Jalen Mayden‘s days at quarterback appear done. Following a social media post tipping off the move, a source close to the team, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the former four-star prep QB has made the switch to defensive back. When reached, SDSU ‘s athletic department did not confirm or deny the rumor.
News of Mayden’s position change comes only two weeks before spring camp and leaves the Aztecs only a pair of injuries away from a true freshman lining up under center. The source, who spoke to Mayden last week, said the former four-star QB has been working out with the safeties in the program since the start of winter conditioning. The coaching staff can be around the team as they work out but cannot be near their players if a football is present.
“As we get closer to football, I will let the players take themselves through more individual drills, more pass skelly – offense vs. defense, o-line d-line school,” Associate Athletic Director of Strength and Conditioning Adam Hall told EVT two weeks ago. “And like I said, we have great leadership that has been built up within the position groups where they can run those things leading into spring practice when the coaches can be back out there.”
Would Mayden, who is listed at QB on the official roster, be able to return to the QB room if he had a change of heart after working in some of these player-led drills? That is unknown. What Mayden’s exit from the QB room indicates is a near reset for the team offensively.
The offensive line has only three upperclassmen on the roster among its eleven players. Jesse Matthews is the only receiver on the team with more than 28 career receptions. The players in the tight end room have a combined two receptions for seven yards in their time in college. With Mayden’s choice to play defense this year, the QB room joins the ranks of one proven player surrounded by unproven commodities.
Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister has impressed with his athleticism during workouts. He already held a sizeable gap in playing time even with Mayden in the QB room. Now with Mayden on the other side of the ball, it is even more dramatic. Burmeister’s first experience with spring camp came five years ago in 2017 at Oregon. Compare that to the rest of the unit, who will be lacing it up for spring ball for the first time on February 28, and the former La Jolla Country Day School star’s edge in experience is very pronounced.
The ultra-talented Will Haskell is now the player with the most experience in Jeff Hecklinski’s offensive system. Haskell rose to number two on the depth chart last year. Likely the only thing that could prevent him from seriously competing with Burmeister is immaturity on and off the field. Only a redshirt freshman, his physical tools are nearly unmatched. He will need to play beyond his years to earn the QB1 job.
Aside from those two, the only other scholarship players at QB are true freshmen Liu Aumavae and Kyle Crum. Coach Hoke praised Crum for his athleticism in early February, while Aumavae enters camp as the more polished of the two.
“Obviously, he’s grown up around (playing QB),” Director of Player Personnel Matt Razzano told EVT two weeks ago when describing Aumavae. “His dad has been really ingrained in high school football and high school quarterbacks for a really long time. Liu grew up knowing what to expect. I think you saw that with the film he put on there. He is pretty polished when it comes to being a passer in that offense at the powerhouse, Timpview, up in Utah. I think that really set him apart. Really the mental aspect, and the leadership aspect with his dad being so involved in football.”
“Kyle can do it all,” Razzano said. “He is extremely athletic. He can make all the throws. He’s a leader. In his junior year, he went and beat Centennial for the first time in however many years it was. He put on a really gritty performance and really led that football team. He really has all the intangibles that you’re looking for when it comes to the quarterback. Athletic ability, accuracy, arm strength, decision-making, and everything like that. We’re excited about what he is going to bring to the table for that room.”
Both Crum and Aumavae are highly competitive people, and they enrolled early for a chance to compete for the right to go down in history as the first Aztec QB to start a game in Snapdragon Stadium. Even with a full winter conditioning and spring camp, they have their work cut out for themselves.
Jalen Mayden flirted with the idea of switching to safety last season but stayed under center, even leading the Aztecs to their only touchdown in the Mountain West Championship game. In a day and age when transferring comes with less cost than it once did, Mayden was the catalyst for the move. If the decision is permanent, Mayden will look to join the likes of former Aztec great Brian Russell, who made the same move at the turn of the century and leveraged it into a nine-year NFL career.