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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 | When all is said and done, when their eligibility runs out, when they’ve all played their last game in Red and Black, the members of new San Diego State football Coach Chuck Long’s first recruiting class will be met with one word.
Nothing too bad, but nothing too good; a whole lotta’ gray; average at best. From this vantage point, there’s not a blue-chip prospect in the bunch.
Maybe an aquamarine-chip in Whitley Fehoko – who arrived in San Diego by way of Hawaii – but no one who really knocks my socks off. No one like Lynell Hamilton in 2003 or Russell Allen in 2004. Or Marshall Faulk in 1991.
Those guys were stars. They were hyped. They took Montezuma Mesa by storm (sure, Allen had to wait a year, but he was worth it).
And we all know what happened with Faulk.
Look, I’m not saying that this class is classless. I’m not saying they won’t turn into stars in Qualcomm Stadium. Some of them could pan out. Above-average high school players often do blossom into stars at the next level with a solid foundation of coaching.
And I don’t doubt Long’s coaching.
But, as you can see, I’m a little disappointed with this class. ESPN.com and their recruiting experts at Scouts.com only gave grades of 6.0 or more to seven Aztec recruits. To put that in perspective, consider this: Mountain West Conference-rival Utah registered 12 such players. Mountain West Conference-rivals BYU and New Mexico? Nine each.
San Diego State’s recruiting class, with the best home-court recruiting advantage in the conference, was ranked fourth or fifth in the MWC. Even with the beaches and the babes and the sun and the weather, big-ticket recruits chose to stay away from San Diego en masse.
You tell me: Would you rather spend your November Sundays in Laramie, Wyo. or San Diego? Fort Collins, Colo. or San Diego? However, I don’t blame too much of it on Long.
I think Chuckie – that’s what I’ll call him (sorry Jon Gruden) – did about as good as he could in his short time. Long and his hastily assembled coaching staff only had about a month and a half – with a two-week dead period that limited contact with recruits – to ink a recruiting class. He only had roughly four weeks to woo potential Aztecs; four weeks to pitch not only his coaching, but also his personality; four weeks to convince kids to come play for him.
In those four weeks, Long and his staff did the best they could. They nabbed 18 players – eleven on defense and seven on offense – to come to State. A couple should even step in and contribute immediately; offensive linemen Dan Hathaway from Grossmont College and Peter Manuma from Long Beach City College. With three-fifths of SDSU’s starting offensive line soon-to-graduate, the 6-foot-7, 300-pound Hathaway and the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Manuma could come in and start now.
Even Fehoko – Mr. Aquamarine – might make an instant impact. After all, he turned down offers from some heavy hitters to play for SDSU and play now. Fehoko said aloha to the Aztecs while waving goodbye to LSU, Nebraska, Boise State, Washington and Utah. He thinks he will play immediately for SDSU, and if you can’t trust the instincts of a 6-foot-1, 290-pound Hawaiian, who can you trust?
But even if Fehoko and Hathaway and Manuma come up big for the Aztecs, I won’t be satisfied. Maybe I demand too much. Maybe I look at all that America’s Finest City has to offer and think, “Gee, if I was a football stud, I’d love to play here.”
Maybe I shouldn’t expect greatness out of every recruiting class. Maybe I should be happy with what they got and settle for another 6-6 or – gasp! – 7-5 season.
Maybe, like “Philadelphia” William Werndl of the Mighty 1090 – oops, sorry, The Mighty XX – I think that San Diego State could easily turn into the Miami of the West Coast if it played its cards right.
Well, Long, you’re holding Aces. New Mexico? They’ve got pocket fours. Wyoming? I still think they have seven-deuce off-suit.
Chuckie, it’s time to go all-in.
Jon Gold is a sports columnist for Voice. Send him your angry emails, stories or jokes at