Cal Poly, which announced the signings of 13 recruits in the Early Signing Period in December, has added 15 more football players — 14 from high schools and a transfer from a community college — to its 2020 Recruiting Class.
The new group features four defensive linemen, a pair of offensive linemen, two tight ends, another quarterback, a pair of wide receivers, three linebackers and an “athlete” who can play multiple positions.
The announcement was made Wednesday by first-year Mustang head coach Beau Baldwin and Cal Poly director of athletics Don Oberhelman at a press conference inside the football office on campus.
“We’re really excited about a lot of the position-specific vacancies that we were able to fill with this class,” said Baldwin. “We feel like we've added a good mixture of both size and speed with a number of student-athletes who will have a opportunity to compete right away.”
The Early Signing Period for Division I football was held Dec. 18-20. The Midyear Community College Transfer Signing Period also opened Dec. 18 and ran until Jan. 15. The Regular Signing Period runs through April 1.
A quarterback, three offensive linemen, a wide receiver, three defensive backs, one linebacker and a defensive lineman from the high school ranks all signed a National Letter of Intent in December. In addition, Cal Poly inked two community college transfers and a transfer from a four-year school, all defensive backs, to financial aid tenders.
While the first group of recruits all hail from California, the second batch of players includes a Texan — quarterback Kahliq Paulette, who passed for 1,859 yards rushed for 1,065 more yards last fall at Veterans Memorial in San Antonio.
Cal Poly, which captured the Big Sky championship in its first season in the conference (2012), won its 2019 season opener, Big Sky opener and season finale for a 3-8 mark, finishing tied for ninth place with four other teams in the 13-team Big Sky.
The Mustangs are 32-32 in their first eight years in the Big Sky and have claimed five conference titles in the last 16 years, including four in the eight-year existence of the Great West Conference (2004-11). Cal Poly has earned four NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths since moving to Division I in 1994.
The Mustangs have won 67 of their last 94 home contests (71 percent) and, overall, Cal Poly has won 107 of its last 194 games (55 percent) going back to and including the 2002 finale.
The signees (listed alphabetically):
John Burns, DB, 6-3, 195, Mission Viejo, Calif. (Mission Viejo High School)
Burns notched 25 tackles (17 solo), one interception and two pass breakups as a senior under head coach Chad Johnson at Mission Viejo High School last fall. Burns also blocked four punts, two in the game against Upland and one of which he returned for a touchdown. He also earned a safety against Tesoro. Burns helped the Diablos to an 11-1 overall record, South Coast League championship and a berth in the semifinal round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Burns was named South Coast League Special Teams Co-Player of the Year.
Zedakiah Centers, WR, 5-11, 170, Anaheim, Calif. (Servite High School)
A wide receiver and free safety under head coach Troy Thomas at Servite High School in Anaheim, Centers caught 40 passes for 995 yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior season. He caught three touchdown passes in three consecutive games versus Bishop Gorman, Cajon and Villa Park en route to first-team All-Trinity League honors. Servite was 7-4 last fall, finishing third in the Trinity League and qualifying for the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. As a junior, Centers made 16 catches for 194 yards and three touchdowns on offense while he earned 46 tackles (24 solo) with two interceptions and one forced fumble on defense.
Robert Greer, DE/LB, 6-6, 230, San Diego, Calif. (Westview High School)
Recruited as a defensive lineman, Greer also was a tight end and linebacker under head coach Kyle Williams at Westview High in San Diego. Greer made 116 tackles (72 solo) as a senior and 119 as a junior, earning first-team All-Palomar League honors both seasons. He also was named the league’s defensive MVP, played in both the Makasi Bowl and Spanos All-Star Game and landed on the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Academic Team. The No. 1 tackler in the Palomar League in both 2018 and 2019, Greer also contributed 16 sacks, broke up 14 passes, forced 13 fumbles, recovered nine fumbles and blocked a punt in the two seasons combined. Greer, who plans to major in biomedical engineering, also visited San Diego and Brown and received offers from Air Force, Montana State and UC Davis before choosing Cal Poly because “it is a school that will help me reach my full potential in the classroom and on the field. The prestige of the engineering program and the culture of the school and football program weight my decision. The school is beautiful in a great location and everyone has a great attitude. I am very excited and proud of my decision!”
Connor Heffler, LB, 5-11, 205, San Diego, Calif. (St. Augustine High School)
Heffler made 206 tackles, including 44.5 for lost yardage and 15 sacks, in his last two seasons under head coach Joe Kremer at St. Augustine High in San Diego. A team captain last fall, Heffler notched 102 tackles (69 solo), 20.5 for lost yardage and 6.5 sacks along with one quarterback hurry. He also recorded one interception, broke up seven other passes, recovered two fumbles and forced two others for the Saints, who were 8-3, finished tied for first in the Western League and reached the semifinal round of the CIF-San Diego Section Open Division playoffs. Heffler’s postseason honors include first-team All-CIF San Diego Section, first-team All-Western League and first-team San Diego Union-Tribune All-Academic for the second time. He also received KUSI’s Silver Pigskin Admiral Award presented to the most influential football player in San Diego County. Heffler’s numbers as a junior include 104 tackles (67 solo), 24.5 for lost yardage and 8.5 sacks. Heffler also notched three quarterback hurries, broke up three passes and forced a fumble. Heffler landed on the All-CIF-San Diego Section second team and the All-Western League first team as a junior. Also recruited by Valparaiso, Lehigh, Drake, Georgetown, Stanford and Claremont-McKenna, Heffler chose Cal Poly “first for the people, the challenging academics and I wanted to be part of this new winning culture within the football program. Cal Poly made me feel at home and I look forward to being a part of this great community.”
Josh Henderson, LB, 6-2, 200, Simi Valley, Calif. (Grace Brethren High School)
Henderson made over 450 tackles, rushed for more than 3,300 yards and scored 42 touchdowns in four varsity seasons under head coach and father Josh Henderson at Grace Brethren High School in Simi Valley. The three-time All-CIF-Southern Section, All-Ventura County and all-league linebacker led the Lancers to back-to-back CIF-Southern Section division titles in 2017 and 2018 and a runner-up finish in Division 3 last fall, the three teams compiling a combined 39-7 record. As a senior, Henderson rushed for 1,424 yards and 29 touchdowns, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and made 115 tackles (73 solo), including 12 tackles for lost yardage and five sacks. He also was credited with 21 quarterback hurries and one interception en route to Ventura County Star and CIF-Southern Section Division 3 defensive player of the year accolades as well as MaxPreps Small School All-American. His numbers as a junior included 874 rushing yards and six touchdowns along with 157 tackles (108 solo) with four tackles for lost yardage, one sack, 25 quarterback hurries and four fumble recoveries. His sophomore-year statistics included 855 yards and two touchdowns rushing, 160 tackles (104 solo), nine for lost yardage and one sack with six quarterback hurries. As a freshman, Henderson notched 232 yards and two scores rushing and 39 tackles (25 solo). Put them all together and Henderson accumulated 3,385 yards on 446 carries (7.6 average per carry) and 39 touchdowns, 14 receptions for 288 yards and three more scores and, on defense, 471 tackles (310 solo) including nine sacks and 28 tackles for lost yardage, with 54 quarterback hurries. The Lancers were state 2AA champs in 2017 and runners-up in the 2A division in 2018.
Shabazz Muhammad, WR, 6-0, 175, Bakersfield, Calif. (Highland High School)
A wide receiver and defensive back under head coach Michael Gutierrez at Highland High in Bakersfield, Muhammad caught 41 passes for 900 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense and notched 43 tackles (27 solo) with four interceptions, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery on defense during his senior season last fall. He caught four touchdown passes against North High and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score versus Arvin, averaging 29.0 yards per kickoff return. The Scots were 9-2 in 2019, winning the Southeast Yosemite League title and reaching the second round of the CIF-Central Section Division 3 playoffs. Muhammad was named Offensive Player of the Year by the Bakersfield Californian and also earned Southeast Yosemite League co-offensive MVP honors. His junior-year statistics include 19 receptions for 463 yards and seven touchdowns and 49 tackles (20 solo) with an interception and a pass breakup.
Eli Otero, OL, 6-4, 295, El Dorado Hills, Calif. (Oak Ridge High School/American River College)
Otero played one season as an offensive lineman at American River College and will have three years to play three seasons at Cal Poly. As a freshman at American River, Otero made 15 tackles, helping the Beavers to a 7-4 record and second-place finish in the NorCal Conference’s National Division NorCal League standings. He did not play in any games in 2019. Otero is a 2018 graduate of Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, where he played on both the offensive and defensive lines under head coach Eric Cavaliere. Otero was an All-Sierra Foothill League honorable mention as a senior after recording 60 tackles (30 solo), including 3.5 sacks, as a nose tackle. He also earned one quarterback hurry, recovered one fumble and forced another, helping the Trojans finish 11-2 overall with a second-place Sierra Foothill League finish and a berth in the semifinals of the CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Also recruited by San Jose State, Fresno State, San Diego and Morehead State, Otero chose to be a Mustang “because of the way the coaches recruited me as well as the education that comes with being a football player at Cal Poly.”
Kahliq Paulette, QB, 6-1, 180, San Antonio, Texas (Veterans Memorial High School)
Under head coach Richard Mendoza at Veterans Memorial High School in San Antonio, Texas, Paulette accounted for over 3,000 yards of offense and 41 touchdowns as he completed 117 of 221 passes (53 percent) for 1,930 yards and 26 scores and rushed for 1,109 yards on 121 carries (9.2 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. The Patriots were 9-3 last fall, finishing second in District 13 play with a 7-1 mark and splitting two games in the Conference 5A D1 playoffs. Paulette was a first-team All-District 13 selection and VYPE 5A All-City honorable mention. Paulette played just three games in his junior season, rushing for 450 yards and two scores while completing 18 of 25 passes for 325 yards and four touchdowns. Also recruited by Lamar, East Central and Fresno State, Paulette chose Cal Poly because of “its great education, beautiful campus, good relationship with the coaches and close to my dad.”
Elijah Ponder, DE, 6-3, 200, Pomona, Calif. (Bishop Amat High School)
As a senior under head coach Steve Hagerty at Bishop Amat High School, Ponder was named most valuable lineman of the Mission League after recording 57 tackles, including 12 sacks, and recovered a fumble and broke up a pass. He also blocked one punt versus Chino Hills, recovered another blocked punt for a touchdown against Chaminade and helped the Lancers to a 9-2 overall mark, first-place finish in the Mission League and a berth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs. Postseason honors include first-team All-Mission League, second-team All-Los Angeles County and his team’s most valuable lineman scholar-athlete awards. Ponder made 41 tackles (34 solo) as a junior with 15 tackles for lost yardage, nine sacks, one pass breakup and one forced fumble on his way to second-team All-Mission League honors. Also recruited by Dixie State, Colorado State and Yale, Ponder chose Cal Poly because “I love the location and I like how I will be able to study what I want. The overall vibe I felt on the trip was great.”
Patrick Roberg, TE, 6-3, 215, Newbury Park, Calif. (Oaks Christian High School)
Roberg played defensive end, linebacker, tight end and quarterback as a senior under head coach Charles Collins at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village. A senior class vice president, Roberg helped the Lions to a 5-6 overall record, second-place Marmonte League finish and a berth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. Robert played football as a sophomore and junior at Westlake High School after attending Oaks Christian as a freshman. In his junior season, Roberg completed 51 of 116 passes for 996 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 92 yards, scoring once. Three times he has been tamed his team’s scholar-athlete. Robert was recruited by Cal Poly, Louisville, Northern Arizona, UCLA, Cal, Colorado and Boston College, choosing to be a Mustang “because I have some strong mentors in my life who have spoken so highly of it and I respect what they have to say. It is in my home state only two hours away, by the beach, it’s beautiful and will set me up for life. To top it off, Coach Beau Baldwin getting the job played a big role in the decision.”
Isaiah Robinson, ATH, 6-0, 193, Los Angeles, Calif. (St. Bernard High School)
Robinson caught 26 passes as a senior and 32 more as a junior under head coach Joe Torres at St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey. His 26 receptions as a senior were for 397 yards and 10 touchdowns and he also rushed 10 times for 123 yards and four scores. On defense, Robinson made 108 tackles, 16.0 for lost yardage and three sacks while also intercepting two passes, breaking up two others and recovering two fumbles. He produced 624 total return yards (28.6 average on kickoff returns, 28.1 on punt returns), among the top 20 in California, landed on the Daily Breeze’s All-Area second team as a linebacker and was chosen to play in the West Torrance Lions Club All-Star Game. Robinson also was a first-team All-Santa Fe League and All-CIF-Southern Section Division 13 selection and also was named team MVP. Robinson returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown versus Torrance and he returned three punts (two versus Verbum Dei) and one interception for scores. Against Bishop Montgomery, he scored touchdowns via receiving, punt return and interception return. The Vikings were 4-6 last fall. Robinson’s numbers as a junior include 32 catches for 640 yards and 15 touchdowns, 132 yards on just nine rushes, two going for scores, and on defense, 100 tackles with two sacks, a trio of interceptions, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery. Honors include first-team All-Santa Fe League, second-team All-CIF-Southern Section Division 13, Santa Fe League defensive player of the year and team MVP. Also recruited by Wyoming, San Jose State, Nevada, New Mexico State and Colorado State, Robinson chose to be a Mustang because “Cal Poly is a great school and receiving a degree from here is something not many can accomplish. It is a great place for me to succeed on and off the field.”
Ethan Rodriguez, DE, 6-4, 255, Whittier, Calif. (Bishop Amat High School)
A teammate of Ponder at Bishop Amat High School, Rodriguez recorded 41 tackles in both his junior and senior seasons under head coach Steve Hagerty. He was named defensive MVP of the Mission League and earned first-team All-CIF-Southern Section Division 1 honors after notching 12 tackles for lost yardage, including four sacks, and one safety. Rodriguez also was named San Gabriel Valley All-Area Defensive Player of the Year. His 41 tackles as a junior included 24 solo stops, 6.5 sacks, nine tackles for lost yardage, one interception and one pass breakup, earning first-team All-Mission League honors. Rodriguez also plays basketball and volleyball at Bishop Amat. He was recruited by Hawai’i and San Jose State, choosing to further his academic and athletic career at Cal Poly because “on my visit, I got a home type of feeling that just felt right. Coaches, players and surrounding people were all amazing. Great football program and top-tier education.”
Jonathan Serdinsky, OL, 6-5, 270, Bakersfield, Calif. (Frontier High School)
Under head coach Chris Bandy at Frontier High School in Bakersfield, Serdinsky was a starter on both the offensive and defensive lines and a two-year team captain. Recruited as an offensive lineman, Serdinsky did not play in any games as a senior due to injury. As a junior, Serdinsky was the Titans’ lineman of the year. He was the only three-year varsity player in his class at Frontier. Among Serdinsky’s non-football activities, he plays the saxophone, is a member of the math team, serves as a commissioner of athletics and earned the Optimist award for academics. Also recruited by Stanford, UCLA, San Diego, San Diego State, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Yale, Serdinsky chose to further his academic and athletic careers at Cal Poly because “it is a great opportunity to play competitive football under a new coaching staff and is a perfect fit both academically and geographically for me.”
Hudson Walker, DE, 6-4, 220, Visalia, Calif. (Redwood High School)
Walker was named Co-Lineman of the Year in the West Yosemite League as a senior for the second year in a row after making 64 tackles (49 solo), including 10 sacks, under head coach Kevin Scharton at Redwood High School. Walker also broke up one pass, forced two fumbles, blocked two punts as well as a field goal attempt and earned a pair of safeties. Walker helped the Rangers to a 10-2 overall record, second-place West Yosemite League finish and a berth in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-Central Section Division 2 playoffs. He was named team MVP and Visalia Times-Delta Defensive Player of the Year, also landing on the Fresno Bee All-Star Team and nominated for all-state honors. Walker was named CalHi Northern California Player of the Week after helping the Rangers snap Tulare Union’s 28-game winning streak with five sacks and eight total tackles. As a junior, Walker earned 99 tackles and 10 more sacks and was named his team’s defensive player of the year. Walker also played basketball at Redwood, averaging 5.4 points and 4.5 rebounds a contest as a junior. He received offers from Cal, UCLA and San Diego, choosing Cal Poly because “it was the best fit academically and the team culture and coaches.”
Cameron Woods, TE/DE, 6-4, 220, Long Beach, Calif. (Brentwood School)
Under head coach Jake Ford at Brentwood School, Woods was a tight end, wide receiver and defensive end. During his senior season, he caught 17 passes for 382 yards and seven touchdowns, including scoring receptions of 78 and 79 yards, and made 44 tackles (34 solo) on defense with 10 tackles for lost yardage, six sacks, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and two pass breakups. The Eagles were 7-4 and qualified for the CIF-Southern Section Division 11 playoffs. Woods also played basketball as a sophomore and junior, averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a game versus Knight and made the all-tournament team at the Mira Costa Tournament. Woods is a four-year varsity athlete and helped Brentwood to CIF-Southern Section basketball titles in 2017 (Division 3AA) and 2018 (Division 2AA). The two teams combined for a 50-17 record and the 2017 team reached the state regional quarterfinals while the 2018 squad made it to the SoCal regional semifinals. Also recruited by Harvard, Bucknell, Brown and San Diego, Woods chose to be a Mustang “because it felt like the right school for me. I’m really excited about the new coaching staff, the location and campus are beautiful, the proximity to Los Angeles is perceft and it has the majors I am interested in. Cal Poly really has everything I’m looking for in a school and athletic program.”
In December during the Early Signing Period, Cal Poly signed 13 players:
Austin Anderson, OL, 6-5, 255, San Ramon, CA (California High School)
Michael Briscoe, DB, 6-2, 195, Vacaville, CA (Vacaville High School)
Kyle Christensen, OL, 6-3, 263, Auburn, CA (Placer High School)
Ryan Hannoun, OL, 6-5, 285, Lancaster, CA (Paraclete High School)
Jamarri Jackson, DB, 5-9, 180, Sacramento, CA (Christian Brothers High School/College of San Mateo/Northern Arizona)
Jeremy Justice II, DB, 6-2, 185, Apple Valley, CA (Apple Valley High School)
David Meyer, LB, 6-3, 215, Mission Viejo, CA (Mission Viejo High School)
Jacob Oliphant, DB, 5-9, 165, Danville, CA (Monte Vista High School)
Trevor Owens, DB, 6-1, 200, Chico, CA (Pleasant Valley High School/Butte College)
Jackson Pavitt, QB, 6-1, 190, Calistoga, CA (Cardinal Newman High School)
Julian Reed, DB, 5-11, 175, Sacramento, CA (Grant High School/American River College)
John Smolenski, DL, 6-5, 235, Phelan, CA (Serrano High School)
Kyrie Wilson, WR, 5-11, 165, Oxnard, CA (Pacifica High School)
-Provided by Cal Poly