Feb. 5, 2014
Fulfilling the present and building for the near future, the 2014 San Jose State University football signing class is weighted toward the game's ball-handling positions and includes intriguing linemen on both sides of the ball.
Twenty (20) newcomers can look forward to continuing their football careers as Spartans. The signing class consists of 10 players on offense and 10 on defense. San Jose State signed seven defensive back prospects - matching the most at that position since the 2004 class of seven secondary candidates. Two defensive linemen and one linebacker comprise the remaining defensive hopefuls.
The newcomers on offensive include four offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, one running back, two wide receivers and a multi-position "athlete" with pass receiving skills.
Four of the 20 signees, quarterback Malik Watson (6-3, 220, JR) from Contra Costa College, offensive tackle Kyle Wright (6-7, 300, JR) from Chaffey College and defensive backs Maurice McKnight (6-0, 175, FR) and Cleveland Wallace III (5-11, 175, SO) are enrolled at the University and available to participate in spring practice that begins on February 21.
Watson passed for 2,623 yards and 16 touchdowns in his one season as a starter at Contra Costa College. When spring practice begins, he joins senior Blake Jurich, junior Joe Gray and sophomore Jason Habash competing for the number-one quarterback role vacated by David Fales who set 25 San Jose State passing records the last two seasons. Freshman Ian Fieber (6-1, 195, FR) joins the competition in August. Fieber completed 60.9 percent of his passes for Mission Viejo (Calif.) High.
"I'm really excited about our two quarterbacks. San Jose State did not sign a high school quarterback the last two years. It was important for us to sign at least one, if not two. Ian Fieber was our first commit. He came to our camp. He has very strong arm and we are excited about what he brings to the table," said the San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher. "We got to watch the second half of his junior college film and liked what we saw. Malik was meant to be a Spartan from the get-go. He came to all of our home games. He's a big fan of San Jose State."
Wright and freshmen Troy Kowalski (6-5, 265, FR) from Mountain Ridge High in Glendale, Ariz., Charles Nelson (6-4, 285, FR) from San Jose's Valley Christian High and Matt Spadaro (6-5, 250, FR) from Thousand Oaks (Calif.) are the offensive line candidates. Each one has considerable prior experience playing either the left or right tackle positions. San Jose State Football Balances Offensive & Defensive Short & Long-Term Objectives With 2014 Signing Class/add 1
"We have some linemen that we liked and that we believed could help us right away," said Caragher who is heading into his second season with the Spartans.
Limihai Hifo (5-11, 225, FR) from Heritage High in Romoland, Calif., gives the Spartans a bigger back to complement their productive trio of small running backs Jarrod Lawson, Tim Crawley and Thomas Tucker. None of the three sophomores in 2014 stand more than 5-foot-8. Hifo was 26th in the state in rushing gaining 2,103 yards and scoring 21 rushing touchdowns.
Wide receivers Justin Holmes (6-2, 215, FR) and Tre Hartley (6-0, 180, FR) caught 120 and 111 receptions, respectively, for Oakmont High in Roseville, Calif., and Milpitas (Calif.) High and combined for 49 career touchdown receptions during their careers. All-purpose player Thai Cottrell (5-7, 175, FR) from Oceanside (Calif.) High is one prospect more that will battle for playing time in the wide receiver rotation.
Andre Chachere (6-0, 175, FR) from Clovis (Calif.) West High and Nautica Flemming (5-9, 165, FR) from Bullard High in Fresno will join McKnight and Wallace III in August competing for playing time at cornerback. Wallace III played as a reserve defensive back for the University of Washington in 2013.
Chad Miller (6-0, 160, FR) from Bethel High in Vallejo, Khalil Rashaad-Brown (6-0, 190, FR), one of two signees from Narbonne High in Harbor City, Calif., and David Williams (6-0, 175, FR) from Los Angeles' Dorsey High are the prospects at safety to give San Jose State its seven defensive back hopefuls.
"The secondary was a prime emphasis. We lost some good players in (first-team All-Mountain West pick) Bené Benwikere and Damon Ogburn, Jr. We need these (new) guys to be able to play man coverage which will give our defensive coaches much more liberty to call coverages," says the San Jose State head coach.
Linebacker Rueben Leasau (6-2, 205, FR) of Helix High in La Mesa, Calif., and defensive linemen Owen Roberts (6-2, 270, FR) from Narbonne and De Anza College transfer Victor Vernon (6-3, 275, JR) round out the signing class. Roberts (15.0) and Vernon (10.5) each were credited with at least 10.0 tackles for loss in 2013.
No kickers, punters nor tight end candidates are in San Jose State's signing class on the first day of the National Letter-of-Intent period. The Spartans have returning starter Billy Freeman, a 2013 honorable mention freshman All-America, back at tight end and kicker Austin Lopez, a 2013 All-Mountain West Conference pick and the first player in school history to score at least 100 points in back-to-back seasons.