Jerry McClure’s commitment, a sign top WRs want to be at SDSU again

Jerry McClure with the state title in high school on the left, now gets to play for SDSU on the right. (Credit: Twitter: @jerry8McClure)

Jerry McClure and Verlain Betofe together for years. On the right, they are at McClure’s official visit. (Credit: Twitter @CoachVMakasi)

Long before Ronnie Hillman, Adam Muema, Donnel Pumphrey, and Rashaad Penny turned SDSU into Running Back U, the Aztecs were known for producing great wide receivers. Beginning in 1964 with teammates Jim Allison and Gary Garrison, SDSU wideouts reached 1,000+ receiving yards in a season 22 times.

The last Aztec to achieve that status was Ezell Ruffin in 2013. Over the past ten seasons since Ruffin’s departure, the team’s leading receiver has averaged just 539.8 yards a season, with Kobe’s Smith’s 691 yards in 2019 the most. This is the longest span without a 1,000-yard receiver since Allison and Garrison first accomplished the feat in 1964.

This lack of production from the position has had consequences. Few top-end wide receivers have come to The Mesa in recent years. With head coach Sean Lewis’ hire, that has officially changed.

“(SDSU CB coach) Demetrius (Sumler) told me, ‘Hey man, you always talked about bringing receivers (to SDSU), now we got a guy who’s going to throw that ball, so you better start bringing them receivers here,’” Mount Miguel head coach Verlain Betofe said on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Podcast. “I was like, ‘Hey man, I’ve been waiting ten years for this with you guys.’”

McClure and Coach V celebrating a passing league tournament victory. (Twitter @CoachVMakasi)

Betofe, affectionately known as Coach V throughout San Diego, delivered in a big way. Last week, former Mater Dei, Chula Vista WR Jerry McClure committed to SDSU. McClure has worked under Betofe’s tutelage since middle school. The two were part of back-to-back state titles at Mater Dei in 2021 and 2022. When McClure took his official visit to SDSU last weekend, Coach V accompanied him.

“(SDSU is) the best place for me; I felt like, one, it’s home,” McClure said during the same episode. “So, I know what it’s like, I know the ins and outs, so I trust it. But, also the coaching staff that I talked to, which I had the chance to get to know during my visit this past weekend, I felt that I could really trust them. They told me that something big’s going to be going on next year, and I genuinely felt that’s what’s going to happen.”

McClure, ESPN’s 200th overall recruit nationally in the Class of 2023, had minimal interest in SDSU coming out of high school. He enrolled early at UCLA and played in a pair of games last season. After a successful year of development, the former 4-star recruit announced his transfer in mid-December.

6-foot-2, 200-pound wideouts with track speed and four years of eligibility are coveted. McClure specifically mentioned how the receivers were underutilized at SDSU and how that is going to change under Lewis. That he returned home to apply his craft at Snapdragon Stadium with the Aztecs is an indication SDSU’s reputation among receivers is evolving.

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Jerry McClure’s Recruiting profile

Speed is the most coveted quality in football. McClure has it.

In high school, opponents respected him as a deep threat; ten-yard cushions were normal. Defenses at that level often put their best player at safety and allow them to read and react to the QB. McClure’s ability to reach a secondary’s deepest level quickly frequently surprised these athletes and disrupted their timing.

After a year at UCLA, where the coaches were reportedly high on his potential, McClure is even better than he was in high school. Heading into his second collegiate spring camp, he has added polish to his elite athleticism.

SDSU’s commitment graphic of Jeremiah McClure. (Credit: Twitter @jerry8McClure)

“Starting from the beginning of college, I was more of a straight run speed, fade balls, (wide receiver), but throughout my experience at UCLA, just going through college, it’s really taught me you can’t just be straight speed,” McClure explained. “You’ve got to have technique. You got to know the ins and outs of the ball, your quarterback, (and) how to run routes. I feel like I really gained a lot of knowledge and experience in running routes and reading the defenses.”

Coach V emphasized the difference between track and game speed, pointing out that McClure’s suddenness translates to the gridiron. On screens or short receptions, he is a threat to take it the distance.

“There is a lot to like,” EVT football scout Denis Ryan said. “Off his senior year high school tape, he is as good as anyone in SDSU’s wide receiver room. He is big, rangy, and gets separation, all while appearing effortless. There is not much blocking tape available, but he is a playmaker.”

Resurrecting SDSU’s Reputation

If there is anyone who can predict greatness, it’s Coach V. A winner of four state titles in ten years as an assistant, Betofe took over Mount Miguel last year. In his first season in the valley, the Matadors won their first San Diego Section title since the Eisenhower administration. After coaching the likes of New Orleans Saints Chris Olave, Coach V sees NFL potential in McClure.

Sean Lewis address the media at his introductory press conference.  (Paul Garrison/EVT)

“I see Brandon Aiyuk from the 49ers,” Coach V said. “ That’s the guy I’ve seen in (McClure) since Brandon Aiyuk was at Arizona State. I think they have a lot of similarities. Both are really athletic, long arms, (and) explosive. You could tell Brandon was a little raw. Jerry’s kind of the same way. If he has a chance to play on Sundays, that’s the kind of receiver I see he is.”

In the coming years, more will be needed to fully resurrect SDSU’s standing among elite pass-catchers. Beginning in 2024, the wideouts need to produce big plays. Mekhi Shaw’s 69-yard touchdown against Hawaii was the only play over 37 yards by a receiver all season, and the group totaled just five touchdowns. Breaking the 1,000-yard season drought would usher in a new era for wideouts at SDSU.

Games, though, do not start for months. To attract top talent, all Lewis has to sell is his vision and reputation as an offensive guru. Given the limited productivity over the past decade at the wide receiver position, it is impressive that Betofe and McClure have placed so much faith in him. It is a sign top WRs want to be at SDSU once again.

“After the (two-hour) conversation, I was like, ‘he gets it,’” Betofe said when describing his time with Lewis on McClure’s official visit. “He gets it from every single angle. That’s how you change a program. … it’s just a matter of time before he turns San Diego State into (a powerhouse). I’ve always believed San Diego State has a chance to be a top 10 to 12 team in the country.”

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