Cal Poly

Highly recruited Bay Area linebacker Kyle Harmon says picking Cal Poly was a ‘no-brainer’

Freedom High School linebacker Kyle Harmon is photographed in October before practice in Oakley, Calif. Harmon has tattoos on his arm honoring his father Kevin with the date of his birth and death and another with his mother’s name and grandmother’s and godmother’s names. Harmon is verbally committed to play football at Cal Poly next season.
Freedom High School linebacker Kyle Harmon is photographed in October before practice in Oakley, Calif. Harmon has tattoos on his arm honoring his father Kevin with the date of his birth and death and another with his mother’s name and grandmother’s and godmother’s names. Harmon is verbally committed to play football at Cal Poly next season. Bay Area News Group

As Kyle Harmon developed into one of the top high school football prospects in the Bay Area over the past three years, colleges all over the West Coast took notice.

By the time his senior season at Freedom High School ended in December, Harmon reportedly had scholarship offers from 16 schools and more than half of the Mountain West Conference.

Yet, the star linebacker who amassed more than 400 tackles during his prep career, has given a verbal commitment to Cal Poly and plans to sign his National Letter of Intent this coming Wednesday.

The Mustangs have 12 known verbal commitments from high school standouts in California — none more impressive than Harmon — and that number will likely increase by National Signing Day.

“Cal Poly is kind of like a no-brainer for me, considering the offers I had,” said Harmon, who also excels in the classroom and owns a 4.0 grade-point average. “The Mountain West offers I had were good football programs, but none of them really stood out in terms of education.”

Harmon is listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds and was ranked as the 13th-best outside linebacker in the state and 21st on the West Coast, according to the recruiting website scout.com. A three-star prospect, Harmon is considered one of the top all-time recruits in Cal Poly history.

He will join a program with a rich tradition at the linebacker position.

The Mustangs turned out three consecutive Buck Buchanan Award winners in the mid-2000s — an accolade given annually to the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS — when Jordan Beck, Chris Gocong and Kyle Shotwell each received the honor.

More recently, standout linebackers Johnny Millard (St. Louis Rams), Nick Dzubnar (San Diego Chargers), Cameron Ontko (BC Lions) and Burton De Koning (Ottawa RedBlacks) have all enjoyed professional success in the NFL and CFL.

Harmon, who said he plans to study either business administration or business communication, hopes to build on that foundation while working with defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Josh Brown over the next several years.

“I like coach Brown because it just seems like he wants to get after it,” Harmon said. “He’s going to put the best people in no matter what, and he definitely seems like he’s dedicated to coaching.”

Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said in an interview with The Tribune last summer that “99 percent of our guys come here for the whole of their experience.” And that sentiment seems to apply to Harmon, a level-headed young person with the foresight to understand the value of a Cal Poly education.

An October story published in The Mercury News highlighted Harmon’s challenging upbringing, from leaving a rough neighborhood in nearby Antioch to the death of his father during his freshman year of high school.

“Growing up, I got chased for the food I had, for the candy I bought at the store, the money in my pockets, for my football, they tried to take it all from me,” Harmon said in the story. “Tough streets. I’ve got some lifelong friends from Antioch. I definitely say it’s made me the person I am today.”

Those experiences helped forge a blue-collar work ethic, one Freedom football coach Kevin Hartwig said is unmatched.

“He’s the best linebacker in the Bay Area,” Hartwig said. “Everything Kyle does, he wants to be the best, and he works hard to be the best. The thing, too, is he is humble about it. He’s humble about asking when he needs help. That’s a huge factor because a lot of kids don’t know how or don’t want to get help.”

Here’s a look at Cal Poly’s 12 known recruits who have given verbal commitments ahead of Wednesday’s National Signing Day, with statistics provided by maxpreps.com.

OFFENSE

CJ Cole, RB, St. Joseph High School, Santa Maria

One of two known local players committed to play for the Mustangs, Cole is coming off a breakout senior season. The 6-foot, 187-pound running back rushed for 1,067 yards on 126 carries, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. Cole tallied five 100-yard games and scored 13 total touchdowns for St. Joseph, proving to also be a capable wide receiver when called upon.

Broc Mortensen, RB, Ventura High School, Ventura

Mortensen had a stellar senior season at Ventura. The 6-foot, 180-pound running back piled up more than 2,100 all-purpose yards (averaging more than 175 per contest) and scored 17 total touchdowns. During the season opener against Thousand Oaks, Mortensen tallied a 95-yard kickoff return, 264 rushing yards on 12 carries and scored a program-record six touchdowns, five of them coming in the first half.

Duy Tran-Sampson, RB, Claremont High School, Claremont

Simply put, Tran-Sampson had a dominant three-year stretch at Claremont. A well-built 6-1, 195-pound running back, Tran-Sampson rushed for 5,054 yards and scored 41 touchdowns, helping breathe new life into the Wolfpack football program. He’s also a standout track athlete with sub-11 second speed in the 100 meters.

Kyle Reid, QB, Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound quarterback threw for 2,001 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior, leading Los Gatos to an undefeated league season and a Central Coast Section semifinal appearance. He also rushed for 535 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Wildcats.

Conor Bruce, QB, Garces Memorial High School, Bakersfield

A reportedly gruesome broken leg injury cut Bruce’s senior season short after four games. It was the second major injury in three years for the 6-1, 190-pound quarterback, who also suffered a season-ending knee injury as a sophomore. He accounted for 1,179 yards and 16 total touchdowns in four games before the injury.

Wade Willet, OL, De La Salle High School, Concord

The 6-5, 260-pound offensive lineman helped perennial power De La Salle go 11-2 during his senior season, with the Spartans averaging more than 37 points per game. Willet would be the fourth De La Salle graduate on the Cal Poly roster, joining senior defensive backs Jerek Rosales and Kevin Griffin, and redshirt freshman running back Drew Hernandez.

DEFENSE

Fenton Will, LB, St. Joseph High School, Santa Maria

Local football fans have likely heard of Fenton Will. The 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker was a fixture of St. Joseph’s defense for three years, amassing 266 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 32 career games. Will proved to be an elite talent when he was selected to play for the United States Under-18 national football team following his 116-tackle junior season.

Kyle Harmon, LB, Freedom High School, Oakley

As the headliner of this year’s class, Harmon seems to have the potential to play right away for Cal Poly. A 6-1, 220-pound linebacker, Harmon was a three-year starter at Freedom and piled up 405 total tackles in 37 career games. He made 146 stops as a senior, including 11.5 for lost yardage, 4.5 sacks and four interceptions.

Mason Hurst, S, Del Oro High School, Loomis

The lone defensive back recruit in this year’s class, the 6-1, 190-pound Hurst was a dynamic two-way player at Del Oro. His three-year career as a free safety and wide receiver produced some impressive numbers: 159 receptions for 2,863 yards and 25 touchdowns, to go with 223 tackles and 14 interceptions. Del Oro won the CIF state championship in 2015, and returned to the title game in 2016 before losing to San Clemente.

Pouono Faaagi, DL, Vista Murrieta High School, Murrieta

At 6-1 and 265 pounds, Faaagi will likely play one of the defensive tackle positions in Cal Poly’s 3-4 defensive scheme. He recorded 64 tackles as a senior, including 16 for lost yardage and seven sacks. The Broncos went 9-3 overall this past season and lost in the second round of the playoffs to Mater Dei, which was ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today.

Stanton Manumaleuna, DL, Norte Vista High School, Riverside

Manumaleuna was a two-way standout for a Norte Vista team that went undefeated in the River Valley League his junior and senior seasons. At 6-2 and 295 pounds, Manumaleuna could fit well into the Mustangs’ nose tackle spot. He made 82 total tackles as a senior — an eye-popping amount for an interior lineman — and tallied 7.5 sacks and six tackles for loss.

Myles Cecil, DL, La Salle High School, Pasadena

Cecil was one of the more sought after players in the Pasadena area, and reportedly had interest from more than 50 schools. He stands 6-3 and weighs 239 pounds, with a knack for pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Cecil made 88 tackles during his senior season, including 12.5 sacks. Earlier this month, Cecil was named the defensive MVP at the Blue-Grey All-American game in Oakland.

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