Otten ready to take on BCS beasts

Del Oro grad thrust into starting role as Spartans take on USC, Utah to start season
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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One glance at San Jose State’s schedule makes it abundantly clear that Ryan Otten’s baptism into college football will come by fire. The Del Oro High graduate, however, is ready for his opponents to bring the heat. Otten will make his college debut on Saturday when he starts at tight end for the Spartans against fourth-ranked USC in Los Angeles. The game will be the first of two the Spartans will play against teams that won prestigious Bowl Championship Series contests last season. USC knocked off Penn State in the Rose Bowl, while No. 19 Utah — San Jose State’s second-week opponent — shocked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to finish the season 13-0. Both USC and Utah finished last season ranked No. 2 — the Trojans in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, the Utes in the Associated Press Poll. “There’s definitely no easing into it,” Otten said. “We’ve got one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. I think we’re the only team in the country that’s playing two No. 2s.” Otten wasn’t initially supposed to be the starter coming into this season, according to Brent Brennan, San Jose State’s co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Initially second on the depth chart, Otten was thrust into the No. 1 spot when senior Terrance Williams went down with an ankle injury during training camp. “I just put myself on tape a lot and tried to prove to the coaches that I could fill the void,” Otten said. “Luckily for me, the coaches felt the same way.” Brennan said the Spartans’ coaching staff envisioned Otten becoming a starter at some point — even if it is slightly sooner than expected. “We thought Ryan would be a great player when we recruited him,” Brennan said. “He can run, he has really great range, he’s tough, he’s got good ball skills, and he’s working hard to improve as a blocker. He was just a little skinny — he needed to put on some weight.” Otten has certainly done that, adding 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame since last season, which he spent on the sidelines while redshirting. He’s now 230 pounds. “We’ve got a really good strength and conditioning coach here, Chris Holder,” Otten said. “I figured the smartest thing I could do was spend a lot of time with him, and that’s what I did.” “He’s only a redshirt freshman,” Brennan said. “We expect him to gain easily another 20 pounds of muscle before he’s done here.” Brennan also expects Otten to elevate his game on the field, even if he does suffer “a few bumps and bruises” in the early going. “He’s going to be an outstanding football player,” Brennan said. “He’s got a great work ethic, and he’s tough. His football future looks really, really bright.” Ray Hacke can be reached at