Possibly the biggest surprise from Mountain West draft-eligible players this year, outside Jordan Love going to Green Bay, was Tezino not hearing his name called in all seven rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Although Keith Ismael and Luq Barcoo were little known prospects coming out of high school, 247Sports had Tezino as a four-star athlete and the 17th ranked outside linebacker in the nation. He played both sides of the ball in his time at Salesian High in Los Angeles, California. The former Aztec earned more offensive touches each season, culminating in a senior year that saw Tezino carry the rock 115 times, picking up 1,063 and 6 touchdowns (per MaxPreps). He flashed his speed and athleticism but was more of a bully when rushing the ball as he was far better running over defenders than trying to juke them out.
Though his running back ability was nothing to scoff at, Tezino’s real talent was on display for Salesian’s defense. According to MaxPreps, he racked up 100-plus tackles each season starting with his sophomore year. That is over 10 tackles per game in each of his last three high school seasons, wrapping up everyone and everything that came into his area. Playing a true linebacker role, he was not asked to rush the passer often, generating just 4 sacks in his career. He did, however, intercept 9 passes, force 9 pass breakups, recover 2 fumbles, and even block a field goal.
As mentioned before, Tezino finished as a four-star recruit and was a highly coveted athlete, receiving 9 offers despite attending a high school not known for producing high quality football players. After taking an unofficial visit to Washington State’s campus in November of 2014, he would announce his commitment to the Cougars football program in December of the same year. In the following January, Tezino would take an unofficial visit to San Diego State’s campus and it was a perfect fit. He would renounce his commitment to WSU and signed his letter of intent to become an Aztec in February of 2015.
When Kyahva first stepped foot on campus he stood at six feet tall and just over 200 pounds. That weight is solid for a running back, but for a linebacker it is far too undersized. Due to this, both he and his coaching staff felt it was best if he redshirted his true freshman campaign to build on his frame and learn the defensive scheme. At the end of the season, he was awarded the team’s scout defensive player of the year, highlighting his talent and work ethic.
The next season, he would finally see the field for 11 of the Aztec’s 14 games, mainly contributing on special teams. His first collegiate tackle would wind up being a sack, foreshadowing just how dominant he would be in his college career. He did not see much more production as a redshirt freshman but Tezino was primed to see more playing time in his third season as an Aztec.
As a redshirt sophomore, he earned a spot in the linebacker rotation, even starting the final five games for SDSU. With his increased participation, Kyahva was able to make an impact against the run and as a pass rusher. According to the school’s website, he was able to rack up 59 total tackles, 2 sacks, a pass breakup and 6 quarterback hurries. After three years on the roster, Tezino was prepared to take his game to the next level.
In 2018 he accumulated 127 tackles, including 14.5 for loss, which led the team (per SDSU’s site). Tezino played every single snap for the Aztecs defense, the only player on either side of the ball to stay on the field for every single play. Spending time on working on his pass-rushing ability over the past seasons paid off as not only was he able to nab 8.5 sacks, but Tezino added another 17 quarterback hurries, both leading the entire roster. Upon the conclusion of the season, he was met with first-team all-Mountain West honors, which is voted on by the league’s head coaches and media. He also earned a spot on Pro Football Focus’ Mountain West Defensive Team of the Year, on top of all the team accolades he received.
After harassing Mountain West offenses all of 2018, Tezino was prepared to prove he was not a one year wonder in 2019. As a redshirt senior, he generated a team-high 99 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and 3.5 sacks. This is why using sacks is not always the best indicator of skill level as although his sack totals were down, he had a team-best 31 QB hurries. Tezino was also a turnover machine, forcing 2 fumbles, snatching 2 interceptions, and forcing 3 pass breakups in coverage.
Much like his junior year, Tezino received many prestigious awards due to his on-field play, including honorable-mention All-American by both Phil Steele Magazine and PFF, a first-team all-Mountain West selection for the second straight season, PFF’s first-team MW Team of the Year , and was a first-team all-MW league pick by Phil Steele Magazine.
After a stellar career with the Aztecs, it was time for Tezino to declare for the NFL draft in the hopes of being selected. As we all know now, none of the 32 franchises would use a draft pick on him, but one saw enough to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
The New England Patriots may be the best fit for the SDSU standout, as he fits almost perfectly into Head Coach Bill Belichick’s system. Belichick loves versatility at the linebacker position using Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont’a Hightower in all phases of the defense. With both Collins, Van Noy, as well as Elandon Roberts departing in free agency, New England needed to replenish their LB spot. They drafted Josh Uche in the second round, Anfernee Jennings in the third, and Cassh Maluia in the sixth, adding depth to the position. This pushes the former Aztec fairly far down the depth chart but I personally believe he has the traits and ability to stick around in the Belichick system.
In the end, it will be up to Tezino to prove his worth during training camp and back up what his new coaches saw on tape. Knowing his work ethic, his ability on special teams, and his versatility along the defensive front seven, there is a real shot Tezino can crack the Patriots final 53-man roster come the start of the season.
Will Tezino receive any starts in his rookie season?
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