One game remains for San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell — he’s going to be one of those NFL draft stock-climbing stories, with draftniks claiming they discovered him — but when a local junior college quarterback commits to the Aztecs, it’s worth hearing early from his coach about his future.
Especially when the coach is Ed Carberry, a long-time San Diego football figure. Carberry, a CIF-championship coach at Monte Vista High and now the head coach at Southwestern College, coached Drew Westling, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder that committed to the Aztecs two weeks ago.
Westling, from Aliso Niguel High in Orange County by way of Tulsa, fills a hole on the Aztecs’ roster for a team that doesn’t have a quarterback between O’Connell, a fifth-year senior, and redshirt freshman Kelsey Sokoloski and true freshman Ryan Lindley.
You know Carberry is going to say good things about a kid that threw for 2,087 yards for a 3-6 team. But Carberry gave me more than the perfunctory praise.
“More than anything, the guy is possibly the hardest working kid I’ve been around,” he said. “He’s right up there with Ian Miller (Monte Vista alum that played running back at Northwestern) and Clinton Snyder (Monte Vista alum that is a star linebacker at Stanford) and those kinds of guys. He’s one of those guys who is always going full speed. His dad was a high school coach, so he has tremendous knowledge of the game.
“In junior college, we’re not restricted (by NCAA rules) with how many hours we can spend with the kids. The coaches would come in to watch a tape of practice, and he’d come in and watch with us and take a copy home.”
Westling ended up in SDSU’s backyard largely because Carberry and his Westling’s father were high school teammates at St. Paul High in Santa Fe Springs and later coached against each other in Orange County high school football.
“I got a call from his dad, and Drew came down to visit,” Carberry said. “He brought a high school highlight tape, and it was ridiculous. He threw for 30 touchdowns as a senior. If he hadn’t been hurt his junior year, I think more people would have known about him and he would have been recruited a lot more heavily coming out of high school.”
Westling went to Tulsa, where he was a redshirt in 2005 and backup in 2006 that played in three games and completed the only pass he attempted for 37 yards.
But after Tulsa coach Dave Kragthorpe left for Louisville, there were rumors that Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain would join his high school coach on the new Tulsa staff. Mustain eventually transferred to USC, but confronted with a decision before the 2007 spring semester began, Westling decided he would be better off returning to California and gaining playing time in the junior college ranks.
For Southwestern’s rebuilding program, Westling completed 173-of-325 passes (53.2 percent) for 2,087 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The interception total seems high, but Carberry said he would put six interceptions on Westling and the other six on his receivers for making a route mistake for a team playing from behind.
“He has a good arm, he can throw every pass and he makes good decisions,” Carberry said. “He’s extremely accurate; that’s his biggest strength. And that’s because he works very hard on his footwork.”
Lindley is a talent with an understanding of the game that could vault him past Sokoloski and make him a four-year starter. But even though Carberry is a fan of Lindley — he’s known him since he was a toddler running around the pool at Monte Vista where Lindley’s father was the Monarchs’ water polo coach — he sees Westling as more than an insurance policy for the Aztecs.
“He’s a great pickup for them because he’s been in big stadiums with Tulsa,” he said. “He threw for over 2,000 yards in nine games for a team that threw the ball 45 times a game, so the transition to the Mountain West Conference will be an easy one. He’s not going to get nervous. He took some hits playing for us that knocked his molars loose, but he stood in there and kept calling plays.”
The competition for SDSU’s next quarterback begins with spring football since Westling is eligible to enroll for the spring semester with two years eligibility remaining.
— TOM SHANAHAN