Cal Poly

Cal Poly football team returns young, talented group of wide receivers

Cal Poly senior Carson McMurtrey runs through a drill during the Mustangs’ practice Saturday afternoon.
Cal Poly senior Carson McMurtrey runs through a drill during the Mustangs’ practice Saturday afternoon.

Who’s back: Fifth-year senior Carson McMurtrey is expected to lead a young group of wide receivers during fall camp. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, McMurtrey is a proven run blocker on the perimeter and that helped him play in all 11 games in 2015, despite not having a reception. Sophomore Kory Fox will compete for the starting spot opposite McMurtrey. He’s one of the more dynamic talents on Cal Poly’s roster, having taken significant reps at quarterback during spring practice, and he’ll likely be the Mustangs’ top punt returner this fall.

Who’s new: Six of the seven wide receivers behind McMurtrey on the preseason depth chart are underclassmen. Look for redshirt freshmen J.J. Koski (6-2, 195) and Jake Smeltzer (6-3, 205) to push for starting spots during the Sept. 2 season opener at Nevada. Koski repeatedly beat the first-team defense while practicing with the scout team last fall. Smeltzer was injured for the majority of spring practices, but he returned to fall camp looking as physically ready to play as anyone on the roster.

Tim Walsh’s take: “Carson McMurtrey needs to have a good year. … But J.J. Koski and Jake Smeltzer have to be good players, and we expected them to be good players when we recruited them. Both of those guys were in the top-25 recruits in FCS football when they came out of high school.”

Projected depth chart:

WR: Carson McMurtrey, 6-4, 205, sr.; Kory Fox, 6-0, 180, soph.; Alex Egurbide, 6-5, 215, soph.

WR: J.J. Koski, 6-2, 195, rfr.; Jake Smeltzer, 6-3, 205, rfr.; Kory Fox, 6-0, 180, soph.

TE: Reagan Enger, 6-3, 238, jr.; Max Betkowski, 6-3, 240, sr.

X factor: No block, no rock. Or so the saying goes. It’s no secret Cal Poly isn’t going to throw the ball often. The Mustangs make their living running the triple option, and consistent perimeter blocking is a big piece of what makes them so successful. Cal Poly ranked last in the Big Sky Conference and 119th in the country (out of 123 FCS teams) in passing yards per game last fall with less than 92. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the most reliable big-play threat on those rare occasions when the Mustangs look to take a shot down field.