Welcome to part ten of our twelve-part series to kick off the recruiting season, and the final one of this week. The aim of these articles are to provide a detailed look at what each team has done thus far on the recruiting trail, what to expect come December 20th, and what work still needs to be put in before NLI day in February.
San Diego State: 3rd in the MWConnection Recruiting Rankings
The Aztecs had a very successful 10-2 season and for the first half of the year, were perhaps the best Group of 5 team in the country (or close to it). Unfortunately, their two losses came in conference play and held them back from advancing to the MWC Championship. They started the year with six straight wins, including back to back impressive wins over PAC12 foes Arizona State and Stanford (who was ranked at the time). After beating UNLV, the wheels came off a bit. The Aztecs ran into Boise State who pulled off a surprising upset. They faltered again the next week against the 2017 MWC darling Fresno State. After losing to the top two teams in the conference, they were back on the track the rest of the year, winning all their games by 19 points or more.
SDSU runs a traditional pro-style offense complete with a full-back (think Wyoming) and a 3-3-5 defense (like Nevada). Here’s a quick recap of the two:
The offense features two WRs, a TE, a RB, and a FB. The TE in an offense like this should be very balanced, as there is a strong emphasis on the power-run game. Blocking is a must and as a receiver, the scheme doesn’t necessarily call for a a deep-threat in the passing game, more short routes and dump offs. The running-back would arguably be the most important player in an offense like this, as they lean on the run game considerably, both between and outside the tackles (see Penny and Pomphrey as recent examples). Their QB does just enough to keep them off balance from fully selling out on the run game.
This defense puts an emphasis on speed over size. One of the keys here would be the front three stopping the run, to allow the remaining players to make plays all over the field. The 3 LBs more or less have the same assignments they would in a 4-3 defense, although with more blitzing responsibilities. The 5 defensive backs can match up well in coverage against spread teams. Specifically the 5th DB (Aztec is the term they use) can function a bit like a SLB, and is often the defenses’ best playmaker; able to blitz, stop the run, cover a TE or slot WR, or whatever else is needed.
The Road So Far
SDSU has secured 15 players so far in their 2018 class, with 9 coming in their home state of California. They also recruit in Texas, New Mexico and Nevada. As is their trend, they focus on athletes at the skill positions who they can develop on either side of the ball into solid players. This strategy has worked well for them in the past.
Taking a glance at the offense, it has to start with JR Justice. He is arguably the best commit in all of the conference and he should be a dynamic WR from day one. Rounding up the WR group are three other players: Rashad Scott, Elijah Kothe, and Demajay Williams. Daniel Bellinger will be a huge weapon down the line as a 6’5 TE.
Defense has been where most of their verbal pledges have come from so far. It’s important to know many of their recruits have played both ways in high school and could end up playing either side of the ball in college, but for the sake of this article, they are listed at one position or the other. Keshawn Banks, Mikel Oliver, and Cameron Thomas are 3 DEs that have great length and should develop into great pass-rushers and DT Dallas Holliday will be a force in the middle of their DL. The 2 LB commits, Andrew Alves and Josh Bornes have the small speedy look to them and should be a great fit in the system. Their secondary is full of athletes: Cedarious Barfield, Denaylan Fuimaono, Jordan Byrd, and Allan Mwata can all be a good fit at any of their positions. It’s easy to see their secondary is set for the foreseeable future.
Number Expected to Sign in December: There have been 2 players who have confirmed they will sign next week.
Number Expected to Enroll Early: At this time, none of the recruits who responded stated they will enroll early.
Top Targets Remaining:
RB Zidane Thomas, RB Danny Smith, OL Alama Uluave, DE Jermaine Lole, LB Alexander Vainikolo, JUCO DB Terin Adams
The Road Ahead
The Aztecs do a great job landing players who sometimes don’t appear to be the biggest commits, but thrive in their system and end up becoming solid all-conference players and at time, stars. This is not meant as a knock on any recruits, but more pointing out how well they staff identifies and develops talent and arguably gets more out of a class than others in the conference.
Taking a look, it’s easy to notice there is not a quarterback on the commit list. They could possibly be going after someone like Jack Alexander, but it is unknown at this time. Still, finding an accurate QB to pair with their play-makers will go a long way. As stated above, their RB is the key in their offense and if they can land stand-out Zidane Thomas, they will have their next great back. A few more OL players are needed, but Uluave will be a great anchor if they can land him. Finding others is a priority. On the defensive side, Vainikolo will top off their LB list and Terin Adams is a great JUCO talent, but is also being courted by P5 programs.
Looking at their needs, they could be prioritized as: RB, OL, QB, LB. They won’t turn down Adams, but are pretty set in the secondary. RB and OL are their biggest needs, as they need a power back as well as blockers. It’s strange and perhaps silly to list QB as their 3rd biggest need, but that shows how much their offense depends on the running game. As long as they can complete those positions, they will turn in another solid recruiting class and reload like they always do.
Up Next Monday: Colorado State