The Mustangs will look to improve in the coming season after a 2-9 showing in 2022. Credit: Kayla Stuart

The 2022 Cal Poly Football season is one the program would like to forget, as they finished with a 2-9 record, tied for last place in the conference while only managing one conference win. 

During that season, they also had their starting quarterback go down with a season-ending injury in the third game of the season along with an overall defense that ranked dead last in the Big Sky Conference.

The offseason didn’t start out too hot either following the departure of head coach Beau Baldwin to Arizona State, which left the team with a lot of questions.

Shortly after, the in-house hire of associate head coach Paul Wulff was made and the program put together the third-best recruiting class in FCS football highlighted by five-star quarterback Sam Huard transferring in from the University of Washington.

All of these moves have brought a new sense of hope and optimism that this team can take a big step forward, on both sides of the ball, during the 2023 season.

“Expect an exciting team to watch,” Wulff said. “I think we’ll be able to move the ball and score points, and our defense is going to be very fast and aggressive.”

The slew of new recruits and transfers has brought a lot of competition and depth to this team like we’ve never seen before.

“Iron sharpens iron, we finally have that across the board on this roster and it makes us better,” Wulff said.

Changes to the offense

The Mustangs hired new offensive coordinator Sheldon Cross, who will bring his “air raid” scheme to the program. Credit: Kayla Stuart

One of the more notable changes on the offensive side includes the hiring of a new offensive coordinator, Sheldon Cross, who was Huard’s high school football coach at Kennedy Catholic High School.

Cross brings in the “air raid” style of offense that he used while coaching at Kennedy Catholic. 

While a starter hasn’t been named yet, Huard is expected to get a majority of the reps at the position.

“All of our four quarterbacks who have gotten reps have [shown a lot,]” Wulff said. “I’m very pleased with those guys right now and we’ve got a lot of guys who can lead this team down and score points.”

Huard showed what he could do at the Spring Game in May by completing 11-of-12 pass attempts for 145 yards while adding on two touchdown passes showing his ability to form an early connection with his receivers, including sophomore wideout Logan Booher.

Booher is coming off of a great fall camp and a spring game where he posted three receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown.

“The sky’s the limit. We just gotta keep working and keep our heads down,” Booher said.

Booher along with redshirt sophomore Michael Briscoe were standouts in camp and are expected to lead the team on the receiver front. 

Strong depth on defense

The defensive side of the ball, especially, is where a lot of the depth is on this roster. Which is an area that was lacking a season ago.

Redshirt junior linebacker David Meyer is leading the charge in the linebacking department after leading the team in multiple defensive categories a season ago, but others in redshirt sophomore Je’kob Jones, redshirt freshman Kenny Olson and redshirt sophomore Utah transfer Ethan Calvert all have shown they can bring a lot to the defense.

“I would say there’s a lot more physicality and [an emphasis on] coming downhill.” Meyer said. “We struggled a lot in the run game last year and there’s been a big emphasis on stopping the run in camp this year.”

The secondary is also another area on the defense that has more depth than they’ve had before.

Wulff mentioned redshirt freshman safety Jake East and sophomore safety Mason Rivera as players who have done well in camp with sophomore safety Brian Dukes Jr. expected to start again after leading the secondary a season ago.

Sophomore cornerback Donovan Saunders and redshirt sophomore cornerback Christian Middleton are also expected to start and have shown great things in camp.

“I’ve seen how much work they’ve put in, so I’m excited to watch them go out and see them grow,” Wulff said.

On the special teams side, junior kicker Jaden Ohlsen tore his quad in two places in camp and is expected to miss the entire season. Ohlsen didn’t miss a PAT all of last season which is production the Mustangs will hope to replicate in their backups.

“We’ve had [freshman] Noah Serna redshirt for us last year and we brought in [true freshman] Leo Valencia and it’s been encouraging to watch those two,” Wulff said.

A new era for the Mustangs

The overall theme of fall camp seems to be looking toward the future and not thinking about what’s happened in the past. It’s a new era in Cal Poly Football and Coach Wulff wants the players and coaches to think of it as such.

“Nothing we’ve done in the past has any meaning on what we’ve been doing since January,” Wulff said. “Since January everything’s been new for the coaches and players. We’re just fighting to get better.”

The Mustangs will look to show off their improved squad when they take on the University of San Diego on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 3:02 p.m. at Mustang Memorial Field.