Ryan Chartrand

While most of the country has watched the college football season play itself out, Cal Poly’s leading receiver has spent much of the time considering getting an early start on his professional future.

Ramses Barden, who has recently been named to several Football Championship Subdivision All-American first teams following his junior season, could declare his NFL Draft eligibility soon, he said Monday.

“Right now I’m gathering as much information as I can, and learning what (possible suitors’) impressions of me are, all their critiques and that kind of stuff,” Barden said. “It’s about what I want to do for my future, my family and my team. Those are all things weighed in the decision.”

The 6-foot-6, 228-pound school record holder for receiving touchdowns in a game (four), season (18) and career (32) said that so far, he’s been told he could be chosen anywhere from the second to fifth round, depending on workouts and a possible scouting combine invitation.

Listed at nearly 230 pounds, Barden could possibly be viewed by some talent evaluators to project to the next level as a tight end, and while the Altadena native says he would be comfortable doing whatever a team asked, he feels his strengths are in playing apart from the offensive line.

“You take advantage of whatever opportunity you get,” Barden said. “But as far as what I believe, if you were to line up two columns (for wide receiver and tight end) for what my strengths are, it’d be one-sided, all at receiver.”

Although he said he hasn’t specifically prepared to be officially timed in a 40-yard dash, the NFL’s most widely valued straight-line speed barometer, in “a long time,” Barden said he believes he would be clocked around 4.55 seconds, usually fast enough for a wide receiver.

As Barden ponders his decision, the Mustangs offense has welcomed back a familiar face.

Ian Shields, Cal Poly’s co-offensive coordinator from 2004 to 2005, was hired as the Mustangs’ offensive coordinator, head coach Rich Ellerson officially announced Monday, about three weeks after former offensive coordinator Joe DuPaix accepted a position coaching slot backs at Navy.

Before head-coaching Eastern Oregon to a 7-15 mark over two seasons, Shields, along with DuPaix, oversaw a Cal Poly offense that averaged 27.2 points per game in 2005 as the Mustangs reached the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

A season ago, Cal Poly implemented a triple-option scheme that produced an FCS-best 487.1 yards per game, and 39.3 points per game, sixth in the country.

If Barden elects not to turn pro, he would figure to be one of 10 offensive starters returning for the upcoming season.

“I’m sure hoping (Barden returns),” Shields said. “He’s a special talent, and we want what’s best for him.”

Regardless of what Barden decides, Shields’ return is a welcomed one, Barden said.

“I’m sure when he left he got more of his own niche and (playcalling) personality,” Barden said. “He can add his own flair here. He knows everything about our system.”

Shields, who said his offensive philosophy has generally started with the run, voiced being ecstatic about his unit’s outlook.

“It’s a good problem to have as a coach, with a lot of weapons at our disposal,” he said.

Barden, perhaps the most formidable of them, said he expects to have his decision made by Jan. 15.

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