A year ago, Aztecs middle linebacker Jake Fely was coming off his sophomore season as the unquestioned leader of the defense, San Diego State’s second leading tackler and a returning second-team All-Mountain West selection.

All hopes for a big junior year died when Fely broke his foot in the fourth game of the 2013 season.

But the linebacker is finally back and practicing with his team. Even Fely gets no concessions though. True to Rocky Long doctrine – injured players returning have to work back into the lineup – he’s been running with the second team.

Fely understands, and is up for the challenge.

“It’s more like motivation. I do need to earn my spot back, it’s not just given to me,” Fely said. “So I have to come out here and make sure my foot’s good, and it’s OK for me to be cleared to come back and obviously work for my spot back.”

“It’s great to be back out there and great to be back in the groove of things.”

As a precaution, Fely will not participate in full speed drills at all this spring, but his presence in the linebacking corps is invaluable. He’s one of four seniors who’ve taken it upon themselves to get the younger players up to speed.

With Fely running with the second team, he’s worked closely with freshman Fred Melifonwu and sophomore Calvin Munson.

Meanwhile, Derek Largent, Josh Gavert and Cody Galea make up an all-senior first string.

Galea, who moved from defensive end to outside linebacker this spring, is still getting used to his new position. It hasn’t been too drastic a change because he played linebacker in high school, but he’s still adjusting.

“He does well against the run,” SDSU coach Rocky Long said. “He’s lost in pass coverage though. We thought we’d give him a chance in spring practice and if he doesn’t look like he’s up to speed, we move him back down to defensive end.”

Aztecs not sharp

A week into spring drills, things are still much too sloppy for Long’s liking.

“The ball was on the ground way too much,” Long said Monday as the Aztecs begin their second week of spring drills. “Dropping snaps and fumbling the ball, that’s ridiculous.”

The Aztecs scrimmaged Saturday, with four quarterbacks other than Quinn Kaehler splitting all the reps among them.

In the end, redshirt freshman Darryl Richardson – who had asked the coaches to give him at chance at quarterback because he’d played the position in high school – worked himself out of the running and was back with the tight ends on Monday.