AP Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- There's a lot more new at San Jose State during this year's spring football session than just the head coach.
Ron Caragher also has to deal with some lofty expectations for the Spartans in his first year since replacing Mike MacIntyre as head coach in San Jose.
With the Spartans bringing back star quarterback David Fales from a team that won a school-record tying 11 games, earned the first national ranking since 1975 and got the sixth bowl win in school history, San Jose State will no longer be an overlooked team as it moves into the Mountain West Conference.
The players who endured a one-win season in 2010 relish the new scrutiny.
"It's exciting because we have a target on our back for the first time in a while, probably the 80s," junior defensive end Travis Raciti said Tuesday. "We have a target on our back. That helps excite us and kind of motivate us. We know that people are shooting for us. We have to do that little bit more because we're not sneaking up on anybody anymore. People are coming for us and we're coming for them."
That's a big change from past years at San Jose State when the Spartans deservedly got little attention. After going 1-12 in MacIntyre's first season in 2010 against a schedule that featured a heavy dose of ranked teams, the Spartans went 5-7 in MacIntyre's second season and then matched the school record in wins last reached in 1940 last season.
The Spartans (11-2) capped the season by beating Bowling Green 29-20 in the Military Bowl to finish 21st in the nation. MacIntyre turned that success into a head coaching job in the Pac-12 when Colorado hired him and Bay Area native Caragher returned home from San Diego to build on MacIntyre's success.
Caragher has brought some changes to the program, putting Fales under center more often instead of in the pistol and switching defensive alignments from the 4-3 to the 3-4.
Fales, who operated under center in junior college and high school, said the transition has been relatively easy so far.
"It's basically just kind of getting on the same page, not thinking so much of the terminology," he said. "It's different but it's the same concepts basically. It's just a matter of going up there and playing instead of thinking of what we just said in the huddle."
Caragher is well-versed in succeeding a successful coach having followed Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego when Harbaugh left for Stanford following the 2006 season.
He posted a 44-22 record in six seasons, winning three conference championships, to earn the promotion to San Jose State.
"The thing I've learned is you have to be yourself," Caragher said. "You have to do things you feel most comfortable with, that you've had the most success with. There's a lot of ways to be successful. The key is to get everyone on the same page. You never really can try to be someone else. I didn't ever try to be Jim Harbaugh. I will not try to be Coach Mac. I'll be myself and go with it. That's the best way. I think the players appreciate that. They can see through you if you're not being who you are."
His transition at San Diego was eased by the fact that he had a future NFL quarterback on his roster in Josh Johnson. He has a similar situation at San Jose State with Fales, who led the nation in completion percentage last year at 72.5.
Fales set every significant single-season Spartans passing record a year ago, throwing for 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
"To have a guy back with veteran experience at that position, a leader position, is really nice," Caragher said. "If you have guys competing for the starting job that's a whole another big question mark and there's a lot of attention there. But having a guy back who is a proven successor is good. It's nice as a coach."
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