A year after piecing together one of the most dominant seasons in program history, Cal Poly held a 4-7 record in 2009. The Mustangs racked up four consecutive losses for the first time since 2002 and ended their six-consecutive winning seasons streak by finishing last in the Grean West.
“It was a disappointment; I’m disappointed, I’m sure our players are disappointed, I know the fans are disappointed,” head coach Tim Walsh said at a press conference at the end of last season. “It wasn’t exactly the way we scripted it. But the reality of the situation is that is where we are. We can bury our head in the sand and try to ignore it or we can go back and we can research it.”
Last week, Walsh announced a recruitment class last week that will help fill the gaps.
“We had a great class,” Walsh said. “We were able to pinpoint the young people that we wanted in our football program and then had the opportunity to go get ’em…With the addition of the guys that we did sign, I think, will give us the opportunity to help us become who we want to become as a football program.”
This year’s class consists of 12 high school graduates, two community college transfers and one four year college transfer: two defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs, one wide receiver, three offensive lineman, two running backs and one kicker.
Of the group, two recruits hail from the Central Coast.
Santa Maria native K.J. Cusack rushed for 1,845 yards with 22 touchdowns as a senior at St. Joseph High School in Santa Maria. He carried the ball 134 times and averaged close to 14 yards per rush, helping fuel the Knights to a 12-1 record. Cusack produced eight games of 100 yards or more rushing, including four games where he breached 200 yards.
“I don’t know if we have a guy that is more talented than him,” Walsh said. “With the ball in his hands he is just special”
Cusack’s highlight tape resembles something that mirrors a Reggie Bush running style, but critics question his size. He is listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds. To Walsh, that is no problem.
“We know he is not the biggest guy … but he has the instincts at running back that I think you cannot teach,” Walsh said. “K.J. is an explosive guy with the football and he is probably more physical than anybody will allow you to believe.”
Another recruit that heads to Cal Poly from local ground is Kevin Britt. Britt caught 53 passes for 893 yards and 11 touchdowns at Nipomo High School. While Britt saw playing time on both sides of the ball, Walsh has recruited Britt to play defensive back.
“This man can run. He can flat run, and can make plays and he made plays against some high-quality opponents,” Walsh said.
Britt recorded 19 solo tackles among his 71 total stops in his senior year. Fresno State and San Diego State were among several other Division I schools showing interest in Britt.
“We can’t find guys that are 5-foot-11 or 6-foot that can run like he can run, but play corner,” Walsh said. “I am not going to say that two years down the road he can’t be a wide receiver, but right now he is a corner. We are happy that we have some height at that position.”
Last year, Cal Poly’s receiving corps got help from UCLA transfer Dominique Johnson. This year, another FBS transfer is heading to Cal Poly to wear green and gold — former West Virginia running back Mark Rodgers.
Rodgers will have two years of eligibility left with the Mustangs. Last year he backed up Noel Devine and mostly saw the field as a kick return specialist. His most extensive playing time as a Mountaineer came his freshman year when he rushed 15 times for 80 yards against Marshall. In high school he rushed for 4,819 yards and 50 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale.
“He is a very exciting football player,” Walsh said. “He is extremely strong and a very gifted young man that we think can be a difference-maker.”
Other recruits include: defensive end Kyle Murphy: Cardinal Newman High School/Santa Rosa Junior College; linebacker A.J. Caviglia: Buchanan High School/Fresno Community College; wide receiver Lance Castaneda: Grace M. Davis High School; offensive lineman Joseph Coleman: Moreau Catholic High School; strong safety Dave Douglas: Oakland Senior High School; linebacker Nick Dzubnar: Mission Viejo High School; offensive lineman Joshua Hines: Jesuit High School; linebacker Brandon Howe: Dana Hills High School; defensive back Vante Johnson: Edison High School; kicker James Langford: Foothill High School; defensive tackle Chris Lawrence: De La Salle High School; offensive Lineman Lefi Letuligasenoa: Elk Grove High School.
“The addition of the guys that we did sign I think will give is the opportunity to become who we want to become as a football program,” Walsh said.