carries and 11 of the 14 touchdowns scored by running backs.
The presumptive starter is Tyler Ervin, who has the speed and elusiveness to score from anywhere on the field. But how durable is the 175-pounder? And how much success will he have on third-and-short?
Depth is also an issue, given that no other RBs on the current roster had more than 11 carries last season. Is Jason Simpson finally ready for a larger role? Is junior college transfer Alvin Jelks?
If you think back 12-15 months, this looked like the time we'd see Jaylyn McCain compete for 10-15 carries per game. (Former coach Mike MacIntyre raved about McCain's potential.) But McCain was a tad slow and deep down the depth chart coming out of spring; he elected to transfer.
A smart move over the long haul because it's easier to find quality outside linebackers than defensive tackles (which makes Cal's switch to the 4-3 perplexing). But whether the alignment shift is the right thing for the Spartans this fall remains to be seen.
The move places tackle Travis Raciti, one of the top interior linemen in the Mountain West, in a new role (end) with Anthony Larceval, Foloi Vae, or a combination thereof manning the middle.
(Elite tackle tandems are rare and highly valued at all levels; Raciti and Larceval would have been one of the best in the west.)
The 3-4 also requires your outside linebackers to do more than tackle -- they must make plays (i.e., creating sacks and causing turnovers). Are SJSU's ready for that role? I've never viewed Vince Buhagiar as a perimeter player.
The tendency for any first-year coach facing pressure to win immediately is to go with what you know. Ron Caragher, who takes over an ascending program -- 7-5 would be a disappointing season -- knows the west coast offense. He trusts the west coast offense. He believes in the west coast offense.
Quarterback David Fales would be effective in either system, but much of the offensive personnel is geared to the spread.
The spread relies on an array of playmaking receivers; SJSU has that.
The west coast makes ample use of tight ends and fullbacks; SJSU is lacking in both areas.
So will Caragher go with what he knows, or play to his talent? Successful offense -- regardless of the system -- requires complete and total buy-in from not only the players but the coaches.
The Spartans are set at one cornerback spot with Bene Benwikere, an all-conference talent. And my hunch is that promising sophomore Jimmy Pruitt will hold his own on the other side, especially with frequent safety help (and Benwikere in single coverage).
But safety is a concern. Damon Ogburn has moved from cornerback, and his production -- for one reason or another -- hasn't quite matched his ability over the past three years.
The strong safety figures to be redshirt sophomore Simon Connette, who was a backup last season.
Overall, three of the four defensive backs will have new roles this fall. If there's an area for opponents to exploit SJSU's defense, it's the back line.
For more coverage of San Jose State, follow beat writer Jimmy Durkin on Twitter and through mercurynews.com.