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2020 Recruiting Breakdown: San Diego State

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A smaller class but a few really talented players.

NCAA Football: New Mexico Bowl-Central Michigan vs San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the fourth post in our twelve-part recruiting breakdown series. Today looks at the #4 team in our rankings, San Diego State.

San Diego State constantly brings in above average-recruiting classes as far as the Mountain West Conference goes. They focus on athletes who fit their offensive and defensive systems well, and in many ways, that transcends traditional team recruiting rankings. Additionally, they develop players well, and because they fit their system, the Aztecs often exceed their recruiting projections by winning without top recruiting classes. All of that being said, this year, their class contains evident talent on paper, despite the small size of this year’s class. See below to look at how this class of athletes fits into what SDSU likes to do on the field.

The Skinny:

  • 18 players signed
  • 8 offensive, 8 defensive, 2 athletes
  • 14 listed at 3-stars by one of the major recruiting sites.
  • Breakdown by state: 11 California, 3 Nevada, 2 Arizona, 1 Hawaii, 1 Michigan
  • 104th in the 247 Composite Rankings

The Players:

RB Jaylon Armstead

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but San Diego State signed a great looking running back in Jaylon. He flies through holes in the line and has breakaway speed once he gets going. Armstead cuts and changes directions with little issues, and is elusive in the open field. He is also a capable receiver, with his solid hands on display on his film. Jaylon could get carries as soon as next season based on talent but will have to compete with a full depth chart, so it is likely he redshirts.

TE Jay Rudolph

Jay was one of the most productive TEs in his region last fall. He is a capable blocker, often used as a lead man who gets out in front of the play along the edge. Rudolph shines catching quick passes that he can turn into big plays. This is because he makes tacklers miss and gets into the open field right away. Jay has a bright future ahead of him at San Diego State.

TE Aaron Greene

Link to highlights on maxpreps.

Aaron is another tight end player in this class. He is a gifted blocker who has the potential to be a difference-maker in the run game. Greene was also athletic enough to play defense, where he showed developed awareness on the field. He has incredible size and should be a go-to target in the red-zone. Aaron will likely need some time to develop but appears to be a good get for the Aztecs.

Grad Transfer TE Nolan Givan

Nolan is a transfer from Ball State and gives the Aztecs a tight end with D1 experience to offset their attrition at that spot. In his high school highlights, it is evident he can be a big weapon on offense. Givan possesses great speed, especially after the catch, as he routinely creates separation. He has good size and great hands. San Diego State uses tight ends often in their offense, and Nolan will likely get immediate playing time.

OL John Harrison

John is a towering figure on the line. He explodes off the line after the snap and makes immediate contact with defenders. Harrison is able to stay low in his stance and move backward pretty easily in pass protection. His physicality comes across best in run blocking, where he constantly drives players back and away from the ball. John played right tackle in high school and figures to be a good bet to stay there in college.

OL Aidan Finney

Aidan has impressive height and the game to back it up. He is extremely physical at the line of scrimmage and delivers countless pancake blocks. Finney’s skilled ability to block is able to open up wide holes in the run game, which will be a perfect fit in the Aztec run game. He does an exceptional job staying and attacking low for someone with his height. Aidan looks like a future tackle and should develop into another strong SDSU offensive lineman.

OL Joey Wright

Joey is one of the top offensive linemen coming into the conference this season. He is simply too big and too strong going up against the competition on his highlight tape. Wright is a force in the run game, using his powerful lower body to drive defenders back into the second level. He also moves fluidly in pass-protection. Joey may not quite be ready to play next season, but he should be the cornerstone on the Aztec line for years to come.

JUCO OL Sebastian Hernandez

Sebastian brings immediate help to the OL position in this class. He is a bit methodical on the field but packs a ton of force into his blocks when he makes contact. Hernandez moves well laterally and seems to have a detailed understanding of his assignments on each play. He can line up at multiple spots on the line and plays through the whistle. Sebastian may make his biggest impact at a guard spot and should contribute next year.

LB Kobah Fuamatu

Kobah is quite the talent at the linebacker spot. He is fast, physical, and versatile on the field. Fuamatu excels as a pass rusher, making quick moves to get linemen off-balance and then blowing by them with his speed. He sees plays developing well and that serves him well when dropping back into zone coverage. Kobah will be a great fit as an outside linebacker with Aztecs, and should develop into an all-conference type of talent.

LB Vai Kaho

Couldn’t get Vai’s film to embed, but here is the link.

Vai is another skilled athlete who tends to develop well with the SDSU. He is athletic and rangy enough to play in coverage but appears at his best near the line of scrimmage where he can blitz or stop the run. Kaho shows the ability to get off blocks and plug holes to disrupt running backs. He can be plugged into a Will type of outside backer position and become a playmaker in the front seven of a defense. Vai will shine in his ability to do his job and produce consistently in his college career.

LB Hunter Kaupiko

Hunter is a nice compliment to the two linebackers listed above. He is a force in the middle of the field, moving fluidly side to side and diagnosing where the running back is going quickly. Kaupiko has great game speed as well, which serves him mostly in being quick to get in the gaps in the run game. However, it is also on display when he drops back into coverage, covering ground, and being able to make a play on the ball with his closing speed. Hunter looks to be the future middle linebacker for the Aztecs.

LB Darrell Masaniai

Darrell played mostly defensive end in high school but was announced as a linebacker when he signed with San Diego State. He is quick off the line of scrimmage, able to get a step on blockers, getting a nice angle as he gets into the backfield. Masaniai is great at disrupting plays, either by causing pressure on the quarterback or getting a hand in the air to tip a ball or block vision. He holds his own against players bigger and seemingly stronger than him as well. Darrell will likely need some seasoning but will end up finding a role in a college defense to be sure.

DB Isaiah McElvane

Isaiah played both ways in high school, and SDSU wants to use that athleticism on defense. He has a knack for being around the ball and making big plays. McElvane displays great vision and has breakaway speed. He looks to be electric as a returner on special teams as well. Isaiah is the type of athlete who succeeds at San Diego State, and there is no reason to believe he won’t.

DB Dezjhon Malone

Dezjhon is another talented athlete entering the fold in the secondary. He is fluid in his backpedal, has long strides, and tracks the ball well when covering passes. Malone’s tape also shows he is physical at the line of scrimmage, jamming receivers and disrupting the timing of their routes. He brings that physicality to the run game too, stepping up and making a play. Dezjhon is someone who just gets it done on the field and could surprise people at the college level.

DB Brody Hughes

Brody put up some big numbers at running back but will be playing safety for the Aztecs. He is fast and physical, putting back hits on offensive skills players. Hughes displays exceptional instincts on the football field, reacting to developing plays, and constantly putting himself in a position to make a play. He can hold hi sown in coverage as well. Brody will need to smooth out some edges in his full-time transition to safety but is a player who finds a way to get the job done.

JUCO DB Dallas Branch

Dallas is a defensive back from the junior college ranks. He is a smart DB who plays with an edge on the field, putting on big hits and finding little ways to disrupt receivers. Branch looks to be a big-time player-maker with the ball in his hands, and he gets enough interceptions to capitalize on that skill. He can press, shadow, or play off his man and make the play regardless. Dallas should step into a role on the field right away next year and be able to contribute.

ATH Jelani Whitmore

Jelani is one of those athletes SDSU is known for recruiting. He excels at high-pointing the ball in the air and appears to have break-away type speed. Whitmore is great in coverage and has the potential to be a difference-maker in the return game. He looks skilled enough for corner or receiver at the college level but may project better at corner. Look for Jelani to redshirt but then crack the two-deep in 2021.

ATH Cassius Savage

Cassius is another recruit who had the “athlete” tag on him during his signing day announcement. He covers a lot of ground on the field, and his film shows him out-running everyone on the field on a regular basis. Savage is at his best with the ball in his hands over the middle of the field, darting and shifting around defenders to extend players. He projects well as a receiver who can be used in the short and mid-passing game due to his skillset. Cassius will be an early contributor in his career with the Aztecs.

Quick Hits:

Headliner(s):

Mike: Wright, Fuamatu, Kaho

Talented enough to play right away:

Mike: Armstead, Fuamatu, Kaho

Sleeper Recruit:

Mike: Malone

Best unit:

Mike: Linebackers

Summary:

San Diego State did some work on the recruiting trail. The talent is there, just not in large quantity in this class. In some ways, the opposite of yesterday’s post, the Cowboys. That happens some years due to the number of available scholarships and is in no way a slight on the level of talent coming in for the Aztecs. It is very likely five or six players in this class will form the core of the next wave in the SDSU program and become starters for the bulk of their college careers. If that ends up being the case, it won’t really matter how small the class is, it will be remembered as a highly successful one.

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