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Cal Poly football: Beau Baldwin's first recruiting class aimed at shoring up defensive secondary and offensive line

Cal Poly football: Beau Baldwin's first recruiting class aimed at shoring up defensive secondary and offensive line

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The Beau Baldwin era at Cal Poly already has 13 new football players coming on board.

And they’ve committed to the Mustangs just days after Baldwin was hired.

The Mustangs received a baker's dozen National Letters of Intent on Wednesday during the NCAA’s Early Signing Period.

It was just last Wednesday when the school announced the former Eastern Washington head coach and ex-Cal offensive coordinator Baldwin as the newest head coach.

Now, he’s got his first set of 2020 commits – in not even 10 days. And he received an assist from the likes of assistants Aristotle Thompson, Wes Nurse and James Jones on the Mustang staff who helped lure some Mustangs into the program.

Here’s a look at the early 2020 class for the Mustangs, with some sharing why Cal Poly was the right fit:

Kyle Christensen, Center

The Placer Hillmen center was one of the early commits for Cal Poly, verbally committing to the Mustangs on Oct. 19.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pounder originally was on board to play for Tim Walsh. However, the veteran head coach retired immediately following the Mustangs’ 3-8 season.

Yet, Christensen never wavered from his decision to head to the Mustangs.

“For a while, I didn’t know who the new head coach will be. But he’s a classy dude and a high character guy. I have no concerns about the head coaching aspect,” Christensen said by phone.

And, he’s got the opportunity to rebuild the Mustangs with the newcomer at head coach.

“It’s neat to be going into a new chapter of Cal Poly together and seeing it grow,” Christensen said. “Something that coach Baldwin told me on my official is that ‘You’ve been committed here longer than I have.’”

Christensen guided the Hillmen to a 10-3 mark including a perfect record in the Foothill Valley League. The run heavy Hillmen averaged 292 yards through the running game and scored 47 rushing touchdowns according to Max Preps, with Christensen clearing running lanes.

Christensen will head to Cal Poly as a business major.

John Smolenski, Defensive lineman

Smolenski decided Cal Poly was the school for him and committed after his official visit on Dec. 14 and right before the early signing deadline.

Smolenski immediately saw Baldwin’s enthusiasm for wanting to turn around the Mustangs, springing his decision to commit.

“Coach Baldwin had this contagious energy about him from the first moment we spoke,” Smolenski said. “He was very optimistic and confident about the short-term and long-term future of the Cal Poly program. But most importantly he just seemed like a genuinely good guy.”

Mustang defensive line coach Jones offered Smolenski. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder collected 69 tackles including four behind the line of scrimmage according to Max Preps. He helped spearhead a Phelan Serrano Diamondback defense that surrendered fewer than 20 points in 11 games this past season.

Smolenski guided Serrano to a 12-1 mark. He’s invested in bringing a winning attitude back to Poly with Baldwin in charge.

“Bringing back a winning culture at Cal Poly is one of the most important things to me,” Smolenski said. “I’ve been so blessed to be taken into the program that I feel like pushing myself every day to do my part in making the team better is my main responsibility.”

He intends to major in Kinesiology.

Michael Briscoe, Defensive back

Nurse dipped into the Bay Area to land this 6-foot-2, 185-pound cornerback from Vacaville.

Briscoe was a 3.83 student while averaging 32.3 yards a catch and snatching two interceptions.

But, with Nurse as his primary recruiter, Briscoe is likely lining up on defense.

Briscoe was offered on Nov. 6 by Cal Poly. He was formally announced as a new Mustang on Wednesday.

He’s coming to San Luis Obispo as the reigning Monticello Empire League Back of the Year.

Trevor Owens, Defensive back

Like Briscoe, the junior college product Owens is expected to add some height to the defensive perimeter.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Butte College standout showed closing speed and was rarely tested on his side during Butte's 8-3 campaign. He went on to tally 28 tackles, 15 solo stops and two interceptions.

The first-team All-National Northern California Conference selection was offered by Big Sky rival Sacramento State before signing with Cal Poly.

Jeremy Justice II, Defensive back

Staying with the theme of tall defensive backs, Justice is a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder expected to lock down his side of the field.

Justice doubled as a deep threat wide receiver and hard-nosed hitter on defense for Apple Valley High in the Mojave Desert. The strong safety and wideout snatched up 32 solo tackles and six stops behind the line of scrimmage for the Sun Devils, who went 9-2 this past season.

Justice is anticipated to play strong safety for the Mustangs. He made his verbal commitment to Cal Poly on Dec. 15 before signing the papers.

He’s also reuniting with his Kindergarten buddy Smolenski at Cal Poly.

Jacob Oliphant, Defensive back

Oliphant was utilized in a variety of roles at Danville Monte Vista in the Bay – playing wide receiver, cornerback and returning punts and kicks.

He’s likely to play cornerback, though, as his chief recruiter was cornerbacks coach Nurse, who offered Oliphant in July.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder returned a pick-six 100 yards to the end zone this past season. Offensively, Oliphant caught 47 passes for 560 yards and scored four times according to Max Preps.

Off the field, Oliphant is a 3.5 GPA student.

Julian Reed, Defensive back

The 6-foot, 170-pound Reed was one of two signings from the junior college realm.

He snatched two interceptions for an American River College pass defense that tallied 12 interceptions.

Reed was offered by the Mustangs’ Big Sky rival UC Davis and was also courted by Southern Utah. Nurse was the main man recruiting Reed to the Mustangs.

Outside of football, he additionally has a track and field background and reportedly ran the 400-meter dash in 53.4 seconds while at Grant High School in Sacramento.

Kyrie Wilson, Receiver

Wilson is a local standout who his head coach Mike Moon called a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) caliber player.

On a loaded Pacifica Tritons team that featured Arizona State linebacker commit Caleb McCullough and Fresno State running back commit Malik Sherrod, it was Wilson who led PHS with 37 catches, 755 yards and nine touchdowns according to Max Preps.

Defensively, the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder snatched three interceptions for a defense that collected as astonishing 30 picks.

Wilson has been bombarded with praise and congratulations with the rest of his Triton teammates; from his team being given the keys to the city of Oxnard to the school holding a huge celebration following Pacifica’s historic state title run. The Tritons are the first Ventura County public school to capture a CIF state football title.

David Meyer, Linebacker

The Mustangs dove into an Orange County powerhouse to land this recruiting steal at linebacker.

Meyer was the Diablos’ top tackler (103 stops), added to their pass rush (six) and tied for the team lead in tackles-for-loss (17) – and he collected tackles and sacks going up against state powerhouses Stockton St. Mary’s, Upland, Capistrano Valley and Santa Ana Mater Dei.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Meyer wasn’t the most heavily sought after prospect on the Diablo roster either (Cal Poly was his lone offer) and it’s a school known for producing Pac-12 talent.

Jamarri Jackson, Defensive back

Jackson was the first signee for Cal Poly’s early 2020 class.

And, he played for a Big Sky rival: Northern Arizona.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound safety comes over after spending 2018 at NAU. He was previously at College of San Mateo prior to becoming a Lumberjack.

Austin Anderson, Offensive line

Anderson verbally committed to Cal Poly during the weekend of Dec. 14.

While the 6-foot-5, 250-pound trench standout from San Ramon California High brought length and pass rushing prowess to Cal High, he’s being recruited as a potential blind side protector for the offensive line.

As a left tackle, Anderson flattened weakside rushers on running plays and spearheaded a Grizzly offense that averaged 142.1 yards a game on the ground.

Anderson’s other offer was from the University of San Diego. He additionally has a lacrosse background.

Ryan Hannoun, Offensive lineman

The Lancaster Paraclete left tackle turned down some Big Sky rivals to become a Mustang.

The 6-foot-5, 280-pounder was getting courted by Sacramento State, Weber State, NAU and Montana State to become a Mustang – announcing his commitment during the weekend of Dec. 14.

Hannoun suited up for the Spirits for three varsity seasons. He was also on the 2017 Spirits team that eliminated St. Joseph in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.

Jackson Pavitt, Quarterback

The Mustangs added a quarterback late Wednesday night with Pavitt.

At Cardinal Newman High School, Pavitt passed for over 5,200 yards and 60 touchdowns in his last two varsity seasons, leading the Cardinals to the CIF North Coast Section Division 3 co-championship in 2018 and CIF-NCS Division 4 title and state 3-AA crown this fall.

Cardinal Newman went 14-1 this season and 11-1 in 2018. During his senior season, Pavitt completed 200 of 292 passes for 2,750 yards and 30 touchdowns while also rushing for 744 yards on 148 carries, scoring 11 times. The three-star prospect, according to 247Sports, was intercepted just twice.

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