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September 27, 2013

Recruits react to SDSU's 0-3 start

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San Diego State's recruiting efforts for the 2014 cycle started out fast, but SDSU's on-the-field performance through the first three games of the season may slow things down for the time being.

The reigning Mountain West co-champions coming off three straight bowl appearances find themselves heading in the wrong direction after tough losses against Eastern Illinois (3-1), Ohio State (4-0) and Oregon State (3-1). The first was overlooked, the second was expected and the third was literally thrown away.

The repercussions: an ugly 0-3 record hovering over the program. Surprisingly, though, coveted recruits have not reacted nearly as bad as many may assume. Some targets may not feel comfortable committing to San Diego State at this time, but they also haven't completely shut off contact with the SDSU coaching staff due to relationships built early on during their recruitment.

What about San Diego State's 13 current commitments - are they, or will they, begin looking at other options if things don't change as soon as possible?

So far, that hasn't been the case at all. In fact, almost every SDSU commit AztecSportsReport.com spoke with expects continuous improvement from the coaching staff and team. The general consensus of commits do not believe the program's trending growth will suddenly come to a halt because of an 0-3 start.

It was tough to swallow at first, sure, but both the commits and coaches are set to flush it out of their system with a midseason turnaround.

"We started off 2-3 last year (and finished 9-4)," San Diego State recruiting coordinator Tony White pointed out. "So it's the same old song and dance."

Last season's memorable dramatics have stuck around in the minds of the commits, and in return the coaching staff has stuck around with the same recruiting philosophy it has had success with during the program's emergence over the past few seasons - especially last year's.

Because of that, White said he has no intentions of altering his recruiting pitch to prospective athletes no matter what the win-loss column shows.

"We are who we are, we do things a certain way," White said. "The key (in recruiting) is to remain consistent. Whether (the season is going) good or bad, you've got to be consistent in what you do and consistent in the message. If you stick to that, good things will happen."

Recruit reactions

For the most part, Coach White's strategy seems to be working well. The majority of San Diego State commits are not ready to jump ahead and view the state of the program any differently than when they initially gave their commitment.

They, like White, are being consistent with their decision.

"It doesn't change my mind about anything," Las Vegas (Nev.) Valley defensive end commit Noble Hall said. "Seeing that they're 0-3, they still have a bunch of games to step up. It doesn't bother me at all. They are playing hard, and if you play hard the wins will come to you."

Los Angeles (Calif.) View Park inside linebacker commit Cameron Griffin also has an optimistic view of the season and sees it as extra motivation to help out the program right away.

"It's a minor thing for me because I know the team has potential and are on the rise," Griffin said. "I think the defense is doing a good job and I feel the QB situation could improve. But I'm still committed because I am going there to try and help the defense keep on doing well and getting even better."

Phelan (Calif.) Serrano outside linebacker commit Jay Henderson added that after speaking with a few SDSU coaches recently, their approach to the team's poor start made him appreciate how the staff responds to adversity.

"They have started the season off kind of iffy but I know for a fact they will fix their mistakes," Henderson said. "It seems like they aren't the type of coaches that point fingers; they seem like the type of coaches that can't wait until the next day to watch film and fix their mistakes to resume playing how we are used to seeing them."

Local prospects Oceanside (Calif.) wide receiver commit Mikah Holder and Carlsbad (Calif.) quarterback commit Christian Chapman noted that each game should be put into context, and the entire situation would likely be a non-issue if it weren't for a few minor setbacks.

"Two of those losses they really should have won," Holder said. "I'm not taking anything into account until the season ends and I'm looking at SDSU again. It hasn't really deterred me from the school at all."

"One of them was at Ohio State in front of a big crowd," Chapman added. "And another was against Oregon State which they had easy but just blew it at the end. I still have confidence in San Diego State. I love the coaches and the entire program."

QB commits keeping calm

Chapman, for one, can relate to what the coaching staff is going through. During his junior season his team went through a four-game losing streak, all of which were blowouts. This year, Carlsbad has started its season off to an efficient 4-0 record and Chapman's composure is a big reason why.

He can also personally relate to SDSU quarterback Quinn Kaehler after watching the Junior College transfer break down while throwing a typically high-percentage pass last Saturday. Chapman said his team has actually ran the same exact play as San Diego State's double-screen which led to Oregon State's pick-six off of Kaehler late in the fourth quarter.

"We call it slip red," he said. "It's just a little screen pass to the wide receiver cutting in. But Kaehler overthrew it just a bit and one of the corners took it to the house. It was a mistake."

In reference to the play, OSU head coach Mike Reilly said that the interception in particular "will go down in the history of this season" after the Beavers' 34-30 comeback win.

SDSU just so happened to fall on the receiving end of it, and commits like Los Gatos (Calif.) quarterback Nick Bawden understand that.

"I still have faith in them," Bawden assured. "I'm not looking anywhere else but San Diego State."

After speaking with SDSU quarterback coach Brian Sipe about the team's disappointing QB-play so far, Bawden said his comfort level with Sipe opened up his eyes to what goes on at the collegiate level. He said the former NFL MVP went as far as providing him insight into where exactly the team went wrong during a recent phone conversation, and it reaffirmed his confidence in the team.

"It was pretty cool, actually," Bawden said in regards to the call. "I watched all their games so I knew what he was talking about when he was walking me through it. They just made a lot of mental mistakes that need to be cleared up. I think they will be fine."

Long not fond of negative recruiting

Some reactions from current commits haven't been entirely positive for head coach Rocky Long's program.

Negative recruiting has taken place, according to a few recruits, and opposing schools in recruiting battles with the SDSU coaching staff are starting its poaching season a little sooner than usual.

A few schools -- both in and out of the MW Conference - have already invited several San Diego State commits to attend a few of its own home games.

It's simple: one team's losses are another recruiter's pleasure. But Long isn't so keen on that concept, however, and understandably so.

"We don't negative recruit," Long said. "I think that (committing to a school) is a life decision and you count on the players committed to you to be young men of character. They commit to us for a reason, and it shouldn't matter what anybody else says because most of the time they are saying things that aren't true."

Of the commits that have had to deal with recruiters getting in their ear, nearly all of them have reacted to it in a similar fashion to that of Haynesville (La.) defensive back commit Jerrell Jackson.

He hears them out, politely responds with a 'thanks but no thanks', ends the conversation and moves on as if it never took place.

To get a better understanding of how things work when recruiters reach out to commits, Jackson provided another anecdote of how it sometimes turns out.

"Some schools are talking down about San Diego State right now," he said. "They say look at our record and look at their record. And they bring up the high school I go to and say, 'Ya'll don't lose more than one or two games a year, you are not used to losing, and San Diego State has done nothing but lose.' And I just say, 'that's true, that's true.' But I know how the recruiting thing works, they will say anything to get you."

In response, Jackson said he recently called his primary recruiter, Tony White, after the Ohio State loss to let him know he will stand right beside him through thick and thin.

"I asked him how everything was going and he said they're just trying to find a way to win some games," Jackson said. "I told him to just 'hang in there. We're going to start winning.'"


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