2013 Recruiting Class: Signing Day Recap

San Diego State head coach Rocky Long, the 2013 Mountain West Coach of the Year, saw 24 players sign in his 2013 recruiting class. (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

San Diego State head coach Rocky Long, the 2013 Mountain West Coach of the Year, saw 24 players sign in his 2013 recruiting class. (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

Wednesday was a big day for San Diego State, as it added a total of 24 new players to its football program on National Signing Day.

Taken directly from the GoAztecs.com Signing Day Central, here is the 2013 recruiting class:

2013 recruiting class

There were some surprises throughout the day, both good and bad, but the Aztec coaching staff seemed very pleased with the new additions.

As expected, San Diego State head coach Rocky Long has made it clear that most of these incoming players are unlikely to see playing time next year. He also noted that there is virtually no way of grading this class until you see how each player pans out a few years down the line.

While it is extremely difficult to predict which players will live up to the expectations, here is a brief synopsis at first glance:

Surprises
WR Christian Cumberlander – The 6-foot-3 wide receiver was one of the last players to sign on Wednesday, and did so in Lebron-like fashion. His commitment was unknown heading into Wednesday, and he had a live video feed to announce his decision. There was an Auburn hat, an Oregon hat and a San Diego State hat on a table, and he planned to put on the hat of the school he would sign with. Years ago, San Diego State was rarely mentioned with the likes of Auburn and Oregon, but yesterday was a prime example of the growing program’s newfound ability to compete with the upper-echelon schools. Cumberlander eventually chose the Aztecs hat, symbolizing his intent to sign with San Diego State.

RB Ronnie Daniels – A transfer from Texas Tech, the signing of Daniels flew under the radar up until signing day. It was reported that he initially tried to transfer last fall, but was unable to qualify due to academic issues. Although he will still need to take care of his academic requirements, Daniels was able to sign with San Diego State and could be a great addition to the program. He played sparingly in his one season at Texas Tech, but his prior experience and good size could develop into him into a solid option at running back for the Aztecs.

TE Darryl Richardson – After the addition of Bierria and the commitment of Wells, many thought San Diego State was done recruiting tight ends. Just before signing day, however, Richardson came into the picture and gave the Aztecs their third tight end in the 2013 recruiting class. Although he played quarterback in high school, he is an incredible athlete with prototypical tight end size. With time to mature and develop his build, he could transform into a serious threat at the tight end position.

First-year contributors
TE Dominique Bierria – After losing three tight ends, there is no question that at least one tight end in the 2013 recruiting class will see playing time next season. A transfer from Santa Monica City College, Bierria was able to sign early and enroll in spring classes. This gives him a huge advantage, as he will be able to participate in the offseason workouts and spring practices. Look for Bierria to be a step ahead of the incoming high school tight ends, as he will likely add at least 15-20 pounds over the next several months working with strength coach Adam Hall.

OL Lenicio Noble – Similar to Bierria, Noble has the advantage of enrolling at San Diego State early for spring classes. With the starting center job up for grabs, he will likely compete for the spot with Jordan Smith and Austin Maass. Keep an eye on Noble throughout the offseason to see how the competition goes. Smith appears to be the frontrunner, but with a strong offseason, Noble could make a push to win the job. Whether he starts or is a backup, he will be an important player next season.

CB Kalan Montgomery – San Diego State lost both of its starting cornerbacks from a year ago, and will need younger players to step up in 2013. A three-star recruit, Montgomery has a solid chance to see the field as a true freshman. He will compete with the likes of JJ Whittaker, Mahbu Keels, Damontae Kazee and others in fall camp to determine which cornerbacks the Aztecs will utilize.

Future stars
RB Donnel Pumphrey – In an interview on signing day, San Diego State running backs coach Jeff Horton compared Pumphrey to former Aztec and current NFL running back Ronnie Hillman. Hearing a comparison like that should be music the ears of San Diego State fans, and there should be a ton of excitement about Pumphrey. Although he will likely redshirt due to the depth at running back, he has the talent to be a future star for the Aztecs, and next in the line of great Aztec running backs.

LB Fred Melifonwu – At 6-foot-5, many would consider Melifonwu to be too tall to play linebacker. In today’s game of football, however, tall and rangy linebackers are becoming increasingly popular. In San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense, there is often a pass-rushing linebacker on the line of scrimmage, essentially a standup defensive end. With Melifonwu’s height and experience playing defensive end, he could thrive at this position for the Aztecs. This type of linebacker is also sought after in the NFL, as shown with players like Aldon Smith, Demarcus Ware and others. Melifonwu will need time to gain strength and size, but look for him to be a force for the Aztec defense down the road.

WR Charles Cumberlander and TE Darryl Richardson – Both of these players will likely redshirt in 2013, but they have the potential to be big-time contributors as early as their second year on campus. Cumberlander had several offers to choose from, and his talent is no secret. With the depth at wide receiver, however, it is unlikely he will climb the depth chart next season. Richardson, on the other hand, has to grow accustomed to putting his hand in the ground and lining up as a traditional tight end. There isn’t a ton of depth at his position, but he will need a year to develop his body and learn the fundamentals. Look for both of these players to have a breakout season in 2014.

Additional notes

  • San Diego State signed players from 11 different states, its most diverse class since the school started recording signing day statistics in 1997.
  • San Diego State signed a very balanced class. Of the 24 signees, 12 are expected to play offense and 12 are expected to play defense.
  • San Diego State signed four safeties and four linebackers. These positions will have several seniors in 2013, making it highly unlikely that any of the incoming players will see playing time. In 2014, however, the seniors will have moved on and many of the young players in this class will need to step up.
  • Rocky Long noted in his press conference that although 24 players signed, there are only 17 available scholarships. Although it is common for scholarships to open up in the offseason due to transfers, injuries and other reasons, Long said that it is possible some of the players will grayshirt. This means they would sit out the 2013 season and join the team in the spring of 2014.

That’s it for now, Aztec fans. Stay tuned for future posts such as spring ball news, a Pro Day recap, a post-spring depth chart prediction and more. 

In the mean time, be sure to check out the 2013 Season Preview Home to see the pre-spring position-by-position previews for next season.


LINKS:
Hunter Hewitt: WordPress – http://hunterhewitt.wordpress.com
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Hunter Hewitt: Twitter – http://twitter.com/hunterhewitt89
Hunter Hewitt: Facebook – http://facebook.com/hunterhewittSDSU
Hunter Hewitt: About.me – http://about.me/hunterhewitt
Hunter Hewitt: BrandYourself – http://hunterhewitt.brandyourself.com/
Hunter Hewitt: GoAztecs.com Player Profile – http://goaztecs.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/hewitt_hunter00.html
Hunter Hewitt: SDSU News Team Story: http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/sdsu_newscenter/news.aspx?s=73846


by Hunter Hewitt

GO AZTECS

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2013 SDSU Football Season Preview: Wide Receivers

Lockett runs with ball

After nearly posting a 1,000-yard season in 2011, Lockett saw a drop in his numbers last year. He will be back in 2013 for final season, and will be looking to go out with a strong senior campaign. (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

Who’s gone

  • WR Dominique Sandifer
  • WR Brice Butler

Projected starters (2012 stats)

  • WR #24 Colin Lockett – RS Sr., 6-foot, 180 pounds (20 catches, 293 yards, two touchdowns ; 4 carries, 44 yards)
  • WR #3 Ezell Ruffin – RS Jr., 6-foot-1, 205 pounds (17 catches, 319 yards ; 4 carries, 21 yards)

Key reserves (2012 stats)

  • WR #10 Dylan Denso – RS Sr., 6-foot-2, 205 pounds (4 catches, 63 yards)
  • WR #41 Tim Vizzi – RS Sr., 5-foot-10, 175 pounds (9 catches, 99 yards, one touchdown ; one carry, 17 yards)
  • WR #80 Larry Clark – RS So., 6-foot-4, 210 pounds (N/A)
  • WR #86 Jemond Hazely – RS So., 6-foot-1, 185 pounds (One carry, 5 yards)

Players to watch

  • WR #10 Dylan Denso – RS Sr., 6-foot-2, 205 pounds – After having a breakout season in 2011, Denso was unable to match his prior production in 2012. Much of it was due to a broken finger suffered at the end of fall camp, which hindered him all season. That, along with the return of Sandifer and the addition of Butler, made it tough for Denso to replicate the 49 catches for 634 yards and three touchdowns he recorded in 2011. Don’t be surprised if Denso finds his way into the starting lineup next season, and even if he doesn’t, he will still see loads of playing time and have several balls thrown his way as the third wide receiver.
  • WR #80 Larry Clark – RS So., 6-foot-4, 210 pounds – A physical specimen, Clark was given the nickname “Babytron” last season by a teammate because his frame resembles that of NFL All-Pro wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. After two seasons of development, expect Clark to finally break through in 2013 and be a solid contributor for the offense. A big target with strength and speed, Clark will likely come in on spread packages as the fourth receiver, and may be used in certain situations where his height and athleticism can cause matchup problems for opposing defenses.

2013 Commitments
San Diego State currently has one wide receiver commit, Julius Wilson from Culver City, Calif. Although it is likely he will redshirt due to the depth at his position, don’t be surprised if the talented three-star wide receiver finds his way onto the field as a true freshman.

Analysis
Although the Aztecs seemed to have a lot of talent at the wide receiver position in 2012, they relied heavily on their run game and tight end Gavin Escobar, who was their leading receiver with 543 yards (Butler recorded the second-highest total with 347 yards).

San Diego State loses Butler and Sandifer, but Lockett, Ruffin and Denso have started multiple games over the last two seasons and should not have any issues stepping up as the main targets. Lockett is the leader of the group, with career totals of 78 catches for 1,263 yards and 11 touchdowns. Similar to Denso, Lockett had lingering injury issues in 2012, as he suffered an ankle sprain early in the season and was often not at full strength. Look for him to bounce back next year and be a deep threat like he was in 2011 when he recorded 970 receiving yards.

Ruffin finally hit the scene in 2012, and broke out in the second game against Army with 5 catches for 152 yards. Following his breakout game, it seemed that the young wide receiver from Long Beach, Calif., was poised for a big season, but it ended up being his only 100-yard game of the year. Like Denso and Lockett, Ruffin also played through an injury in 2012, as he broke a bone in his hand near the middle of the season. Look for him to show his playmaking abilities even more in 2013 and have a solid year.

Newly hired offensive coordinator Bob Toledo said in an interview with the U-T San Diego that he wants to “throw the ball a little bit more than before,” and this will mean more production from Lockett, Ruffin and Denso. With Escobar and running back Walter Kazee gone, expect San Diego State to depend less on its running game and tight ends and more on its wide receivers.

Redshirt freshmen wide receivers Eric Judge and Lloyd Mills will likely need another year to mature and develop their bodies before they start climbing the depth chart. Both will be determined to see some action after redshirting last season, so keep an eye on these two, along with Paul Pitts III, to see if they can find their way onto the field as special teams contributors.

Prediction
After failing to have a wide receiver surpass 400 receiving yards in 2012, San Diego State will have three wide receivers with over 500 yards in 2013.


2013 Season Preview: Home
2013 Season Preview: Defensive Line
2013 Season Preview: Linebackers
2013 Season Preview: Cornerbacks
2013 Season Preview: Safeties
2013 Season Preview: Special Teams

Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the running backs of the 2013 San Diego State Aztecs


LINKS:
Hunter Hewitt: WordPress – http://hunterhewitt.wordpress.com
Hunter Hewitt: Blogger – http://hunterhewitt.blogspot.com
Hunter Hewitt: LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/hunterhewitt
Hunter Hewitt: Twitter – http://twitter.com/hunterhewitt89
Hunter Hewitt: Facebook – http://facebook.com/hunterhewittSDSU
Hunter Hewitt: About.me – http://about.me/hunterhewitt
Hunter Hewitt: BrandYourself – http://hunterhewitt.brandyourself.com/
Hunter Hewitt: GoAztecs.com Player Profile – http://goaztecs.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/hewitt_hunter00.html
Hunter Hewitt: SDSU News Team Story: http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/sdsu_newscenter/news.aspx?s=73846


by Hunter Hewitt

GO AZTECS

2013 SDSU Football Season Preview: Cornerbacks

King Holder gets interception

Redshirt junior cornerback King Holder, the most experienced returning cornerback, picks off a pass in the bowl game vs. BYU. (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

Who’s gone

  • CB Leon McFadden
  • CB Josh Wade

Projected starters (2012 stats)

  • CB #35 King Holder – RS Jr., 5-foot-10, 165 pounds (33 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, five pass break-ups)
  • CB #21 Mahbu Keels – RS Jr., 6-foot-1, 175 pounds (N/A) 

Key reserves (2012 stats)

  • CB #34 J.J. Whittaker – RS Jr., 5-foot-10, 180 pounds (N/A)
  • CB #23 Damontae Kazee – RS Fr., 5-foot-11, 175 pounds (N/A – redshirt year)
  • CB #13 Pierre Romain – RS So., 5-foot-8, 165 pounds (10 tackles)
  • CB #16 David Lamar – RS Jr., 6-foot-2, 180 pounds (six tackles)

Players to watch

  • CB #34 J.J. Whittaker – RS Jr., 5-foot-10, 180 pounds – A highly touted recruit out of Oceanside High School, Whittaker has had a serious streak of bad luck as he has been bitten by the injury bug the last three seasons. After tearing his ACL twice in his firs two years and breaking a bone in his shoulder last season, Whittaker has yet to see any game action. Fortunately, he returned towards the end of the 2012 season and practiced with the scout team. Look for Whittaker to finally get his chance to see the field in 2013. He has all the tools to be a solid player for the Aztecs, and if he can stay healthy, he will be an important contributor and may compete for a starting role.
  • CB #23 Damontae Kazee – RS Fr., 5-foot-11, 175 pounds – Although he has yet to see the field after redshirting in 2012, expect Kazee to make a name for himself in spring practices. He has great bloodlines, as Aztec fans spent the last four years idolizing his brother, former running back Walter Kazee, for his incredible toughness and willpower. Look for Damontae Kazee to bring that same toughness on the defensive side of the ball, locking down wide receivers and stepping up in run support when needed.
  • DB #31 Tony Bell – RS So., 6-foot-1, 180 pounds – As a true freshman in 2011, Bell was listed as a cornerback, but eventually redshirted and moved to safety the following season. Don’t be surprised if the coaching staff considers another move and he ends up back where he started. With a ton of depth at safety, the switch could be beneficial for Bell and the Aztecs, as he could likely contribute sooner at the cornerback position.

2013 Commitments
As of now, Billy Vaughn Jr.Addison Morrow and Kalan Montgomery are three commits who will likely play cornerback. Don’t be surprised if Montgomery, a three-star recruit, makes a push for playing time in the fall. Vaughn Jr. possesses a good combination of size and speed and could also potentially see playing time as a true freshman, but it is likely that he, along with Morrow, will redshirt in 2013.

Analysis
The cornerback position is a serious question mark for the San Diego State defense entering the 2013 season. With McFadden and Wade leaving, the Aztecs need to find two new starters from a group of mostly young, inexperienced players.

Luckily for San Diego State, Holder finished the 2012 season playing at a high level and had an exceptional performance in the bowl game. Expect him to secure one of the starting cornerback spots early on.

The question of who starts alongside Holder is where the uncertainty arises, as none of the other cornerbacks have seen significant playing time on defense. Romain and Lamar saw action on special teams in 2012, and both could make a push for one of the starting spots in 2013. Between those two, Keels, Whittaker and Kazee, look for a heated competition through spring practice and fall camp to determine the other starter.

Keels appears to be the frontrunner, as he is a physical corner with good size and will be entering his fourth season with the Aztecs. Don’t be surprised if Kazee turns some heads in the offseason as well, and forces the coaching staff to consider giving him a chance despite his youth and lack of experience. If Whittaker is able to stay healthy, he could also make a push for a starting job.

Prediction
Holder will have at least three interceptions in 2013, and return one of them for a touchdown.


2013 Season Preview: Home
2013 Season Preview: Defensive Line
2013 Season Preview: Linebackers

Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the safeties of the 2013 San Diego State Aztecs


LINKS:
Hunter Hewitt: WordPress – http://hunterhewitt.wordpress.com
Hunter Hewitt: Blogger – http://hunterhewitt.blogspot.com
Hunter Hewitt: LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/hunterhewitt
Hunter Hewitt: Twitter – http://twitter.com/hunterhewitt89
Hunter Hewitt: Facebook – http://facebook.com/hunterhewittSDSU
Hunter Hewitt About.me – http://about.me/hunterhewitt
Hunter Hewitt: BrandYourself – http://hunterhewitt.brandyourself.com/
Hunter Hewitt: GoAztecs.com Player Profile – http://goaztecs.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/hewitt_hunter00.html
Hunter Hewitt: SDSU News Team Story: http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/sdsu_newscenter/news.aspx?s=73846


by Hunter Hewitt

GO AZTECS