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2020 Recruiting Breakdown: San Jose State

A class that will bring the next wave.

NCAA Football: Boise State at San Jose State D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the fifth post in our twelve-part recruiting breakdown series. Today looks at the #5 team in our rankings, San Jose State.

The Spartans followed up their surprisingly sneaky recruiting class of 2019 with another one in this cycle. They stockpiled some talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and were able to add some highly-talented recruits that usually seem to end up at rival schools. Also, they did good work towards accomplishing their goal of “shielding the bay,” as the vast majority of their recruits come from in-state California. To hear more about their class, look below for additional info.

The Skinny:

  • 19 players signed
  • 6 offensive, 13 defensive
  • 13 listed at 3-stars by one of the major recruiting sites.
  • Breakdown by state: 13 California, 1 Arizona, 1 Florida 1 North Carolina
  • 116th in the 247 Composite Rankings

The Players:

Grad Transfer QB Nick Starkel

Nick is coming to San Jose from Arkansas as a grad transfer. He was a highly ranked recruit out of high school, thanks to his poise in the pocket and his ability to throw accurate deep balls. Starkel appears to be able to make every throw and understands how to change his throwing angle and velocity. He makes quick decisions and deduces where to throw based on the defense. Nick should be in a similar mold of the Love, in that he is an accurate pocket-passer, and will keep the Spartan offense going.

RB Shamar Garrett

Shamar is a talented athlete coming to the SJSU backfield. He is explosive at the line of scrimmage with a running start, blasting through holes and is capable of making every carry a home run. Garrett takes good angles on his runs and is as skilled between the tackles as he is running to the outside in open space. He can be used traditionally, on an option or toss, in the wildcat, and even passed for a TD in his film. Shamar is a skilled player who can turn into a major weapon in the future offense.

WR Terence Loville

Terence is a dynamic athlete at the outside receiver spot. He flies down the field and can get behind the secondary with little issue. Loville is capable of a big play every time he touches the ball, which is on display on offense as well as special teams. He adjusts his routes in the middle of the play because he tracks the ball so well in the air. Terence fits well into what the Spartans do offensively, and it will just be a matter of time before he contributes.

TE Sam Olson

Sam brings excellent potential to the tight end position. He used in a variety of ways, from the short passing and screen game to the big plays down the seam. Olson moves like a wide receiver in the open field while piling up the yards after the catch. He excels coming off the line of scrimmage and bumping a blocker and then opening up in his route to make the catch. Sam can develop into a major weapon for an offense that knows how to use tight ends.

OL Keydrell Lewis

Keydrell is the lone high school offensive lineman for the Spartans. He is a massive body on the line and has the strength to match it. Lewis consistently gets defensive linemen on their heels, driving them back to help running backs have big running lanes. He does a good job staying low and engulfing people in blocks. Keydrell plays right tackle in high school and should remain there at the college level too.

JUCO OL Lamar Barrett

Lamar is the junior college lineman coming into the fold. He is quick off the snap and moves well laterally, considering his size. Barrett does a good job getting out in front of the play to pave the way for his running backs. He is simply too big to push back much of the time on plays. Lamar should slide into the two-deep at one of the guard positions for the Spartans.

DT Soane Toia

Soane is a high-motor playing along the defensive line. His film shows him in the backfield about a second after the snap with high consistency. Toia uses a swim-move to great success to get off his blocks, and his strength allows him to throw around offensive lineman as he runs past them. He is also a strong tackler, one who doesn’t let go of someone once he gets his hands on him. Thanks to the JUCO d-line players being brought in, Soane can redshirt and develop until his play dictates he be on the field.

DL Grady Manley

Grady has a first-class name and the talent to back it up. He is a strong, mobile pass-rusher who frequently uses his skills to get after the quarterback. Manley doesn’t quit on plays and fights through blockers to get into a position to impact the outcome of a play. He relies heavily on a bull-rush technique, which works with little issue in high school but will need to further develop his moves at the next level. Grady would benefit from some seasoning with his skills but has the size and determination to succeed at the college level.

DL Tre Smith

Tre is another recruit coming in for the d-line. He has great speed off the edge and the long muscular build of a pass-rusher. Smith isn’t a one-trick player either; he can impact the run game as well with his sound tackling and ability to keep contain on the edge. He is difficult to stop with only one blocker and is quick enough to split double teams on a regular basis as well. Tre appears to have a bright future once he gets on the field for the Spartans.

JUCO DL Noah Wright

Noah is an experienced lineman hoping to come in and play right away for the Spartans. Capable of being on the inside or outside of the line, he is an imposing figure. Wright is strong enough to bull rush blockers and agile enough to make a quick move to blow by them. He does a really nice job of loaded with his lower body before unleashing his power when making a sack or tackle. Noah looks like he can fit in as an end or tackle depending on the scheme and should make an immediate impact.

JUCO DL Jay Kakiva

Jay is another very talented junior college player in this SJSU class. He is a terror as a nose guard, eating up blocks and forcing his way into the backfield to cause disruptions. Kakiva is impossible to block with a single lineman, as he is too big and too strong to contain. He moves side to side well to get around blockers and then uses his strength to throw them off to the side. Jay should start next year from the get-go and be one of the better players on their defense.

LB Elijah Lawson

Elijah played mostly safety in high school, but SJSU announced him as a linebacker. He is comfortable playing on or off the line and brings a physical presence to the field. Lawson has good vision on the field to see plays developing and gets himself in the right position to make a play. He appears to be equally skilled at playing against the run or the pass. Elijah projects best as a SAM type of linebacker who can be put in a variety of roles on any given play and be a difference-maker on defense.

LB Elijah Wood

Elijah is another secondary player being converted to a linebacker in college. He looks great on the line, perhaps in an over or under concept, and where he can be an extra defender against the run or come off the edge on a blitz. Wood brings a length and athleticism to the field, which allows him to make a high volume of plays in the backfield as well as coverage. He has an ideal frame to be a pass-rusher, which may be his role at the next level. Elijah will need some seasoning and developing into one specific role in college but will make an impact once he’s ready.

JUCO LB Dion Leonard

Dion is another player coming in this class in hopes of providing immediate help. He is a hard-hitter who is able to cover the open field in the second level. Leonard is able to blow up screens and can tackle straight on while going full speed at the same time. He will be a huge boost to stopping the run and can hold his own in zone coverage as well. Dion should be able to immediately step into a role as an outside linebacker next fall.

DB Jalen Apalit-Williams

Jalen was one of the bigger gets in this class. He is a hard-hitting safety with who covers a ton of ground on the field. Apalit-Williams tackles well on the move, which serves him in coverage as well as stepping up in run defense. He tracks the ball well after a pass is thrown and times his jumps well to make a play. Jalen has a good shot to play in the fall and should be a fixture on the SJSU defense.

DB Zavion Reese

Zavion comes in as a two-way player who the Spartans will use on defense. He is a smooth running who covers ground quickly in his strides, a trait that will serve him well in coverage. Reese is a sound tackler in space, which plays bigger than his stature. He plays tight coverage that allows him to be around receivers and make a play on the ball. Zavion will likely redshirt but should develop into a sound cornerback.

DB Jalen Bainer

Jalen is a very athletic and skilled player coming to San Jose State. He is electric with the ball in his hands, be it offense, defense, or special teams. Bainer has incredible speed, especially in the open field, and goes max-effort every single play. His time on both sides of the ball gives his knowledge and a high football IQ. Jalen will likely become a play-maker for the Spartans during his time with the program.

DB Mikale Greer

Mikale comes into the secondary as well. Most of his film showcases his offensive highlights, but the Spartans want to use his athleticism and skills on defense. Greer runs fluidly, has good vision on the field, and knows his assignment on each play. This will help him greatly moving to cornerback. Mikale would benefit from taking a redshirt to transition to defense full-time.

DB Chance Johnson

Chance is yet another defensive back in this class. He made an impact in all three phases of the game in high school, in big thanks to his speed and football knowledge. Johnson doesn’t give up on plays, and since he will be a safety, that’s an important quality for the last line of the defense. He also uses his speed to get in great position to track the ball and pick off passes. Chance looks to have a positive future for the Spartans once he gets used to the college game.

JUCO DB Malik Welch

Malik is coming in to boost the secondary. He is a skilled cornerback who has active hands that enable him to make plays with the ball in the air. Welch does a good job playing tight coverage and forcing the receivers to adjust their routes. However, he appears even better when playing off and closing in to deflect a pass or make a tackle. Malik should have no trouble competing for a starting spot next year.

Transfer DB Kenyon Reed

Kenyon is coming in with a year of college under his belt. He tape shows him as a player who was able to make an impact on offense, defense, and special teams in high school. Reed is definitely fast but also disciplined in his coverage techniques, which allows him to be right there to make a play. He is also determined in the run game, fighting through blockers to tackle at any cost. Kenyon may not be able to play right away but is surely talented.

Quick Hits:


Mike: Kakiva, Greer, Apalit-Williams,

Victor: Starkel

Talented enough to play right away:

Mike: Kakiva, Greer, Apalit-Williams, Toia

Victor: Leonard, Wood

Sleeper Recruit:

Mike: Bainer

Victor: Kenyon

Best unit:

Mike: Defensive line, defensive backs

Victor: Linebackers, defensive backs


San Jose State has been recruiting talent with great consistency under Coach Brennan, and this year is no different. They restocked their defense at nearly every spot, securing players both for next year as well as the future. While the class leans a bit too much on junior college and transfer players, their hope is it allows them to bridge the gap between the senior-led group from last year and the talent developing within the program. This class could end up a memorable one for allowing them to sustain the momentum built during the 2019 season.

For further perspective, looking across the Mountain West, the Spartans have what looks to be an above-average recruiting class as a whole. So the talent base will look to be there again for the Brennan coaching staff - meaning the onus is next on them to find the winning combinations, schemes and framework. It also looks and feels of equal combination of brotherhood and family that the Brennan philosophy sews deep into that Spartan culture and is part of the recruiting allure that continues in the Brennan long-game.

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