SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — A total of 13 recruits, all high school student-athletes from California, have signed a National Letter of Intent during the Early Signing Period for the Class of 2021 Signees.
A trio of offensive linemen, one quarterback, a wide receiver and a tight end along with three defensive linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs all signed a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday. Five of the 13 players led their prep teams to a state championship in 2019, including three from one high school — Corona del Mar.
The announcement was made by first-year Mustang head football coach Beau Baldwin and Cal Poly director of athletics Don Oberhelman.
The Early Signing Period for Division I football lasts just three days. Also opening on Wednesday was the Midyear Community College Transfer Signing Period, which lasts until Jan. 15. The Regular Signing Period is slated for Feb. 3 through April 1.
“If you go back to last February, we’re continuing to find range and length,” said Baldwin, hired to direct the Mustang football program in December 2019 after nine seasons as head coach at Eastern Washington and, more recently, three seasons as offensive coordinator at Cal. “Range and length at most positions is extremely beneficial and it’s hard to deal with it if you’re on the other side of the ball.
“Our foundation here is fantastic and I love working with the student-athletes that are here, but you always find areas where we can take this up a notch, potentially get to the quarterback a little bit more, or potentially be able to get into man coverage a little bit more or potentially be able to go downfield a little more,” Baldwin added. “Whatever those things are, I think this class along with a lot of the guys we were able to sign last year, both in December or February, will help us take this program to another level.”
Seven of the 13 recruits are 6-foot-3 or taller, mostly at the outside linebacker, defensive end or tight end positions, and they possess the length and range that Baldwin and his coaching staff have been looking for, all despite the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced coaches across the country to recruit, not with in-person visits, but by phone, email, video, film and YouTube.
“Our assistants have done a really great job in this process, building these relationships and working really hard during a time when recruiting is not easy right now,” said Baldwin. “It’s different. It has been tough, but it’s tough for everybody. We’re not at a disadvantage because we’re all dealing with the same thing. It’s a challenge. Not being able to see that growth from junior to senior year of high school is tough, but we’re all in the same boat. You have to dig, finding creative ways to get an idea of what you want your class to look like.”
Cal Poly captured the Big Sky championship in its first season in the conference (2012), is 32-32 in its first eight years in the Big Sky, has claimed five conference titles in the last 16 years, including four in the eight-year existence of the Great West Conference (2004-11), and earned its fourth NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth in 2016.
Cal Poly is scheduled to open its delayed 2020 football season Feb. 27 versus Southern Utah, with kickoff inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium set for 1 p.m.
The signees (listed alphabetically):
Thomas Bouda, DT, 6-3, 240, Newport Beach, Calif. (Corona del Mar High School) One of three Mustang signees who played under head coach Dan O’Shea at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., Bouda made 28 tackles, including 11.0 for lost yardage and 6.5 sacks, as a junior in 2019. The team captain also notched one quarterback hurry and a pass breakup. The Sea Kings were 16-0 in 2019, including a first-place finish in the Sunset League, a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship and the California state 1-A Division championship. Bouda was named most valuable offensive lineman of the Sunset League, his team’s Lineman of the Year, second-team All-Orange County and was named to the Dream Team by the Daily Pilot. As a sophomore in 2018, Bouda made eight tackles in 11 games. Bouda also was recruited by Army West Point, Nevada, Stetson, Northern Arizona, Navy, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington. He chose Cal Poly “because the academics are top notch and it sets your future up really well. I have a really good connection with the coaching staff and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
Baldwin: “Another outstanding player from Corona del Mar, Bouda has the ability to play true free technique or a defensive end in certain schemes, which shows his size, toughness and strength along with his athleticism to go out there. He’s extremely violent with his hands, incredibly strong and his motor is at a level which you just don’t see very often. He is constantly going and constantly pushing it, and to play sideline to sideline like that with his size and weight says a lot about his mental toughness and his motor along with the incredible physical tools he’s going to bring. He also brings versatility to our defense.”
Dominic Childress, DL, 6-3, 275, Tracy, Calif. (Mountain House High School) A wrestler and basketball player as well, Childress made 40 tackles (19 solo) as a junior under head coach Jason McCloskey at Mountain House High School, located about five miles northwest of Tracy. His numbers also included 2.5 tackles for lost yardage, all sacks, along with one quarterback hurry and four pass breakups. The Mustangs were 1-9 in 2019. As a sophomore during the 2018-19 junior varsity basketball season, Childress averaged 9.0 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Baldwin: “He only played two years of football. A team captain of both the football team and as a wrestler, he’s got a lot of raw, raw high ceiling. He has extremely great work ethic, really explosive off the ball, shows great balance and can be multiple on defense. He can play nose and defensive tackle. That ability to be multiple on that side of the ball says a lot. He will graduate early and join us in January.”
Josh Cuevas, TE, 6-4, 230, Los Angeles, Calif. (Campbell Hall High School) As a junior under head coach Dennis Keyes at Campbell Hall in 2019, Cuevas caught 55 passes for 700 yards and 11 touchdowns on offense and notched 62 tackles, 10 for lost yardage and four sacks, along with four interceptions and a pair of pass breakups. He also scored one rushing touchdown on a 20-yard run. Campbell Hall was 4-6 in 2019 and Cuevas was named his team’s offensive player of the year. As a sophomore in 2018, Cuevas caught 31 passes for 380 yards and 10 touchdowns and also made 32 tackles with one forced fumble, one interception and four pass breakups on defense. He was named his team’s rookie of the year and landed on the All-Gold Coast second team. Cuevas also plays baseball for the Vikings, hitting .226 in 23 games as a freshman, .294 as a sophomore in 2019 and .353 in six games as a junior in 2020 before the season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A basketball player for the Vikings as well, he has been playing sports since the age of 3. Cuevas also received offers from San Jose State, UC Davis and Tarleton State before choosing to further his academic and athletic careers with the Mustangs “because not only does Cal Poly have a very competitive football program, but it is also an excellent academic institution.”
Baldwin: “Cuevas is really athletic, a big physical kid, has length at 6-4 and 245 and played on both sides of the ball which you really like to see because that shows also somewhat of a mentality playing a lot of snaps and playing tired. Also, some of the physicality he has shown on defense really excites us. He shows great strength and toughness as a ball carrier and pass catcher, a tight end with athletic ability to do something after the catch. He has a very nice catch radius, and is not just a receiver playing tight end, but shows physicality in the run game as well and gives you something as an inline guy.”
Tommy Griffin, S, 6-2, 195, Corona del Mar, Calif. (Corona del Mar High School) The second of three Corona del Mar High School signees to choose Cal Poly, Griffin’s career totals with the Sea Kings include 107 tackles and 11 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons. As a junior under head coach Dan O’Shea in 2019, Griffin notched 64 tackles (30 solo), including 4.5 for lost yardage, along with three interception, 19 pass breakups and one fumble recovery. His interception with two seconds remaining clinched Corona del Mar’s state championship in the 1-A Division, capping a perfect 16-0 season. The Sea Kings were champions of the Sunset League and also earned a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 title. Griffin was named first-team All-Sunset League, first-team all-Orange County, first-team All-CIF-Southern Section Division 3 and landed on the Daily Pilot Dream Team. He made 43 tackles (17 solo) with 10 pass breakups as a sophomore in 2018. Griffin received offers from 10 Division I schools, including San Jose State, Nevada, Army West Point, Navy, Penn, Columbia and UC Davis, before choosing to be a Mustang because the “great balance of academics and athletics, great location and trust in the coaching staff.”
Baldwin: “He is a son of a former coach and a natural leader with incredible length and range at the safety position. On top of that, he’s very football savvy and smart, really well rounded at the defensive back position. You don’t always get guys with that much length, the ability to cover ground and play physical but also with athleticism, footwork, the intangibles with that much length. He brings a lot of versatility and talent to the table and his off-the-field maturity will add to his early success.”
Zion Hall, WR/RS, 5-7, 165, Bakersfield, Calif. (Garces Memorial High School) Under head coach Richard Cornford at Ridgeview High School in 2019, Hall caught 70 passes for 893 yards and eight touchdowns en route to first-team All-South Yosemite League honors and a spot on the Bakersfield Californian’s All-Area team. He also rushed one time and it was a 51-yard touchdown run, and also averaged 26.2 yards per kickoff return and 16.6 yards per punt return. The Wolf Pack was 8-4 overall, winning the South Yosemite League title and reaching the quarterfinal round of the CIF-Central Section Division I playoffs. Hall, who caught 13 passes against Clovis North and 10 versus Frontier, earned first-team All-South Yosemite League and All-Fresno County honors. He was a team captain and has earned a 4.1 grade-point average. As a sophomore, Hall rushed for 285 yards and six touchdowns and caught four passes for 57 yards and two more scores. He has been invited to the All-American Bowl in Texas. Hall transferred to Garces Memorial for his senior season, which has yet to be played. Recruited by Bethel College, Rose-Hulman, Webber International, Nevada, San Diego and Pacific (Oregon), Hall chose Cal Poly “because it was a school that had the major I was going to study, the connection with the coaches was genuine and the location is close to where my family lives.”
Baldwin: “Zion is an explosive athlete who really has the ability to take the top off a defense. He has natural ball-catching skills and run-after-catch ability. He gives you lots of versatility at the position, can beat a corner one on one and can separate in man-to-man situations. He brings big-play ability for our offense.”
Je’Kob Jones, LB, 5-11, 220, Fresno, Calif. (Central High School) Jones has made 207 tackles in his last two seasons under head coach Kyle Biggs at Central High school in Fresno. His statistics as a junior include 85 tackles (24 solo), 13.0 for lost yardage, five sacks and a pair of interceptions along with scoring a safety. Jones notched 122 tackles (40 solo) as a sophomore with 14.0 for lost yardage, seven sacks and two more interceptions en route to first-team all-state and Tri-Tiver Athletic Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also made 15 stops as a freshman. Jones has collected 13 quarterback sacks in 2018 and 2019 combined and returned an interception for a touchdown each season — 58 yards against Clovis as a sophomore and 70 versus Edison as a junior. He also has carried the ball on offense, netting 264 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his Grizzly career. Jones, who earned team and Tri-River Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors and landed on the Fresno Bee All-Star Team as a junior, helped Central to a spotless 15-0 mark in 2019, including a Tri-River Athletic Conference title, CIF-Central Section Division I championship and California state 1-AA Division crown. He also landed on the all-state first team. A three-star recruit by 247Sports, Jones has run a 4.64 40 and is ranked as the No. 63 inside linebacker in the nation. An honor student and volunteer, Jones chose to continue his athletic and academic careers at Cal Poly after receiving offers from Fresno State, Idaho, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State, UC Davis and Eastern Washington. He elected to be a Mustang “because I believe this is the best choice for me and what I hope to accomplish as a student-athlete. I followed my heart on this decision.”
Baldwin: “Jones is a truly dynamic linebacker. He shows toughness, athleticism and tackling ability that you want in that position. A natural leader, Je’Kob has had consistent success on and off the field. His maturity and ability to be dynamic and being able to do so many things at a high level at the linebacker position along with his maturity on and off the field give him a great opportunity to be a very early impact for us.”
Campbell McHarg, OL, 6-4, 305, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (Bishop Alemany High School) McHarg transferred to Bishop Alemany for his senior season after playing two varsity seasons at Calabasas High School. As a junior with the Coyotes under head coach Chris Claiborne in 2019, McHarg was named to the all-state, All-Marmonte League and All-Los Angeles County first team as an offensive lineman and helped Calabasas to a 7-3 overall mark and Marmonte League championship. Also recruited by Sacramento State, Illinois State, Bryant, Long Island, San Diego, Northern Arizona, Montana State, Georgetown and Northern Colorado, McHarg elected to come to Cal Poly because of its “great coaches and excellent academics.”
Baldwin: “Campbell is a big physical athlete who has played all five positions up front. His versatility up front, the physicality he brings to the game, a combination of toughness and maturity that he showed on the field and meeting him in person … he’s definitely someone we could see coming in and being physically and mentally ready to play early in his career here.”
Dominick McCormack, S, 6-2, 180, Visalia, Calif. (Redwood High School) McCormack made 50 tackles (31 solo), intercepted five passes, broke up 10 other passes, recovered three fumbles and forced a fumble as a junior in 2019 under head coach Kevin Scharton at Redwood High School in Visalia. McCormack earned first-team All-West Yosemite League honors as a safety as well as the team’s Coaches Award and helped the Rangers to a 10-2 overall record, second-place West Yosemite League finish and to the quarterfinal round of the CIF-Central Section Division 2 playoffs. As a sophomore, McCormack caught five passes on offense and made 30 tackles on defense. Also recruited by Vanguard, Sacramento State and UC Davis, McCormack chose Cal Poly to further his academic and athletic careers because “I wanted to go to a school where I could get a good education as well as play sports for a solid program.”
Baldwin: “McCormack is a very determined young man. He grinds in the classroom, grinds in the weight room and carries a 4.0 GPA, so his work ethic is at an incredibly high level. He’s a long rangy athlete and his ceiling can be incredibly high. He has incredible upside. He already brings to the table a ton of intangibles, but we’re excited about his determination and work ethic. When he applies that during his college years, he will absolutely explode.”
Javon Murphy, LB, 6-2, 220, Newark, Calif. (Stellar Prep High School) Under head coach Desmond Gumbs at Stellar Prep in Hayward, Calif., Murphy recorded 65 tackles and intercepted a pair of passes as a junior in 2019. A team captain, Murphy was named team defensive MVP and earned a spot on the All-CIF-North Coast Section Division V second team. He helped the Thunder to a 3-8 overall mark as a freelance school and a berth in the CIF-North Coast Section Division V semifinals. Ranked as a three-star recruit by 247Sports, Murphy received offers from Indiana, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana, choosing to be a Mustang “to stay close to home, play in front of family and get a great degree.”
Baldwin: “Murphy plays with a range and length and an athleticism that you just can’t teach. I think he will be very versatile in our defense. Depending on what he does during his time at Cal Poly, he will have the ability to play a number of different spots. He does the right things both on and off the field, like all of our guys, and his ability, his maturity and versatility on defense along with his skill set will add to a chance to be a potential early impact player for us.”
Josh Ngaluafe, DL/OL, 6-2, 340, Sacramento, Calif. (River City High School) Twice rated by the Sacramento Bee as one of the top returning offensive and defensive linemen in the Sacramento area, Ngaluafe recorded 30 tackles, including four sacks, intercepted a pass, forced three fumbles and recovered three others as a junior under head coach Gabe Jimenez at River City High School in West Sacramento in 2019. A 3.5 grade-point average student, Ngaluafe was named to the All-Metropolitan League first team, was named River City player of the year and helped the Raiders to a 4-6 overall mark and a third-place finish in the Metropolitan League. As a sophomore, Ngaluafe earned 31 tackles, including 5.5 sacks, and forced a fumble on his way to All-Metropolitan League honors and the River City defensive player of the year award. He chose to be a Mustang “because it was the first and only school that offered me a scholarship. I am interested in the academics at the school and I am excited to be a part of the football program. I feel like the defensive line coach (Will Plemons) can really improve my game and make me a better football player on and off the field.”
Baldwin: “He’s a true anchor nose tackle and also played on the offensive line as well. He’s very versatile, a big man who can move and run. The athleticism he shows for his size is something you can’t teach and don’t find very often. He also showed his athleticism and versatility by playing rugby. That says a lot about a 310-pound defensive lineman who also plays rugby. The pieces that he brings together is really quite unique and we’re excited about him.”
Adds assistant coach James Montgomery: “Josh is a big defensive lineman, nasty, plays at about 330 pounds but has light feet, is really physical and aggressive and really good in the classroom. We project him as a multi-position guy, an interior offensive line or defensive line guy. In our transition offensively, we’re getting bigger and longer bodies and we did a good job picking up some length and big long bodies with guys like Ngaluafe, Trachtman and McHarg.”
Michael Otterstedt, DE/ATH, 6-4, 225, Vacaville, Calif. (Vacaville High School) Under head coach Mike Papadopoulos at Vacaville High School, Otterstedt was a two-way player as a junior in 2019, catching 12 passes for 184 yards and four touchdowns and making 43 tackles (20 solo) on defense, including one tackle for lost yardage. The Bulldogs were 8-3 in 2019, claiming the Monticello Empire League title and qualifying for the CIF-Sac-Joaquin Division II playoffs. Otterstedt was named to the All-Monticello Empire League first team as a tight end. Otterstedt, who also played junior varsity baseball at Vacaville, carries a 4.1 grade-point average and also received offers from Davidson, UC Davis, San Diego and Montana before choosing to be a Mustang because “Cal Poly was the only school I was able to visit and I had a great connection with the coaching staff. It was the best decision for my future athletic and academic careers.”
Baldwin: “Michael played tight end and safety, which is an interesting combination. He played a little light in high school, but has since matured physically. He was playing at 187 pounds, but the growth he has made to get up to about 230 is incredible. Some of the things he’s going to be doing for us on the football field has not showed up yet. He has the ability to play defensive end and outside linebacker. He gives you the ability to be very multiple in our defensive scheme.”
Jake Trachtman, OT, 6-7, 295, Newport Beach, Calif. (Corona del Mar High School) The last of three Corona del Mar High School players to sign an NLI with Cal Poly this week, Trachtman helped the Sea Kings to a perfect 16-0 season, first-place finish in the Sunset League, a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship and the California state 1-A Division championship in 2019. As the Sea Kings’ starting left guard as a junior, he suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot in the opener that kept him out until Week 10. A Jones fracture is a break between the base and shaft of the fifth metatarsal bone, the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the smallest toe, and is considered the most severe type of fracture that can occur in this bone. Trachtman returned in whatever capacity he could, so in the playoffs, he served as a blocker for Corona Del Mar’s kicking team. In his sophomore year, Trachtman sustained a broken elbow. He was recruited by Northern Arizona, University of San Diego, Colorado, Lehigh and Valparaiso before deciding to become a Mustang “because it felt like home and I instantly fell in love with the campus and the town. The coaches who recruited me are the best in the Big Sky.”
Baldwin: “Trachtman is a big long athlete who only played a couple games as a junior due to an injury. Even in those couple games, he showed incredible promise. The sky is the limit for him because of his length and his upside. His film was very good and his best football is way ahead of him. His strength gains in the weight room have taken an incredible bounce in the last couple years.
Bryce Weiner, QB, 6-0, 185, Fresno, Calif. (Bullard High School) As a junior under head coach Don Arax at Bullard High School in 2019, Weiner completed 60 percent of his passes (70 for 116) for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games, missing the final seven contests due to a fractured thumb. Weiner helped the Knights to a 9-3 record, second-place County/Metro League finish and a berth in the semifinal round of the CIF-Central Section Division I playoffs. He started seven games as a sophomore and connected on 71 of 117 passes for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns. In his two varsity seasons, Weiner compiled a 60.5 percent completion percentage. Weiner also played baseball at Bullard and was a member of the Bullard 12-and-under team that qualified for the 2015 Cal Ripken World Series in Monticello, Arkansas. “I am proud to say that the only school that actively recruited me was where I wanted to play football,” said Weiner. “I have wanted to attend Cal Poly, whether it was for academics only or for athletics as well. I am sincerely grateful to have received the opportunity to compete both in the classroom and on the field. Go Mustangs!”
Baldwin: “Bryce is someone who just showed incredible growth from his sophomore and junior years to where he is now. Having been able to see some YouTube clips, even though he wasn’t able to play, we looked at how he looked throwing the ball, what he looked like in terms of his body type, 4.0 student, incredibly tough, anticipates really well, very accurate, and has the type of arm strength to make any throw. We’re excited about the total package that Bryce brings.”