Don’t sleep on Jalen Mayden

Credit: Garrison/EVT

Credit: Garrison/EVT

On a local radio show this week, the hosts opined about the significance of the report from the Union-Tribune that Braxton Burmeister had joined the SDSU football program. When they spoke about the quarterback position for the Aztecs in 2022, they omitted one candidate for the job: Jalen Mayden.  

Between the Braxton Burmeister saga and the out-of-this-world photos and training video posted to Instagram about William Haskell, it is probably a good time to remember Mayden is still on the Aztecs’ roster.

On paper, he enters 2022 as the favorite to be named QB1.

When and if the Virginia Tech QB enters the program, he will not be the most decorated prep player at the position. That distinction falls to Mayden, who in high school was nothing short of a star. Playing for Sachse High School in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, Mayden put up gaudy numbers. Starting a few games into his sophomore season, Mayden played in 32 career contests for the Mustangs, amassing 6,210 total passing yards, 1876 rushing yards, and 98 touchdowns.

A top 100 player in the nation and 11th best signal-caller in the class of 2018, Mayden enrolled at Mississippi State over offers from all over the country, including Ohio State and Georgia. His career at MSU was derailed by coaching changes. He committed to Dan Mullen, who left to take over at Florida following the 2017 season. After promising the same offense as his predecessor, the Bulldog’s offense was completely different under new coach Joe Moorhead.

Not just different, but ineffective as well, Moorhead was replaced after only two seasons with Mike Leach, who brought his air-raid system. Another year, another offense.

“You kind of get nervous at first because you’re like, ’OK, who are they gonna hire?’” Mayden told The Dispatch in a December 2020 interview. “Then you’re like, ‘I hope the offensive scheme fits.’ And then once that happens, you’re like, alright, well you’ve got to do the best you can to try to make an impression and learn the offense as quick as you can since everybody is pretty much starting on ground zero.”


Mayden’s arrival on the Mesa was met with such fanfare only a year ago. The relative lack of excitement for his second full season with the Aztecs is puzzling. Perhaps, the lack of buzz is the surest sign of the signal callers standing on the team.

Last season, Mayden and Lucas Johnson were the headliners in the QB competition, but it was the player no one assumed was truly in the running, Jordon Brookshire, who ended up winning the job. In the end, it was the most consistent player who went about his business quietly that won the battle. Will history repeat itself this season? That remains to be seen, but Mayden certainly, has a fan in Brookshire.

“Jalen, he’s very intelligent,” Brookshire said in the upcoming fourth episode of The SDSU Football Podcast. “He knows so much about the quarterback position, coming from Mississippi State, I think that helped him a lot. … Just as a player, he’s smart, and he’s calm in the pocket. That’s one of his strong suits, he’s always had a good pocket presence, understanding what’s around him, when he needs to move, things like that.”

At Mississippi State, Mayden played under three different offenses, an experience that taught him more about the position than most players his age. Now an upperclassman, he is primed for a huge jump in production on the field, bringing that extensive knowledge to bear. 

Mayden enters 2022 as somewhat of an afterthought because Haskell passed him on the depth chart last season. It is assumed the two-deep reflects the position the players have earned on the team, but this is not always the case.

In 2020, redshirt freshman Joey Capra was listed second behind William Dunkle, but when the starting right guard was unable to play, it was Chris Martinez, not Capra, who replaced Dunkle. In this light, Haskell’s rise to backup at the position possibly had as much to do with motivating Mayden as anything else.

Another reason Haskell has passed Mayden in the eyes of Aztec Nation is the former’s play in garbage time throughout the season. If Haskell deserves buzz for torching SDSU’s fourth-string defense in the second scrimmage or for his end-of-game performances against Towson and Fresno State, Mayden has earned at least the same level of excitement for his play against Utah State.

Credit: Garrison/EVT

Haskell finished the year 4/7, passing for 47 yards with a long of 20 yards. He also ran the ball six times for 31 yards with a long of eight yards and one touchdown. Mayden was 5/6 for 50 yards and a score passing the ball and rushed four times for 36 yards, including a 33-yard scamper.

“We have two young freshmen that we signed with this class, and we have Will Haskell,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said at this week’s press conference. “We think all three of those guys are good football players. Now, are they as ready as we think they should be? Maybe not, but we want those guys obviously to develop and see the competition level.”

Including Haskell in the same group as two true freshmen, Kyle Crum and Liu Aumavae, is the clearest sign that maybe his train to stardom has yet to leave the station. Crum and Aumavae just arrived on campus four days ago. Brookshire’s assessment of Haskell was eerily similar to Hoke’s. It confirms the redshirt freshman has a long way to go before starting under center.  

Credit: Garrison/EVT

“Will, he’s a freak athlete,” Brookshire said. “If he really masters the offense that coach Heck (linski) wants to install, then he’ll be a great player. He’s got great arm strength, great talent, and if he gets the playbook down, he’ll be a really good asset.”

Brookshire’s remarks centered less on whether Haskell could memorize plays on paper and more with pre-snap reads and progressions. All total, it shows that, like all young players, Haskell needs time to grow. This will be his first spring with the team, and he will be better at the end of it than at the start.

Whichever quarterback ends up part of the 2022 team, the gunslinger from Texas will be competing and working to lead the Aztecs onto the field against Arizona when the season rolls around. How it all plays out will be one of the top sports stories in San Diego this year. In handicapping the quarterback race that is currently underway in winter conditioning and soon in spring camp, don’t sleep on Jalen Mayden.

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Paul Garrison
My earliest sport's memory involve tailgating at the Murph, running down the circular exit ramps, and seeing the Padres, Chargers and Aztecs play. As a second generation Aztec, I am passionate about all things SDSU. Other interests include raising my four children, being a great husband and teaching high school.
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steve EM
steve EM
8 months ago

He’s the most mature and extremely talented also big and strong to take the hits a dual QB faces. He is my favorite to win the job.

Paul Garrison
Paul Garrison
8 months ago
Reply to  steve EM

For all the talk that SDSU hasn’t had success in the transfer portal, the staff landed Jalen Mayden. His talent and thr face he is becoming an upperclassmen inspired the article.

Kitty J
Kitty J
8 months ago

Jalen Mayden is an AMAZING HUMAN BEING AND QB. Once given the opportunity in the Championship game in the 4thQ, he demonstrated his leadership & effectiveness in less than 9mins. We believe in him, he has earned it.

Paul Garrison
Paul Garrison
8 months ago
Reply to  Kitty J

Thanks for reading on and commenting on the article. He certainly has earned the right to compete.

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