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SDSU Early Signing Day: The Aztecs Football Recruits on the Horizon for 2022

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Stay tuned this week for the Sons of Montezuma Podcast 2022 Early Signing Day Episode where the guys will talk all about this years class and go into much more detail about who is joining the Aztecs Nation and soon to call the Mesa their home!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. All the lights are up and shinning bright. The stockings are getting full and hanging warm by the fire. While the trees are all trimmed complete with gifts to unwrap. In just a few weeks millions around the world will celebrate Christmas. But for us college football fans, we now get a head start in the joys of unwrapping presents.

That’s right, it’s Early Signing Day this Wednesday!

NCAA football fans from all across the country are preparing for their winter rewards. Wether bowl eligible or not, every team gets to partake in this early holiday for football. The day when young men’s dreams become a reality and they select where to begin their higher educational football journey.

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While in February is the official signing day for prep student athletes, the early signing day in December is relatively new. Ask any athletic director or football coach and they might have mixed reviews about wether the early signing has been a boost to their football programs. For many G5 schools, the early indications reveal that it has been a positive in keeping prized talents away from the poachers. Generally those poachers with bigger conference affiliations but lesser success on the field.

For SDSU it’s a little difficult to tell wether last years top of the Mountain West 2021 recruiting class received their positive boost solely from the early signing day. No doubt the increased attractiveness of playing in a new state-of-the-art stadium in sunny Southern California and the efforts of a revived recruiting effort with head coach Brady Hoke, coaching staff and recruiting coordinator Matt Razzano.

No matter the case, SDSU is poised to continue its heightened recruiting class once again in 2022 and we are here to help give some clarity on it all.

This 2021 Aztecs football team completed their regular season tied for most wins in program history at 11-2. The opportunity to have the most wins in any season is still there for the taking in the Frisco Bowl. When thinking about recruiting, one must analyze the team that is in place now first and evaluate the needs or potential needs after this years team is gone.

That just isn’t so easy these days … for anyone.

When COVID-19 brought havoc to our world, the collegiate world of sports was hit especially hard. While each student-athlete now receives an additional season to play due to the pandemic, this has already proven to be a sticky situation for many athletic programs. The college roster by nature shuffles young players in and graduates young players out. Now the creation of these “super seniors” can either be a blessing to some or a challenge to others. Deciding who stays and who goes under these peculiar circumstances is not easy—not on this SDSU staff or any for that matter.

What we know for sure

According to 247.com, SDSU has appears to be all locked in with 15 hard commits expected to sign in Wednesday’s early period. The total roster spots on every FBS roster is set at 85. The Aztecs 2022 class has 25 spots open to sign. Some may be through high school, junior college transfers, or from the transfer portal. With such a senior heavy 2021 football team and the aforementioned super senior possibilities this coming year, these 25 open roster spots may not be set in stone.

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Defense

2021 Senior Linebackers
Segun Olubi
Andrew Aleki
Seyddrick Lakalaka
Caden McDonald

2022 Linebacker Recruits
Trey White – Eastlake High, Chula Vista, CA

So far, with just one drop from the list in LB Marshon Oxley flipping to Colorado State this week. Perhaps the move for the linebacker seeing the return of Super senior LB Caden McDonald announcing his return to San Diego for one final season. In addition, Caden’s younger brother fellow LB Cooper McDonald has decided to join older brother on the Mesa where success is visible and immediate with the Aztecs as opposed to the Huskies in Washington.

Other than Cooper McDonald at the linebackers spot, Eastlake high’s Trey White is noted as the only other Linebacker expected to sign Wednesday. The young man is beast with a tremendous motor and physicality. Though not highly ranked among the recruiting sites, the young man appears to have a chip on his shoulder and a lot of upside as his growth in the SDSU program.

So since we are discussing the defense let’s take a closer look. The biggest position expected to be hit the hardest is the defensive line, with 5 seniors that all contributed a ton of importance to the defensive unit, most notably Keshawn Banks, Jonah Tavai, and Jalil Lecky. It will be interesting to see if any return with the super senior designation. Truly Keshawn Banks is NFL opportunity, but would another year benefit his draft opportunity? Does Jonah Tavai have the passion to return for one more year and continue his college playing career?

Defensive Lineman

2021 Senior Defensive Lineman
Keshawn Banks
Jalil Lecky
Sefo Mailangi
Jonah Tavai
Kahi Neves

2022 Defensive Line Recruits
Ryan Henderson

On the Aztecs radar for DL signings this year is the lone anticipated commitment of Ryan Henderson out of Las Vegas’ Canyon Springs high. Standing at 6’3″ 240 the young defender would certainly receive the top defensive line coaching from Brady Hoke and staff. Brady has coached at the NFL level working with hall of famers and even has the luxury of NFL and SDSU alum La’Roi Glover at his disposal to aid coach Jordan Thomas in the position group. And with so many potential defenders on the line leaving, it may just be the right opportunity for a young guy to get valuable experience at the position in this roster.

However, as coach Rocky long ago said about new recruits, “the closer a young player’s position is to the line of scrimmage, the more difficult it is for that player to earn playing time early on.” Which holds true most of the time. One player that these words did not apply to was first team All-American DL Cam Thomas. The Carlsbad High school product played meaningful snaps early on in his college career. The expectation is for Thomas, a junior, to declare early for the NFL draft. Early indications show he is a top 3 round pick. However, this may not be known publicly until after next weeks bowl game in Texas. Holding on to hope that Cam returns for one final season and open up before his friends and family in the new Snapdragon Stadium seem highly unlikely…but this once in a lifetime opportunity shouldn’t be completely thrown out the window.

Secondary

2021 Seniors in the Secondary
Tayler Hawkins
Trenton Thompson
Rashad Scott

2022 Secondary Recruits
Josh Hunter – Mater Dei, Santa Ana, CA
Chris Johnson – Roosevelt, Corona, CA
Eric Butler – Centennial, Corona, CA
Max Garrison – St. Francis, Pasadena, CA

In the secondary, the Aztecs benefitted greatly from returning seniors Tayler Hawkins and Trenton Thompson. 2022 will feature a few seniors in the backfield Cedarious Barfield, Dallas Branch and Adonis Brown. We saw this season offer up a ton of great experience to young standouts Noah Tumblin, Noah Avinger, and CJ Baskerville. And this 2022 features a few cornerbacks we can all be very excited about as well in Josh Hunter of Mater Dei in LA, Chris Johnson of Corona’s Roosevelt high, Eric Butler of Corona’s Centennial and Max Garrison of St. Francis in Pasadena, CA.

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The Offense–Offensive line

2021 Senior Offensive lineman
Dominic Gudino
Alama Uluave
Desmond Bessent
Zach Thomas

2022 Offensive line Recruits
Laakea Kapoi – St Louis School, Honolulu, HI
Drew Azzopardi – Junipero Serra, San Mateo, CA

On the offensive side of the ball, we like to start on the offensive line. The games are won and lost in the trenches at the line of scrimmage no doubt. With last years recruiting class featuring a big boom in line talent with Ross Maseuli and Josh Simmons, neither saw much playing time on the field. This was expected, but also expected is to see them perform in the coming season.

Between the final game of the regular season and next week’s bowl game, SDSU has had 3 offensive lineman enter the transfer portal in Joey Capra, Chris Martinez, and Ilaisa Gonebure. This opens up 3 roster spots given that Billy Dunkle returns for his official senior season. For the 2022 recruiting class, we have two signees to get very excited about. Laakea Kapoi of Honolulu’s St Louis School and Drew Azzopardi of Junipero Serra in San Mateo, CA.

One great thing about Laakea Kapoi, is that from the very start, the young man wanted to be an Aztec. The initiative he had shown in his desire to put on the red & black armor was admirable and the energy seen from his attitude was contagious. Definitely the makings of not only a physically imposing presence on the field, but leadership qualities in the unit and locker room. More on him to come in the Sons of Montezuma Podcast Recruiting special this week!

Much of the same could be said of Drew Azzopardi. The young man is a load at 6 foot 5 and 317 lbs. He’s been a part of a very successful program there at Serra and should be ready to come in and get down to business preparing his body and work ethic for this next level. Very excited for this young man and his opportunity in San Diego.

Tight Ends

2021 Senior Tight Ends
Dan Bellinger
Connor McBride
Kyler Albanez

2022 Tight End Recruits
Logan Tanner – St Pius X, Houston, TX
Jordan Morris – Red Mountain, Mesa, AZ

Near to the line and everyone’s minds in Aztecs football is the tight end position. With Daniel Bellinger setting off for his chance in the NFL, this 2022 class offers some very talented young guys coming in. Logan Tanner of Houston’s St Pius X is the total package. Hands, speed, agility and the attitude to put it all together on the field. The hype is there for the young man to take a very tough & gritty reputation of Aztecs tight ends and elevate it to the days of Gavin Escobar’s play making ability. We will be here for it.

The next tight end expected to sign this Wednesday, unfortunately will be grey shirting his first year on the Mesa. But we here at Sons of Montezuma have had the chance to meet young Jordan Morris of Mesa Arizona’s Red Mountain and we were impressed. Jordan despite an injury costing him his senior high school season, told us here at Sons of Montezuma, that he is ahead of schedule in his healing process as well as he is continuing to grow beyond his 6’4″ 225 lb frame.

For the SDSU coaches to be so high on Jordan to maintain his scholarship offer shows tremendous dedication to the young man and his abilities. Jordan and his father couldn’t have been any more excited become a part of Aztecs Nation in San Diego. Expect the young man to come in immediately with his game face on to prove all the naysayers incorrect about his game and his bounce back opportunity.

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Skill positions–Running backs, Wide receivers, & athletes

2021 Senior WR/RB/ATH
BJ Busbee
Isaiah Richardson
Ethan Dedeaux
Kobe Smith
Elijah Kothe
Jordan Byrd
Chance Bell
Greg Bell
Kaegun Williams

2022 WR/RB/ATH Recruits
Hassan Mahasin – Junipero Serra, San Mateo, CA
Jacoby Kelly – Loyola, Los Angeles, CA
Sheldon Canley Jr. – Lompoc High, Lompoc, CA

Now when it comes to the skill positions this is also where things get a little tough to make out. The Aztecs featured a running back group that was loaded with seniors all around. We know that Greg Bell’s collegiate career will conclude with the Frisco Bowl game. But what about the rest? Chance Bell, Jordan Byrd and Kaegun Williams, all have the ability to tap into their extra Super Senior year. Will any of those be here at SDSU or perhaps elsewhere? With young RB talent in the form of Cam Davis, Jaylon Armstead and Stephon Britton waiting in the wings, it will be interesting to see what develops.

What we do know is that on the board for Wednesdays signing day are 3 significant signees. One of whom is Hassan Mahasin aka THE MISSIL3. At 5’10” 180 Mahasin is just as explosive as his nickname indicates. Recruited early on by Boise State, Mahasin suffered an injury that ended his Junior and consequently Senior seasons there in the Bay Area. Once that happened, Boise State dropped their offer and Hassan. The effects of that move indicates to other schools that he couldn’t recover. The Aztecs no doubt are picking up a playmaker and just the exact kind of chip on his shoulder recruit that can pay big dividends and possibly burn the Broncos in return. It will be interesting to see young Hassan’s progress and how soon he would be available to contribute to the red & black.

Next on the skill position list is Jacoby Kelly of Los Angeles’ Loyola. The 6 foot 3 reeiver is a 3 star recruit with some interest from ASU, CSU and Florida Atlantic. With excellent size, speed and strength, Jocoby has all the makings of a tough physical receiver that Coach Hunkie Cooper wants at SDSU. His hands should definitely earn some opportunities to shine. It will be however his ability to recognize defensive coverages and block in the running game that will determine if Kelly can break through and be special at SDSU. Can’t wait to see if the young man can jump in and get it going.

Sheldon Canley Jr. of Lompoc, California. The 5-10 175 running back committed back in August. He had a good group of other Mountain West interest like Colorado State, Nevada, San Jose State. Coming from such a small town in Lompoc, don’t knock the Central Coast down however. Young Sheldon surely will come in with a lot to prove here in San Diego. The son of a former NFL player and former San Jose State Spartan, Canley Jr. is rated a 3-star prospect and adding to that NFL pedigree he was named the MVP of the Channel league.

Quarterbacks

2021 Senior Quarterbacks
Lucas Johnson
Jordon Brookshire

2022 Quarterback Recruits
Liu Aumavae – Timpview, Provo, UT
Kyle Crum – Norco, CA

Now here is the annual question of the big day…who is joining the Aztecs Nation for the quarterback position? With the most important position on the field up for grabs next season, this years class out of high school is not as pressing as last season’s. With seniors Jordon Brookshire and Lucas Johnson most likely moving along in their college careers, the competition room will be filled with redshirt freshman William Haskell Jr. and Jaylen Mayden no doubt. Both figure to potentially get snaps in this years Frisco Bowl, but the starting nod for next year won’t be decided for quite some time, even after Spring ball.

With two incoming freshman QB’s, and two young quarterbacks with limited starting experience, the even bigger question will be are there any transfer QB’s making their way into San Diego by the time the official signing day comes around in February. Rumbles of local QB’s that made their way out of San Diego have surfaced. SDSU, wether in basketball or football, often finds themselves in a bounce back U position. When local stud QB’s figure out that playing for the home team has much more long term benefits than chasing P5 status, then will SDSU begin to keep the top tier players.

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Local heroes like Billy Dunkle, Cam Thomas and Matt Araiza, who have all burst onto this years scene prove that National recognition and NFL Draft status does not depend on Conference affiliation. Sure it’s nice, but each one of these All-Americans earned lit San Diego and National media on fire, despite never playing one game in San Diego for two whole years. The possibilities for a top tier QB in San Diego to take this County over would be tremendous—especially as each year goes by with no NFL home team to disappoint each year.

More to come on wether that transfer QB ever materializes this season. As for the two incoming freshman lets take a look:

Kyle Crum committed to SDSU back in October and comes from nearby Norco, CA. A talented thrower with good size, Crum received interest from quality programs like Fresno State and UC Davis. He’s got a lot of room to fill in his big frame but already with good elusiveness to him, Kyle appears to be plenty capable of scatting around outside of the pocket. Doesn’t have the strongest arm but the young man just finds a way to get it done with smarts, instinct and preparation. With time in the program, the sky is the limit with Kyle and he may just play some important football for the red & black when its all said and done.

Liu Aumavae recently committed to SDSU in November and like Crum, showcases some very talented passing ability. Similar built to Crum as well, Liu has the frame to put on some much muscle but appears also very capable of escaping in and out of the pocket. It’s not every day that SDSU picks up a commitment from a prep coming out of Provo, Utah deep in BYU country…but we love it!

To take a kid out from underneath those Cougars noses and have him blow up into something special for the Aztecs would be sweet poetry. Though not a Utah native, Liu would already be a fan favorite for choosing San Diego over Provo. And the kid has got a lot of instincts to his game, focusing on the nuances of the game. Though there will be an obvious learning curve for the young man, if he puts in the hard work and dedication for football first, Liu could be a sleeper signing that fans could get behind.

Well that’s going to do it for now. Stay tuned for the Sons of Montezuma Podcast 2022 Early Signing Day Episode this week, where the guys will go into much more detail about who is joining the Aztecs Nation and soon to call the Mesa their home!

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