The main event was the signing day news conference, but Cal Poly football head coach Tim Walsh dropped another couple of bread crumbs down a potentially divergent path.
The Mustangs announced the signings of 11 high school recruits and one junior college standout at MoTav in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday night, but when addressing questions from the media, Walsh also hinted that his offense is looking to pass more.
When prompted about the size of 6-foot-4, 285-pound Templeton High standout Ross Berry and his frame being somewhat atypical of the smaller, quicker offensive linemen the triple option has had success with in the past, Walsh brought up the passing game.
“To throw the football,” Walsh said, “you’ve got to be able to put bigger bodies in front of the pass-rush bodies. And he’s got a bigger body, but I don’t think we’re sacrificing any of our athletic ability.”
Cal Poly averaged 324.2 rushing yards per game last season, ranking third in the FCS with its signature triple option, winning a share of the Big Sky Conference championship its first year in the league and advancing to the second round of the postseason.
But Walsh has pointed out that a majority of the Mustangs’ offensive snaps were out of the shotgun.
One of the prizes of last year’s recruiting season was former Folsom quarterback Tanner Trosin, who passed for more than 5,000 yards his senior year in high school.
Cal Poly added two more receivers — Los Angeles Cathedral’s Cameron Akins and Damien’s Josh Savage — and Walsh also said the offense could feature a tight end for the first time since before former head coach Rich Ellerson first installed the triple option with the Mustangs in 2007.
There were no tight ends announced in the recruiting class of a dozen, but Walsh did say an early graduation could open up a scholarship that could be used in case a transfer reaches out at a very specific position later this year.
He declined, however, to state which position.
Including the two receivers, Cal Poly also signed three offensive linemen, two running backs, two linebackers, a safety, a defensive lineman and an athlete.
City College of San Francisco transfer tackle Sean McDonald should compete right away for playing time as a junior. Berry will compete at guard, and San Diego Cathedral Catholic’s Joey Kuperman was compared to current Cal Poly center/guard Lefi Letuligasenoa by offensive line coach Saga Tuitele.
Getting comparisons to the program’s second leading all-time single-season rusher Deonte Williams from Mustangs running backs coach Aristotle Thompson, Concord Clayton Valley Charter High’s Joe Protheroe was the third-leading rusher in the state with 3,014 yards and had 34 touchdowns last season. Jake Brito ran for 1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Linebacker Jack Ferguson racked up 110 tackles, 19 quarterback hurries and nine sacks for the Tigers last season, and Cal Poly defensive coordinator Josh Brown said Tustin’s Marshaun Daniel immediately reminded him of four-year starter Kennith Jackson.
Irvine Woodbridge defensive lineman Zach Rusick drew comparisons to defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz, and Brown joked that coaches would have to play a game of basketball to decide which side of the ball San Marcos speedster Kyle Lewis would play on.
Former La Mirada safety Aaryn Bezous, who attended the Air Force Prep School this past year, drew comparisons to senior safety Alex Hubbard from defensive backs coach Neil Fendall.
Walsh said he felt confident about the team’s current depth and was unsure how much opportunity there would be for this year’s crop of recruits to play right away, but acknowledged how he was wrong in the past, specifically about tackle Giovanni Sani.
Sani was a recruited walk-on in Walsh’s first recruiting class but went on to start most of the season as an injury replacement and goes into his senior year as one of the team leaders.
“The recruiting process,” Walsh said, “is not an exact science. … We hope Aaryn Bezous comes in and competes as a true freshman. Do we need him to? We hope not, but if he’s better than the guys we have, he’s going to play. Ross Berry, if you’re better than the guys we have, you’re going to play.”