Delon Craft Jr. is a lottery ticket

Photos from Delon Craft's photo shoot at SDSU on his official visit. (Credit: Delon Craft)

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Photos Delon Craft took during his official visit to SDSU. (Credit: Delon Craft)

Five offensive linemen have committed to SDSU from the Class of 2025. 

The Aztecs hosted three of them last weekend: Delon Craft, Chase Duarte, and Jett Thomas. Craft and Duarte committed on Saturday. Thomas pulled the trigger Wednesday. Centennial High School OL Ikbahl Kassim, who was not in San Diego last weekend, announced his commitment on Tuesday.  

Craft, Duarte, Thomas, and Kassim join Sierra Canyon’s OT Ashdon Wnetrzak, who pledged last Thursday as a promising quintuplet. Among the five, Craft might be furthest away from seeing the field due to his size. Of the group, however, he arguably has the highest ceiling because of his NFL athleticism.

Credit: Delon Craft

“(SDSU) gave me my first offer and my first chance,” Craft told EVT on Monday in explaining why he chose the Aztecs. “I knew coach (Mike) Schmidt was a good o-line coach, but over this past weekend, he really convinced me, gave me some more time, broke down my game, told me how I would be developing there and how I’m going to get better. And I really feel I can become so much better of a player if I become an Aztec.”

Craft’s Hudl tape is filled with eye-popping plays. It opens with Craft pulling down the line from left tackle, chipping a defensive lineman in the backfield before leading the QB through the hole on a designed run. Every play has an unblocked defender. In this case, the free safety stood seven yards from the line of scrimmage. Craft reached him before the ball carrier and buried the defensive back to spring a 45-yard gain.

As a defensive lineman, Craft, while engaged with two blockers, made a one-handed interception off a tipped pass and returned it 20 yards. On another play, he burst into the backfield and with offensive linemen breathing down his neck, caught a fumble in mid-stride that was bouncing on the ground. Other times, he caught skill position players downfield or on reverses.

Between these filmed superlatives, Craft mauled his opposition to the point where one felt bad for the children playing against him. He blocked one defensive end a dozen yards backward. As a defender, he violently dropped ball carriers, sometimes with only one arm. 

It is noteworthy when any athlete makes plays from sideline to sideline. Craft pulling that off at his size makes them special. On his visit, he weighed 283 pounds. His speed is terrific. Craft is perfect for the pulling and varied screens in SDSU’s playbook. 

“Potential” is the best word to describe Craft. His journey over the next few years will be fun to see. Provided Craft is unhindered physically and mentally from pursuing his craft to the fullest; his development should exist between two opposite poles. 

One extreme would see a seamless transition to the next level with weight training and improved fundamentals, unlocking even more athleticism and dominance. On the other side, paralysis by analysis would set in where thinking about proper footwork and hand placement stifles his ability to perform. Craft will land somewhere in between. 

“I’m a little undersized as a lineman for my position, but I’ll be putting on weight when I get there,” Craft said. “Their weightlifting program is really good, and I can’t wait to be part of that. (Coach Schmidt) broke down my pass pro(tection), which I need to work on, I’ll be honest … he’s going to coach me through that. The strengths that I have, he’s going to make even better.”

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Projecting Craft’s Development

Among the best factors in projecting growth for an athlete is their experience in high-leverage situations. Craft has competed in big games for years. In 2021, he was thrust into the starting line-up at Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond, California, in game two of his freshman year. Salesian won the 6-A state title that season. 

Credit: Delon Craft

“(Winning the state title) was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but this year I’m definitely aiming for that state championship,” Craft said on his goals for 2024. “With all my recruiting out of the way, my commitment’s done, I can really focus on my high school season. It’ll be my senior season, trying to go get another state championship before I play college.”

Playing at a high level early in high school should allow Craft to understand how to apply what he’s being taught to increase his effectiveness on the field. Superior athletes sometimes bottle what they are capable of to fit into the molds they are coached to become. Craft’s ability to receive Schmidt’s coaching and marry it with his athletic gifts will be key to his future. 

Growth rarely happens individually, and Craft excels in this area. To hear them describe it, Craft and Duarte hit it off on their visit. Sitting at the same table on a dinner cruise on Saturday’s official visit, they confided in each other their intention to commit to SDSU. 

In the procession of pledges on a floating dance floor in San Diego Bay, they followed each other in announcing their decisions. 

After Duarte announced, Craft made his way to the dance floor. He said everyone thought he was going up to congratulate Duarte. Instead, he joined the commitment celebration and made his pledge public, too. The priceless moment brought tears to his mother’s eyes and rhythm to his father’s feet. 

In his recounting, Craft said watching his dad dance was one of his favorite moments. He said he hadn’t seen his father shake a leg in a long time and was happy his commitment brought that out of him.

QB Javance Tupouata-Johnson, Craft’s player host, also made a great impression. When Tupouata-Johnson introduced Craft to the team, he memorized his potential future teammate’s biography. Without using notes, the freshman QB rattled off Craft’s accolades. That Tupouata-Johnson took the time to learn his story did not go unnoticed.

More than anyone, Craft’s choice came down to trust in Schmidt. Hired in January to start his second tenure at his alma mater, SDSU’s offensive line coach reputation, coaching ability, and recruiting ability were highlighted this past week with the commitment of the five offensive linemen. 

“(During spring camp), I saw (Schmidt) coach at practice,” Craft explained. “I really like how he coaches. He’s an intense coach, which I can appreciate. He’s got two sides. When I’m at the official (visit), he’s a nice guy. I could talk to him. When I see him coaching, you see that other side of him, so that’s really cool. He came down to my school a couple of times. I could see he had interest in me, which made me feel better about committing.” 

As exciting as this week has been for Aztec fans, every pledge they have gotten is from a rising high school senior who won’t be on campus until next year. The quality of the Class of 2025 won’t fully be known until 2030. 

From today’s perspective, SDSU holds a lottery ticket in the commitment of Delon Craft. With hard work, great coaching, and a little luck, he could make the program rich with victories before he cashes checks in the professional ranks. 

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