SDSU a finalist for Lincoln High’s 4-star WR Dreyden Garner

Left: Dreyden Garner on a visit to SDSU last May. (Credit: X @DreydenGarner) Right: (Credit: Ced Jay Photography)

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Dreyden Garner hauls in a reception last season against Helix. (Credit: Ced Jay Photography)

For Sean Lewis’ Aztec Fast to excel, the vertical passing game is essential. More than just providing quick scores for the offense, stretching the field opens up space for all the plays underneath.

Without a deep threat, safeties, corners, and linebackers can creep toward the line of scrimmage, narrowing passing windows and supporting with greater numbers in the running game. It makes the job of the QB and offensive line more difficult because defenses can hide their tactics when bunched together.

Speed strikes fear in opposing defenses. Lewis brought in UCLA transfer WR Jerry McClure from the Class of 2023 to fill that role. Austin, Texas, WR Heath McRee from the Class of 2024 will join the program this summer.

SDSU hopes Lincoln High School WR Dreyden Garner from the Class of 2025 is next. If the 6-foot-1, 185-pound burner joins the team, the Aztecs would be one runner short of a serious 4X100 relay team. Get McClure, McRee, and Garner on the field, and there would be no area of the gridiron off limits to Lewis’ designs.

“A really big vertical threat,” Garner told EVT when asked how he would describe his game. “If you’re playing off, if you’re playing press, I’m going to take you deep, and I am going to score. If I could describe my game in one word, it’s explosive. I’m a bigger receiver, so I am not going to go underneath all the time. I’m going to go over the top and take you deep. That’s my style of game.”

Garner’s explosiveness stands out on tape. Playing at a school with as many playmakers as Lincoln has affords him a lot of opportunities. Defenses cannot key on him, and high school corners cannot cover him one-on-one. Thriving in the freedom created by Hornets OC Jason Carter, Dreyden caught 38 passes for 894, 7 TDs, and a ridiculous, video-game-like 23.5 yards per reception average, according to Max Preps.

Graphic celebration Dreyden Garner’s big 2023. (Credit: X @TheHiveFB)

On his way to helping Lincoln to an 11-1, Garner racked up highlight plays fitting for a player with his offers. In a 39-14 victory over local powerhouse, Cathedral Catholic, he had a 99-yard TD reception where he adlibbed with his QB, turning a short curl into a deep route, and caught a 34-yard pass before racing the final 65 yards to the end zone.

“Garner is fast, and I see why he has some interest from established programs,” EVT scout Denis Ryan said. “He gets open, runs away from people, and is terrific after the catch. His yards per reception average over 20 yards says it all. High school DBs don’t jam him at the line, and there is no tape of him blocking. He will need to add strength and weight to deal with the inevitable press coverage. He looks like a good get for whatever team lands him.”

Just touching the surface

Potentially, the most intriguing part of Garner’s journey is that he is hardly a finished product. Some athletes are raised in coaching clinics and have polished techniques that mask lesser athletic ability. Garner is the opposite. His physical prowess currently carries him. As his knowledge of the game increases and with every calibration of his route running, his God-given attributes shine even more.

“Dreyden has the ability to be super good,” Carter told EVT last week. “Dreyden hasn’t played football for a very long period of time. He has great speed. He’s very deceptive. He has a great ability to high-point the ball. It always comes down to ‘want-to.’ If he wants to understand every nuance of the game and if he wants to be the very best, then he can be.”

2024 should be an impressive year for the young wide receiver. He hopes to have his recruiting process out of the way to allow himself to focus on the season ahead. This offseason has been lived in the shadow of last year’s disappointment.

Coming into the contest as heavy favorites, the Hornets dropped the CIF Open Division title game to Granite Hills 27-26. The game ended on a muffed snap for Lincoln with the ball at the goal line. The loss has fueled the team.

Lincoln High School Schedule art featuring Dreyden Garner. (Credit: X @TheHiveFB)

Garner and his teammates have redoubled their efforts. A gym full of Hornets at 6 am is commonplace. Carter said Garner is fully bought in. Carter and Lincoln’s head coach, David Dunn, both played professionally. They have taught Garner the dedication necessary to play at the level Garner aspires to.

“The thing that’s going to be so good is he’s got so many weapons around him,” Carter explained when asked about the upcoming year. “It’s going to create opportunities having so many weapons around him and give him one-on-one matchups. … That’s the beauty of playing at Lincoln. When guys come in, as good as they are, there’s still a ton of weapons at Lincoln. …”

“The great thing for Dreyden is you won’t be able to double him. He’s going to get matchups where we are going to put him in the backfield and motion him out. We are going to get him matched up with a linebacker, matched up with a safety, matched up on a corner. Basically, we get to do what we want to do. We dictate what happens.”

Carter described Garner as a quiet, coachable kid who responds positively when challenged. Dunn has created an expectation that his players are excited for their teammates’ success and hold each other accountable to achieve the best. The Hornets thrive because they have been taught right. Garner embodies Lincoln’s ethos.


Garner originally planned to announce his finalists before spring so he could focus on academics the second semester of his junior year of high school. He delayed it because he is conscientious about burning bridges. Narrowing his list closes doors to other potential offers. 

Dreyden Garner’s announcement of his five finalists. (Credit: X @DreydenGarner)

After talking with his family, he announced five finalists last week, ultimately choosing to focus on the schools that focused on him. On Wednesday, he announced Colorado, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and SDSU as the schools he is most interested in attending. He plans to officially visit all of them before making a decision.

Colorado attracts Garner for the organizational mindset head coach Deion Sanders has brought to Boulder. While it hasn’t translated to on-the-field success yet, Sanders’ pursuit of excellence is something Garner would like to play under.

Ole Miss is his childhood dream school. When the Rebels offered, it was a surreal moment for him. His grandparents live in the area around Ole Miss. They made sure their grandson had the gear of the team they supported. Garner’s “Come to the Sip” shirt is among his favorites. He’s only attended one game at Ole Miss but was too young to remember. 

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman created a bond with Garner on a visit last year. New WR Ronnie Fouch also made a big impression on the talented wideout. He plans to make a second visit to picturesque Fayetteville this upcoming weekend.

Garner visited both Oklahoma schools last year. Stillwater stood out. He noticed a great vibe on campus. He could feel that the entire community was pulling for each other. Meeting the coaching staff also impressed him.

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San Diego State’s chances

There is a long history of the Aztecs narrowly missing out on high-profile local talent. Carter believes much of that has to do with the lack of aggressiveness previous coaching staffs had with top area recruits. On Episode 112 of The SDSU Podcast, he went into detail about his experience as one of the top coaches in San Diego. He has already noticed a different posture from Lewis’ regime.

HC Sean Lewis and his son, Rory, during the first practice of spring camp (Don De Mars/EVT)

“One thing I know about coach Lewis is he’s a winner, and he wants to win,” Carter said. “He’s doing it his way. … He’s been to our school numerous times. He’s let us know that they are going to recruit San Diego. And everything he said he was going to do, he’s done so far. Like I tell my son, both of them, ‘You miss 1,000% of the shots you don’t take.’ They’re shootin’ their shots. That’s what they’re supposed to be doing.”

SDSU started recruiting Garner in the ninth grade and offered him last May. New WR coach Lanear Sampson had barely landed at Lindbergh Field and was already on the phone with Garner. Sampson and the new staff had already scouted and discussed Garner’s offer from the previous staff. They let him know that the Aztecs still wanted him on The Mesa.

Even competing against the upper (Ole Miss and Arkansas) and middle (Colorado and Oklahoma State) classes of college football, SDSU has a legitimate chance of landing him. Like all of his finalists, they have a lot working in their favor.

Their advantages begin with Carter and Dunn at Lincoln. Their proximity to SDSU gives them a special relationship with the Aztecs’ coaching staff. Carter mentioned Lewis, Sampson, and CB Demetrius Sumler as people who are just a phone call away. Their open communication with one of the premier local programs means Lincoln’s support of Garner can continue after he graduates from high school.

“Coaches who know and the coaches kids need (who) truly love their players, and they look out for their players, they tell their players, ‘hey, look, you’ve got a better chance of going here and playing,’” Carter explained. “‘Don’t be worrying about that big school because sometimes at that big school, you might not get a chance to play. But, here, you probably can go to your home school, and you know you’ve got a chance to play early.’” 

Lewis’ offense is a plus for SDSU’s chances. Most athletes want to compete in an up-tempo system that maximizes their big-play potential. Garner is no different. He described SDSU’s new attack as vertical and “Air-Raid” like. His abilities would thrive in Lewis’ designs.

Dreyden Garner’s profile photo on X. (@DreydenGarner)

Garner is also friends with several current Aztecs. He spent time on Team Makasi, a local 7-on-7 team, with Anthony McMillian, Isaiah Buxton, and Jerry McClure. Lincoln High alum Chris Fewell is also on the team. This offseason, he got to meet QB AJ Duffy.

SDSU has a mentor program where current athletes go and speak to teams in the community. Carter said Duffy dropped some gems of knowledge, giving a similar message to the one Lincoln’s staff is always preaching. Duffy’s words resonated because it came from a current D1 athlete. Garner remembers Duffy’s visit fondly.

“That was actually cool,” Duffy said on Thursday. “I had never done anything like that, talking to high school kids who are looking to play college football. And kind of telling them what (college life) is going to be (how it’s) not like what you see and what you read. Just me living it now in my third year. I just told them my story, what it was like for me, and what to expect.”

Finally, the Aztecs are the home school. The opportunity to play in front of friends and family and not just strangers appeals to him. Garner is aware of the pride people have in his journey, and he appreciates those who have poured into him along the way. Their enjoyment of watching him in person matters. As does the reputation of football in America’s Finest City.  

“A lot of people like to look down upon San Diego like they are everybody’s little brother,” Garner explained. “When people look down upon San Diego and the way San Diego plays ball, I want to apply pressure to change that narrative. If staying home is in the cards for me, I would like to change the narrative. San Diego does produce playmakers.”  

The Aztecs have earned their place in Garner’s final five but have a lot of work ahead of them and are by no means the favorite. Garner was on campus yesterday getting his first look at Lewis’ offense in action. SDSU held its third practice of Spring Camp on Saturday. It was closed to the media, but the Aztecs built a recruiting experience around it. 

Dreyden Garner is one of the most exciting playmakers in San Diego, regardless of class. Each game of his senior year promises to be a “must-watch” as Lincoln goes on their revenge tour in 2024. The four-star wide receiver announced his final five schools and included the hometown team.   

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