There wasn’t much doubt as to which side of the ball Jared Mohamed was going to play when he arrived at Cal Poly in 2013. Defense was in his blood.
Mohamed, now a senior, is the fourth brother to play for the Mustangs. Each one before him — Marty, Kyle and Dylan — played defense. Dylan played in the secondary, while Marty and Kyle played linebacker. But Jared Mohamed was different, a hybrid of his older siblings, with some of Dylan’s speed and the power and the aggressiveness of Marty and Kyle.
The coaches noticed and broke tradition, switching Jared Mohamed to fullback before the start of his red-shirt freshman season.
“When I moved to offense, I felt more at home and comfortable in my position. It was just more natural,” Mohamed said.
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Now, with All-American fullback Joe Protheroe out for the season with a knee injury, Cal Poly (0-2, 0-0 Big Sky) needs Mohamed to fill a crucial role in the Mustangs’ sputtering triple-option attack as the team looks for its first win of the season Saturday against No. 21 Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
“Jared is a baller,” Protheroe said from the sidelines of practice Tuesday, wearing a bulky brace on his right knee. “He is definitely a threat. They will have to key on Jared because if they don’t he will make them pay.”
In Cal Poly’s loss to San Jose State last Saturday, Mohamed played well filling in for Protheroe, rushing for 97 yards on 22 carries.
“Every time he’s had a chance to play, he’s excelled. He knows that the bar for him is here right next to Joe’s,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said. “We are lucky to have depth at that position.”
Mohamed’s breakout game came during his sophomore season in a close loss to Arizona State in 2015. He ran for 75 yards on 11 carries while averaging a team-best 6.8 yards per rush against the PAC-12 team. Later in the season, he had a 24-carry, 107-yard, one-touchdown performance against Southern Utah. Last season, Mohamed carried the ball just 60 times as Protheroe was able to stay healthy and flourish. In the last three seasons, Mohamed has racked up 926 yards on 189 carries and four touchdowns, including one touchdown against Northern Iowa in 2015.
If there is a knock on Mohamed, it’s his tendency to fumble — like he did Saturday against San Jose State. He’s coughed up the ball six times during his college career. Comparatively, Protheroe has five fumbles with 309 more rushing attempts. Limiting turnovers has been a point of emphasis all week for Cal Poly after starting the season with four turnovers in its first two games.
Walsh said he expects Mohamed to get 20 to 25 carries against Northern Iowa and will be the starting fullback the rest of the season.
“It sucks to have him go down, a guy that everyone respects and looks up to. One of us has to step up in his place,” Mohamed said. “Joe is a great player. I will never be able to replace him, but I will do the best I can.”
Cal Poly (0-2) vs. Northern Iowa (0-1)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: UNI Dome, Cedar Falls
On the air: ESPN Radio, 1280 AM