For a football program that throws sparingly to its wide receivers, Cal Poly seems to be collecting a lot of them.
Six Mustangs receivers will be either redshirt freshmen or sophomores next season, and leading receiver Willie Tucker is just a junior.
Plus, the Mustangs are expected to add at least two more receivers when signing day rolls around Wednesday.
Add the fact that Cal Poly also brought in quarterback Tanner Trosin — one of three competing for the starting spot in spring practice as a redshirt freshman — after he passed for more than 5,000 yards his senior year at Folsom High, and it’s a trend that could point to a continued shift away from the run-heavy triple option and to a more balanced offensive attack.
Los Angeles Cathedral High’s Cameron Akins confirmed his verbal commitment with Cal Poly to The Tribune on Wednesday, and La Verne Damian High’s Josh Savage will also sign with the Mustangs, according to a Facebook announcement.
At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Akins had 53 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns this past season for the same high school that produced Cal Poly running back Kristaan Ivory.
As a sophomore, Akins played alongside Ivory, but in a very different offense than the one in which Ivory ran for 728 yards and eight touchdowns in a backup role with the Mustangs last fall.
Cathedral utilizes a four-receiver scheme and passed the ball about 80 percent of the time, Akins said.
“There was always a guy open on each play,” Akins said, “and game planning is actually really hard because we have four guys who could do very good things. If you game plan for one guy, there’s another guy who you can’t game plan for who’s going to kill you all game.”
Ranking second in yardage behind fellow senior Da’Mari Scott, Akins is regarded as the lesser prospect of the group.
Scott, who had 913 yards and 14 touchdowns, received offers from Vanderbilt and Boston College, according to Cathedral coach Kevin Pearson, has verbally committed to Fresno State. Sprinter Torry McTyer (662 yards, 10 touchdowns) committed to Cal in October but is back on the market since the Golden Bears’ coaching change, Pearson said.
And junior Ladarius Wiley already lists offers from Fresno State and Cal on his Rivals.com and Scout.com profiles.
But Akins, who advanced to the 2012 CIF State Track and Field Championships with the 10th fastest qualifying time in the 110 high hurdles, is an inch taller than his teammates and might have gone to an FBS program if not for a meniscus tear that knocked him out of action as a junior.
Pearson said Akins is a Pac-12 talent.
“Cameron is just as talented in different ways as those other guys,” said Pearson, who has five players verbally committed to Division I schools and could have as many as seven sign letters of intent come signing day.
“Cal Poly is getting a great player, and I think you’re getting a guy who could play at a higher level than that. He should be able to make some things happen up there.”
There was concern from Akins’ coaches and family, including father and former Cal Poly student Dan, about how the Mustangs would utilize Akins.
Tucker led Cal Poly with 28 catches for 517 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and the next most productive receiver, senior Brandon Michalkiewicz, had 10 catches for 197 yards and three scores.
In 2011, Lance Castaneda, who was hurt down the stretch this past season, led the team with 26 catches for 283 yards and a touchdown.
Even when Ramses Barden was starring for the Mustangs under former head coach Rich Ellerson and setting NCAA receiving records, few other receivers even touched the ball.
To the contrary, Cal Poly continues to stock up on wideouts, and the offense has continued to evolve into a more pass-friendly look.
Four years into head coach Tim Walsh’s tenure with the Mustangs, the offense has gone from an exclusive under-center formation to having the quarterback line up in the shotgun more than half the time.
In addition to Tucker and Castaneda, the roster includes:• Sophomore Jordan Hines, a former CIF state title contender in the triple jump
• Speedy sophomore Roland Jackson
• Sam Holguin, a sophomore transfer from Navy
• Versatile redshirt freshman B.J. Nard
• Redshirt freshman Keishawn Rowe, a former Santa Fe League 400-meter sprint champion
• And redshirt freshman Carson McMurtrey, a former Folsom teammate of Trosin that former Cal Poly assistant coach and recruiter Jamar Cain once compared favorably to Tucker.
Savage, who caught 31 passes for 585 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns at Damien last season, brings a 6-1, 195-pound frame to San Luis Obispo.
His recruiting profiles list offers from FCS programs South Dakota State, Eastern Washington and Illinois State, which he visited in December.
Unable to comment publicly on specific recruits before they sign letters of intent, Walsh is on the road recruiting this week, expecting to receive close to a dozen commitments for this class.
The Mustangs had to work hard to land Akins, who was very tempted by a late offer from Sacramento State.
But, Akins said, Cal Poly coaches, including recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Aristotle Thompson, convinced him of their commitment to the pass game.
“At first I was concerned” about the Mustangs’ passing totals, Akins said, “and that’s where Sac State was popping up, where coach Aristotle thought I was leaning toward them because they do pass the ball more than Cal Poly does.
“I spent time talking with the coaches and went over film. They said I can be a guy that can increase their vertical game. On any down, we can challenge the DBs on a deep pass.”
Said Pearson: “I think they’re trying to get better on the perimeter, and I’m guessing on the play-action game. That’s not a bad situation to be in. When you really do need to throw the ball, you don’t feel handcuffed.”