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What Can We Expect From SDSU’s JUCO and Transfer Additions?

These four athletes may influence the outlook of San Diego State football in 2020 more than you think.

Sep 14, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Lucas Johnson (7) celebrates after throwing for a score against the Citadel Bulldogs during the third quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Lucas Johnson at Georgia Tech vs Citadel 2019
Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Incoming freshmen are not the only players San Diego State will be adding to their roster this season. The Aztecs were able to land two quality transfers, as well as two junior college commitments. All four athletes should be able to join the roster in 2020 and contribute quickly after landing in San Diego, California. From a former Georgia Tech quarterback to a Long Beach City College cornerback, let's take a look at SDSU’s JUCO and transfer acquisitions.

Graduate Transfers:

QB Lucas Johnson

Johnson’s name might be familiar to some diehard Aztecs fans. He originally committed to the program in November of 2015 before decommitting in favor of Georgia Tech just nine days before his signing day. His career with the Yellow Jackets was marred by injuries, causing him to see little of the football field.

He redshirted his true-freshman season, received the backup role in 2017, and was primed to battle for the starting job in 2018. This was when his injury history began, as during spring practices he suffered a foot injury that would sideline him for the entire season. When 2019 rolled around, Johnson earned the starting QB position for the second and third game of the season, before enduring a shoulder injury. He had officially run his course with Georgia Tech, as the reins of the offense were passed to redshirt freshman James Graham. San Diego State is likely his last chance to play college football as he is leaving Atlanta, Georgia with just two seasons of eligibility left.

After four years, Johnson will be transferring to the school he first committed to in an attempt to rectify his career. With Ryan Agnew graduating, the quarterback position is wide open. Johnson brings great size, athleticism, and running ability to the Aztecs, a skillset they have not had from their recent signal-callers. Despite his high school highlights being a bit outdated, his speed and arm strength are undeniable. Redshirt sophomore Carson Baker is the projected starter and is the only current SDSU QB to take snaps under center last year. Though Baker may begin training camp ahead of him on the depth chart, Johnson is a dark horse to win the battle come the start of the 2020 season.

TE Nolan Givan

Transferring from Ball State, Givan owns valuable D1 experience as a redshirt senior. He started 22 games over four seasons with the Cardinals before suffering multiple injuries that ultimately cut his 2019 season short. Over that span, he reeled in 51 of 74 targets for 357 yards and six touchdowns (Per PFF). With his final year of eligibility he will look to provide stability and seniority to the position that houses true junior Daniel Bellinger, the only returning tight end to take snaps last season.

Givan will likely be on the gridiron early and often next season as the Aztecs love to run tight end heavy sets. On top of this, his acceleration and top speed are stellar for a tight end, which can be seen in his highlight reel below. The offense often revolves around the rushing attack mixed with the short to intermediate passing game which deliberately utilizes tight ends due to their big frames and large catch radius. No matter who wins the starting quarterback spot, there will be enough targets to go around for both Bellinger and Givan to contribute next season.

JUCO Signings:

OG Sebastian Hernandez

The Aztecs have holes at both left guard and center with the departures of Daishawn Dixon and Keith Ismael to the NFL. San Diego State already has some talent on their offensive line, but have also opted to bring in Hernandez from Cerritos College. He started 11 games last season for the Falcons, proving to be a physical force upfront. At 6’4” nearly 300 pounds, he has the build to compete for a starting position right away.

Hernandez is fluid enough in pass protection, though he can improve his footwork and hand technique with help from the coaching staff. Where he really shines is in run-blocking, often mauling defenders all the way into the second level. His tenacity and ability to move opponents against their will pops off his tape. With SDSU’s hefty reliance on the running game, it is fair to assume Hernandez will see a considerable amount of playing time as the starting left guard or rotating in along the interior of the offensive line.

CB Dallas Branch

Branch was a standout in his freshman season at Long Beach City College. According to the school’s website, he was able to rack up 50 total tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a whopping SIX interceptions. Not only are his six interceptions eye-popping, but what should intrigue Aztecs fans, even more, are his three sacks and two forced fumbles. He is a hard hitter once he gains some speed and plays far bigger than his size.

At 5’11” 184 pounds it is easy to pigeonhole Branch to a slot corner on only dime or nickel packages, but he is able to stand on his island outside and line up against bigger receivers. He has projectable length and seems as though his frame could put on even more muscle weight. Branch is comfortable in whatever role he is asked to play, whether its blitzing, off-man, press-man, or floating in zone. He can sometimes bite too hard on routes, allowing receivers to get the best of him, but he offsets this with his instincts and playmaking ability.

San Diego State’s strongest position group is arguably their secondary which Branch only reinforces. With Luq Barcoo leaving and signing with the NFL, Branch should see the field as a true sophomore, contesting for the starting cornerback spot opposite redshirt junior Darren Hall.


With 16 starters returning for 2020, the Aztecs find themselves in a reloading stage rather than rebuilding. All four of these roster additions will have the opportunity to receive significant playing time next year with strong offseason performances. It will be difficult for them to learn the full playbook with limited reps and exposure to their coaches due to the current pandemic, but if all goes as planned, we will see them wearing black and scarlet in the upcoming season.


Which of these players will have the biggest impact next season?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    QB Lucas Johnson
    (23 votes)
  • 20%
    TE Nolan Givan
    (16 votes)
  • 17%
    OG Sebastian Hernandez
    (14 votes)
  • 32%
    CB Dallas Branch
    (25 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now