Cal Poly head football coach Tim Walsh didn’t hesitate Wednesday afternoon when he said the Mustangs’ 2017 recruiting class is one of the best hauls in his nine-year tenure.
Walsh and his assistant coaches pieced together an 18-person class composed of 16 prep standouts and two junior college transfers. Of the 23 scholarships Cal Poly offered around the state, only five players did not end up signing a National Letter of Intent to play for the Mustangs during the first day of the signing period.
That’s a conversion rate Walsh is proud of, even more so given the overall talent of this year’s incoming group. As coaches took turns introducing each recruit and showing highlights inside the Cal Poly Football Office, it became clear several players will have a chance to compete for playing time immediately.
“For the first time I can really say that we’re looking at playing six or seven freshmen,” Walsh said. “I think that’s going to be really important to who we’re going to be in 2017 because we have some needs.”
That hasn’t been the case recently. Cal Poly played one true freshman in 2015, when quarterback Khaleel Jenkins was pressed into action following an injury to starter Chris Brown. Injuries this past season also paved the way for one true freshman, outside linebacker Jayson Lee, to play in seven of the final eight games.
If that changes next fall, it’s likely to start up front, where the Mustangs signed five defensive linemen and three offensive linemen.
The defensive group of Myles Cecil (La Salle High), Nickolas Figueroa (Cajon), Pouono Faaagi (Vista Murrieta), Stanton Manumaleuna (Norte Vista) and Kain Su’a (Rancho Verde) headline the 2017 class.
“This is one of the best groups we’ve ever recruited,” defensive line coach Payam Saadat said.
Defensive backs Mason Hurst (Del Oro) and Sharky Reza (Orange Coast College) — the younger brother of ex-Mustang defensive back Matt Reza — both looked impressive on film, and secondary coach Allen Brown said Sharky Reza is “going to be ready to play” right away.
The coaching staff also was excited to keep two local products on the Central Coast in St. Joseph linebacker Fenton Will and running back CJ Cole.
Standout running backs Broc Mortensen of Ventura and Duy Tran-Sampson of Claremont also signed to join a Cal Poly team that has become the gold standard for rushing in the FCS.
The Mustangs signed two quarterbacks in Conor Bruce (Garces Memorial) and Kyle Reid (Los Gatos) who are dual-threat athletes that should fit Cal Poly’s triple-option offense well.
“As we all know, there’s a lot of great skill players in the state of California,” Walsh said, “and we’ve been very fortunate in what we’ve been able to do and the guys we’ve been able to find.”
Rounding out the 2017 recruiting class are offensive linemen Nicolo DiFronzo (Oaks Christian), De’Jon Stuckey (Cathedral) and Wade Willet (De La Salle); wide receiver Eli Shelton (Mater Dei); and junior college transfer linebacker Patrick Walker (American River College).
Cal Poly 2017 football signees
Kyle Reid, QB, Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos
Conor Bruce, QB, Garces Memorial High School, Bakersfield
CJ Cole, RB, St. Joseph High School, Santa Maria
Broc Mortensen, RB, Ventura High School, Ventura
Duy Tran-Sampson, RB, Claremont High School, Claremont
Eli Shelton, WR, Mater Dei Catholic High School, Chula Vista
Wade Willet, OL, De La Salle High School, Concord
Nicolo Difronzo, OL, Oaks Christian High School, Westlake Village
DJ Stuckey, OL, Cathedral High School, Los Angeles
Fenton Will, LB, St. Joseph High School, Santa Maria
Patrick Walker, LB, American River College, Elk Grove
Sharky Reza, CB, Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa
Mason Hurst, S, Del Oro High School, Loomis
Pouono Faaagi, DL, Vista Murrieta High School, Murrieta
Stanton Manumaleuna, DL, Norte Vista High School, Riverside
Myles Cecil, DL, La Salle High School, Pasadena
Nick Figueroa, DL, Cajon High School, San Bernardino
Kain Su’a, DL, Rancho Verde High School, Moreno Valley