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2018 Recruiting Breakdown: San Diego State

The Aztecs normally recruit under the radar, but also landed some high profile players this year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Armed Forces Bowl - San Diego State v Army Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

San Diego State is traditionally a school that has good, but not great recruiting classes throughout the years. They certainly get their fair share of 3-stars but no one necessarily eye-popping on the major recruiting sites. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t bring in talent, quite the opposite. But inn the past, their classes have been much more likely to look great 2-3 years down the road instead of the year they sign. This is mainly due to 1) the staff’s ability to recruit quality players who fly under the radar 2) players who fit their system exceptionally and 3) the staff’s ability to develop projectable players, getting the most out of their potential. While those three things are still evident this year, there seems to also be a noticeable step forward in the talent they brought in this season.

The Skinny:

  • 24 recruits signed
  • 11 offensive, 13 defense
  • 16 players were listed as a 3-star recruit by either Rivals or 247.
  • Breakdown by state: 14 from California, 3 Nevada, 2 New Mexico, 2 from Texas, 1 Arizona, 1 Hawaii, 1 Canada

QB Carson Baker

  • highlights
  • The first thing that sticks out when watching Baker is he has a strong, accurate arm. He will fare well in the Aztec’s traditional pro-style offense. He does a good job throwing on the run and even in the pocket, he often keeps his feet constantly moving. Also, Baker is very mobile in the backfield, able to keep plays alive by moving around and out of the pocket and he is also capable of extending plays with his legs.

RB Zidane Thomas

  • highlights
  • San Diego State has done a tremendous job recruiting and developing running backs over the years, turning them into stars in their system. Thomas looks to be the next RB to follow that path. He looks to be a very well-rounded runner, able to go between the tackles or off-the tackles equally, showing a nice balance of speed and power. Thomas makes smooth cuts, has good vision and is difficult to take down on the first attempt.

RB Jordan Byrd

  • highlights
  • Byrd is the athletic, do-it-all type of player, showing case skills at quarterback, wide-receiver, and running back. SDSU listed him as a RB but he could be used in a variety of ways. He displays great vision and elusiveness to go along with his speed. If they wanted to, the Aztecs could use Byrd as a change of pace type of QB, although it would be different than their traditional scheme.

WR J.R. Justice

  • highlights
  • Justice is a tremendous talent who spurned offers from P5 programs to stay local and bought in to what SDSU had to offer. And he has a lot to offer as well. He’s an incredible athlete who could play all over the field but they will utilize his talents at wide receiver going forward. Justice brings speed, crisp route-running, the ability to extend plays after the catch, and a knack for using his body to get in great position to make a catch, whether running or jumping. He should play and make an immediate impact.

WR Kobe Smith

  • highlights
  • A late get in the recruiting process, Smith is immensely talented and was a terrific pickup for the Aztecs. He has a nice size/speed combo, making him pretty well rounded as a pass-catcher. Smith is most dangerous after the catch or when he gets the ball in space; it is then where he can use his quickness to make a move and almost looks slippery as he fends off would-be tacklers.

WR TJ Sullivan

  • highlights
  • Sullivan grayshirted last year due to an injury, and he’s had a year to get faster and stronger. Although he doesn’t have elite speed, Sullivan’s tape shows he has really nice in-game speed. He looks like a very steady, reliable wide-receiver. He’s sure-handed and should be counted on to make a catch more times than not whenever the ball is thrown his way.

WR Elijah Kothe

  • highlights
  • The 4th wide receiver in this class for San Diego State brings a lot of height with him. He is a tall target with a big catch radius. Kothe picks up quite a deal of yards after the catch, in large part due to his footwork and making nice cuts on his routes, which give him instant separation between himself and the defender. He should also be another great target in the red-zone.

TE Dan Bellinger

  • highlights
  • Bellinger displays great hands and a wide catch-radius on his film. He lines up in many different spots along the line, more in the slot and out wide. He’s a big target who can run both short routes along the middle or in the flat and is also able to stretch the field down the seam. Bellinger also displays his athletic ability and intense style of play as a linebacker. Another quality athlete for the Aztecs.

TE Nic McTear

  • highlights
  • McTear is huge, there’s no getting around that. He’s a massive target that will be a QB’s dream when the team needs a 3rd down pickup or pretty much anytime in the red-zone. He should win close to every jump ball. In short, he will be a match-up nightmare as few if any defenders can duplicate his size. Blocking-wise, McTear does his best to stay low and tap into his strength. If used well, his skill-set will make a big difference for their offense.

OL William Dunkle

  • highlights
  • Dunkle is s great force on the interior of the offensive line. He excels at pulling on run plays and finishes his blocks well. He demonstrates a high football IQ with knowledge of his assignments and ability to execute them well. Another trait specific to Dunkle is his ability to play until the whistle, seeking additional defenders to block after his initial assignment ends. He will be a big factor in the running-attack.

OL Alama Uluave

  • highlights
  • A versatile player who can pretty much play anywhere on the line, Uluave may end up being a potential steal. He could be a backup swing many early in his career before landing in a spot down the line where the need is biggest. He will be a luxury on this time as he knows what to do on each play and probably won’t have to be taught the same lesson every week.

JUCO DL Joah Robinett

  • highlights
  • A bounce-back from Oregon State, Robinett will bring PAC-12 level talent and experince in their program to a personnel top Group of 5 program. He will be a key factor on the defensive line going forward. Looking at his high school tape from a few years ago, Robinett displays a relentless ability to attack the QB and someone who can consistently get into the backfield and cause havoc.

JUCO DL Jalil Lecky

  • highlights
  • Another player with some college experience, Lecky should compete for a spot right away on the Aztec D-line. He will bring a slender frame but a speedy pass-rusher to one side of the edge, and in addition to that, demonstrates good contain on the edge with playing against the run. These traits should give Lecky the potential to be a 3-down type of player as opposed to simply a pass-rushing specialist.

DL Daniel Okpoko

  • highlights
  • Yet another interior defensive lineman recruit who “gets after it” in terms of production and skill at winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Okpoko appears to be a potential interior-pass rusher from one of the inside DL spots, consistently beating the blockers to get into the backfield. Often he simply uses his strength to overmatch opponents and if Okpoko and the coaches can working together to continue to hone his technique, the future looks bright.

DL Keshawn Banks

  • highlights
  • Banks has great size that makes him an ideal pass-rusher along edge of the middle of the D-line. He uses a high-motor and a variety of moves to win his one on one matchups and get after opposing QBs and RBs. Banks is versatile, as he displays an ability to line up on the line, off the line and drop back into coverage. He also does a good job keeping his arms up, resulting in a number of batted balls.

DL Cam Thomas

  • highlights
  • Another lengthy athletic defensive line player the Aztecs were able to secure, Thomas projects to have a lot of upside. He doesn’t give up on plays and looks to have an above average feel for pass-rushing moves. Thomas does a good job getting off of blocks or simply beating them with his speed. With his lean frame, he would be another interesting player who could do well in short coverage situations.

LB Andrew Alves

  • highlights
  • Alves appears to be a great fit as a linebacker in a scheme that makes great use of them. He looks like a natural fit at the MIKE position, analyzing plays quickly and plugging up holes to shut down the run game. He moves well laterally and should have no issues covering the middle of the field. Alves covers well enough over the middle of the field, and as he should be, is a technically sound tackler.

LB Josh Bornes

  • highlights
  • Bornes is a big hitter in the second level of the defense, consistently make “no doubt” type of tackles as a defender. He is also athletic enough to double as a running back, which is where he an better showcase his speed and physicality (watch him blow through would be tacklers). Coaches love physical players and he fits the description quite well.

JUCO DB Luqman Barcoo

  • highlights
  • Barcoo is a great JUCO pickup for the secondary and definitely flashes the talent to carve out a role for himself right away. As with many members of this class, he plays both sides the field, showing off his athleticism and ball skills. He tracks the ball well and has good hands, both of which will help as a DB. Barcoo also isn’t afraid to be physical and will no doubt be a tough defender who isn’t afraid of contact.

DB Cedarious Barfield

  • highlights
  • Barfield is another athlete who the staff will work on developing some of their skills and abilities for the defensive side of the ball. Similarly to what was stated above, he isn’t afraid to mix things up and lay a big hit despite not being the biggest player on the field. A shifty player in space, Barfield may also have the potential to be a factor in the return game for the Aztecs.

DB Allan Mwata

  • highlights
  • Mwata looks like quite the ballhawks in the secondary. He tracks down the ball extremely well. Watching his tape, it was sometimes difficult to remember if he was supposed to be the offensive or defensive player because as a DB, he constantly put himself in great position to make a play on the ball, running right underneath it. Mwata uses every inch of his body to make plays all over the field.

DB Rashad Scott

  • highlights
  • Stop if this is familiar, but Scott played both ways in high school at WR and CB and will look to focus on mainly the defensive side of the ball in college. All of these are examples of how the Aztec coaches can mold athletes into highly skilled players. He is a smooth runner who should play well in shadow coverage and will have the quick steps to recover or jump a route as a defender.

K/P Matt Araiza

  • highlights
  • The fact that Araiza is a kicker who was offered a scholarship out of high school speaks well of his talents. That he can potentially pull double duty as a placekicker and a punter is even more talent. A left-footed kicker with a big leg, he kicks accurately and powerfully. Araiza is also athletic enough to play in the secondary; he could end up being a special teams player in every sense of the world.

ATH Denaylan Fuimaono

  • highlights
  • Fuimaono is a true athlete, although he seems like he may fit best as a defensive back. Quick and instinctual, he is able to put himself in great position to lay a hard hit or make a big play going up against wide receivers in zone or man schemes. Physical and a player who wraps up well when he tackles, Fuimaono is a classic Aztec recruit in the sense that he will fit their defensive scheme well.

Headliner(s): Justice, Thomas

Talented enough to play right away: Justice, McTear, Thomas, Smith, Banks

Sleeper Recruit(s): Uluave, Mwata

Best unit: They really stocked up at WR, both in terms of number and talent. Although they did the same at DL to a bit of a lesser extent as well.

Summary:

San Diego State went after a ton of athletes in their 2018 class and they are better on themselves to develop them into quality football players. Given their track record, it’s a safe bet. Unlike previous years, they were able to secure many players with top-notch talent, beating out several other schools for their services. In fact, at least nine players in their class held at least one offer from a Power 5 school. If their staff has been able to develop quality college players in their system in past season, it will be quite interesting to see what happens when they take this level of incoming talent and cultivate it into a finished productive down the line.

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