Eight Players to Watch at SDSU Spring Camp

Aztecs taking direction from Coach Jeff Sobol in Winter Conditioning (Paul Garrison/EVT)

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Lucky Sutton (far right) and Baylin Brooks (far left) lining up for a sprint during Winter Conditioning (Paul Garrison/EVT)

SDSU Football Spring Camp begins on Tuesday and culminates in the Spring Game on April 20 at Snapdragon Stadium. 

“The biggest piece as we move through spring practice is just, hey, what is it we are asking them to do from a schematic standpoint, offensively, defensively, and special teams, and how it needs to get done as well,” SDSU head coach Sean Lewis said on Thursday. “If we can accomplish those two things and guys come through these next 15 practices of ‘hey, what are the calls and how do I execute my job within each of the calls’ then we’re going to be in great position to go forward for the fall.”

The head coaching change following the 2023 season brought a larger-than-usual roster turnover for the Aztecs. The team’s online roster currently lists 104 players ready to participate in the spring. 77 return from last season while 27 are newcomers to the program, either transfers or early enrollee freshmen. 

From the list of returning players, only a handful were regular starters by the end of last season. The rest either lost starting positions as the year progressed or were unable to crack the two-deep rotation on either side of the ball. 

Here are four returning players on each side of the ball who could step into a bigger role on the two-deep in 2024 with a promising spring.



Logan Tanner has terrific hands and could be a weapon for the Aztecs in the passing game. (Don De Mars/EVT)

WR Baylin Brooks

With the lack of depth and experience at the position in 2023, Brooks was thrust into action as a true freshman, catching three passes for 32 yards in the opening game against Ohio. By game 5, he erupted for 117 receiving yards and his first career touchdown against Boise State. However, he only caught four passes for 71 yards and no scores over the final seven games. Despite the lack of overall production, Brooks showed the talent and ability to make defenders miss in space that the SDSU staff saw in him as a high school recruit out of Pasadena. His 17.4 ypc led the team. 

During the offseason, the new coaching staff overhauled the position, bringing in seven new scholarship players, four via the transfer portal who are already in the program, and three class of 2024 players who will join in the summer. Brooks will have a big opportunity to showcase his playmaking skills for the new staff and cement his status on the post-spring depth chart.

RB Lucky Sutton

The top five running backs from last season all return in 2024. Jaylon Armstead and Kenan Christon led the way in carries (103, 96) and yards (448, 378), although neither was productive enough to earn the trust of the coaching staff and the bulk of the carries. Sutton, a 4-star recruit from Cathedral Catholic, was buried on the depth chart and did not get a carry through the first six games of last season. After a bye week, he rushed for 23 yards (on 7 carries) and two touchdowns against Hawai’i. The following week against Nevada came 12 carries for 48 yards. Against Utah State two weeks later, after another bye, he rushed for 86 yards (on 11 carries), including a 62-yarder. Just when things seemed to be clicking for him, he suffered an injury and missed the rest of the season.

Heading into this spring, it’s still unclear how the running backs will be utilized in coach Lewis’ offense and which of the returners will fit best the scheme. One thing is clear though – Sutton was very effective despite limited opportunities and brings arguably the highest upside from the group, especially since an experienced back was not brought into the fold from the winter transfer portal window.  

TE Logan Tanner

At one point during the offseason, the sophomore was the lone remaining scholarship TE on the roster after the top three players on the depth chart from a season ago transferred out. Despite Ryan Lindley’s offense utilizing 3 TE’s on the field on occasion last year, Tanner, a high school recruit known for his receiving abilities, only played 28 snaps and received one target in 2023. The staff brought in Jude Wolfe (12 receptions for 66 yards in four years at USC) and Gabe Garretson (4 receptions for 64 yards in five games at Butte College) to compete in the spring, but neither are known for their playmaking. 

Jonah Rodriguez stretching at the beginning of a Winter Conditioning session (Paul Garrison/EVT)

At St. Pius X High School, Tanner caught 43 passes for 980 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2020, earning unanimous First-Team All-State and All-District honors. Against San Antonio Christian, he hauled in 265 yards and four touchdowns. If Tanner can unlock the receiving potential he showed in high school, which led ESPN to rank him as the 27th best tight end in the class of 2022, he should have the upper hand as the primary pass-catcher in Lewis’ AztecFast spread offense. 

OT Jonah Rodriguez

The redshirt freshman from Madison High did not see any game action last year as he made the transition from high school to D1 college football. Rodriguez was the highest-rated recruit in SDSU’s class of 2023 and the 53rd best OL and 58th best player in California per 247Sports, bypassing Power 5 offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Syracuse. The OL coach and Rodriguez’s main recruiter at Syracuse was none other than Mike Schmidt, the current OL coach at SDSU and fellow Madison High alum. 

Having an established relationship with his new position coach can dramatically help Rodriguez as he begins his first spring camp at SDSU. With the departures of the two starting tackles at the end of last season via the transfer portal and coach Lewis’ admission on Thursday that returning interior OL starters Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli and Myles Murao will be limited during spring as they recover from offseason surgeries, there will be plenty of shuffling and opportunities for the entire offensive line to showcase their abilities.   


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Keion Mitchell recorded the only tackle for loss for the Aztecs against Fresno State. (Don De Mars/EVT)

DL Keion Mitchell

The junior walk-on from Framingham, MA, turned heads during last year’s spring camp as he made play after play either during 1v1 pass rushing drills or in 7v7 and 11v11 snaps. His performance in practice eventually earned him a spot on the two-deep at DE in 2023. In 138 snaps, Mitchell collected nine tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery. His 73.9 defense grade per Pro Football Focus (PFF) was second on the team behind Chris Johnson (74.0), and his 71.3 pass-rush grade was third on the team and highest for a non-defensive back. Listed at 260 lbs and given the lack of big defensive tackles on the roster, the defensive coaching staff will likely tinker with playing Mitchell inside in the 4-man front as a 3-technique where he would utilize his speed and agility against interior linemen but still be able to hold up in the run game. 

EDGE Trey White

The Eastlake alum is poised for a breakout year in the Aztecs’ new 4-2-5 defense. At his press conference on early signing day in December, coach Lewis addressed the low number of edge rusher signings by pointing out the potential for some outside linebackers in the previous 3-3-5 scheme to move down and play in that spot. On Thursday, Lewis confirmed that White is one of those guys he alluded to.

“His ability to come up and play off the edge, I think it suits his skill set really well,” said Lewis. “Excited to see if that belief that we have in his ability to execute that job, (and) if that translates here starting next week as we get rolling.”

White played DE in high school, and as the SAM LB in the 3-3-5, he was often lined up alongside the three-down linemen. It should be a smooth transition for the Hometown Hero and one that should amplify his versatile repertoire.

S Eric Butler

Eric Butler makes a sack. He led the team with eight tackles, one sack, and 2.5 tackles for loss. (Don De Mars/EVT)

If there was one player on last year’s defense whose lack of snaps was a head scratcher, it would be Butler. The true sophomore played 206 snaps and made 21 tackles not to mention he blocked two punts as a standout special teamer. While the defense struggled bringing down offensive players all season, Butler was one of the five best tacklers on the team, earning a 74.4 PFF tackling grade and only two missed tackles. 

In the week 4 matchup against Boise State, when the rest of the defense missed 19 tackles, Butler was the bright spot upon entering the game as a reserve, recording a team-high eight tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He played 28 snaps and made six tackles in the following game against Air Force at warrior safety behind super senior and team captain Cedarious Barfield heading into the team’s first bye week. 

Not only did Butler not earn a starting role coming out of the bye week, he only played eight or less snaps in each of the final six games of the season. It’s unclear how DC Eric Schmidt will utilize the five-man secondary in his defense and whether the fifth member will be a safety or corner, but Butler should fit well, considering his length and tackling ability. 

CB Chris Johnson

This time last year, the Aztecs boasted four returning starting-caliber cornerbacks, with Johnson as the fifth trying to work his way into the two-deep rotation. With Noah Avinger’s injury and Dallas Branch’s decision to transfer four games into the season, Johnson was suddenly the third corner on the team. Playing behind Dez Malone and Noah Tumblin did not afford Johnson any starting spots, but he still earned 269 snaps on the year in a reserve role, collecting 30 tackles, two passes defended, one interception, and one forced fumble.  

His play improved as the season progressed. Johnson’s two best games came in the final three weeks of the season, earning a 86.3 defense grade and 83.9 defense grade against Colorado State (39 snaps) and San Jose State (26 snaps), respectively. With Malone and Tumblin no longer on the team, Johnson is the most experienced Aztec at the position, while several transfers and early enrollee freshmen will compete with him in the spring. 

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