Mustangs’ home opener is Sept. 18 versus South Dakota

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly football team wrapped up its first week of Fall Camp on Friday at Doerr Family Field, conducting its first practice session with all the gear on—helmet, shoulder pads, and full pads—following completion of the seven-day acclimatization period.

Emotions ran a little high with a couple very brief skirmishes during drills, but that’s to be expected when as many as 118 players who have been running, passing, receiving, and lifting weights without contact for the last four months since the abbreviated spring season came to an end were blocking and/or being tackled for the first time.

“We always have a little bit of emotion like that,” admitted second-year Mustang head coach Beau Baldwin. “You always have to be right on that edge. Now, if it starts to be too much, over and over, we’ll stop practicing and run.

“And if we have none of that, then you might be in trouble too,” Baldwin added. “And we told the players, it’s a zero-tolerance for anything that leaves the field. That’s the biggest thing. We won’t tolerate that.”

What Baldwin does tolerate is the progress his team has made, largely as a result of the four-month offseason strength and conditioning program put in place by Jordan Davis and the rest of Cal Poly’s strength and conditioning staff.

“I think we have progressed really well in our muscle endurance,” said Baldwin. “I know I’ve said this before, but that came from a true offseason by Coach Davis and his strength crew. He did such an amazing job getting these guys into place where now you can see them sustain an hour and a half, an hour and 45 into practice, some of their muscles, some of their strength, and their conditioning. That’s what I’m most excited about.

“Obviously, there are things we always need to correct in camp, but physically and mentally, our guys are in a better place because of the work they’ve put in over the last four months,” Baldwin added.

The differences are clear between Cal Poly’s Spring Camp, which included a 17-day layoff due to COVID-19 protocols— plus a three-game spring season in which the Mustangs finished 0-3 and were outscored 169-58 — and the performance of the players one week into a three-week Fall Camp preparing for the 2021 campaign.

“The biggest difference is that at times in spring ball— again, we didn’t have that true offseason going into it— we got into moments later in practice that, in playing those three games, we thought we were sometimes trying to survive,” said Baldwin. “Now we’re going to have an edge.

“We’re sharpening each other,” Baldwin added. “Obviously, we have a lot of new faces, but iron sharpens iron, and competition breeds the best in people. We have way more competition at every position than we did last spring, and that’s exciting.”

Aside from the obvious changes—switching from the Triple Option to multiple offensive sets, a new quarterback calling signals this fall (the six-man battle is far from over), and numerous adjustments with defensive personnel—Baldwin and his staff have moved several players into new positions.

Quentin Harrison, who has made 27 catches, seven for touchdowns, in Cal Poly’s last 14 games, is moving from wide receiver to tight end while Michael Roth, who caught four passes last spring, goes the other way, from tight end to wide receiver.

In addition, San Luis Obispo High School graduate Charles Lincoln switches from the defensive front to the offensive line, Dylan Krauss moves from wide receiver to cornerback, and newcomer Sky Ellis has made the switch from tight end to the defensive line.

Ryan Rivera, a linebacker in his first two seasons of college football, switched to fullback at Cal Poly in 2019 and is now a tight end.

“Overall, very solid” is how Baldwin graded all the moves. “I think, where everyone is right now, they’re in their best shot for success and to help us win. Who knows, there might be one or two other guys we might move at one point. As of right now, we’re in a good spot. Just looking for the right fit, the right home.”

Last week, Baldwin and his staff welcomed 48 returning lettermen, including 23 on offense, 21 on defense, and four specialists on special teams. The returnees include 26 players who started at least one game during the shortened spring season—13 on both offense and defense.

Also on the fall roster are 31 players who were redshirts last spring or injured and almost 40 newcomers, including up to eight transfers from other four-year schools.

The 25 practices in Fall Camp are being held Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Walk-throughs not to exceed two hours with footballs permitted will be held Mondays through Fridays at 4 p.m. Full scrimmages are planned for Aug. 20 at 9 a.m. and Aug. 27 at noon.

Fall camp ends with the second scrimmage, and preparations for Cal Poly’s opener on Sept. 4 at San Diego will begin on Aug. 29. Kickoff for the first game is set for 2:05 p.m. The Mustangs’ home opener is Sept. 18 versus South Dakota at 5:05 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Season and single-game tickets for all five Cal Poly home games are on sale. Click here for more information and/or to purchase tickets.