SDSU WRs Jacoby Kelly and Hassan Mahasin enter transfer portal

Hassan Mahasin (right) and Jacoby Kelly (left) at spring practice. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Hassan Mahasin (left) and Jacoby Kelly (right) at spring practice. (Don De Mars/EVT)

The second window of college football’s transfer portal opens on Saturday, April 15, and runs through April 30.

The first window spanned 45 days, from December 5, 2022, to January 18, 2023. Sports Illustrated reports that over 1,200 players entered the portal during the first window, and only about half of those players signed with new programs. With the second window opening, many more will enter looking for new homes.  

For San Diego State, head coach Brady Hoke has expressed angst over the past two years over what the transfer portal has become. Nonetheless, the portal has been an undoubtedly net positive for the program. What had become the “new normal” across the rest of the country with an exodus of players each year had not impacted SDSU as much. 

That changed this off-season. Before the start of spring camp, up to 12 players from last year’s roster had either already entered or planned to enter the transfer portal, including starters CJ Baskerville and Josh Simmons. With the opening of the portal window, four more will be added, including All-Conference safety Patrick McMorris. 

Two of those four players are wide receivers Jacoby Kelly and Hassan Mahasin, a positional group the coaching staff had already pegged as a focus area to address in the upcoming portal window. 

Neither wide receiver was listed on the post-spring depth chart released on Thursday, and SDSU media relations confirmed to EVT that both were no longer with the program. 

On Friday morning, Jacoby Kelly posted on social media that he will be entering the transfer portal. 

On Saturday, Mahasin posted on Twitter that he had entered the portal with four years of eligibility remaining. 

In separate interviews with EVT on Friday, both players described one-on-one meetings with OC Ryan Lindley and WR coach Jonathan Krause last week, which precipitated the moves. 

“That’s kind of where I found out their plans for me,” said Kelly. “I was at the bottom of the depth chart, which is understandable given how I performed for the most part.”

Kelly stated the coaches presented the idea of transferring to him based on where he was on the depth chart and uncertainties of his future in the program, but it was ultimately his decision to enter the portal. 

Mahasin described his discussion with the coaches about his standing on the team as an “ultimatum.” 

New WR coach Jonathan Krause at his first SDSU practice. (Don De Mars/EVT)

“They told me I’m not going to play this year, so it’s best I enter the portal,” relayed Mahasin. “I’m not going to stay somewhere that doesn’t want me. I didn’t want to leave. I’m not a quitter. When I am committed to something, I’m all in. I just want to put that out there that it wasn’t my choice at the end of the day.”

While SDSU ultimately left the decision to both players, they also made it clear where they stood in the eyes of the coaching staff. 

When asked for comment about the discussions held with both players, SDSU provided this statement from Lindley: 

“We discuss what each player’s goals are on the football field. When those do not align with the player’s current status on our roster, we suggest that they move on and offer any assistance (film, character, verification, etc.) to them and their future schools.”

Both receivers were battling back from injuries, and each acknowledged that their ailment played a role in the coaches’ evaluation process. 

Mahasin tore his ACL in his senior year of high school and used his redshirt season in the fall to fully rehab his knee. 

“I practiced with a knee brace (last year), so I was limited in practice,” Mahasin recalled, adding that this spring was the first time since his injury he was able to play football and be back to normal. 

“Anyone that has recovered from a torn ACL is going to have pains here and there, but I feel good now. I’m 100%.

While he says the coaches used his knee as a reason for his standing on the bottom of the depth chart, Mahasin disagrees with that assessment.

“I knew all my assignments,” he said. “I came to practice on time. I did everything I was supposed to do right. I knew the playbook front and back. That’s just the choice (the coaches) went with, and I can’t do anything about it.”

For Kelly, a broken left collarbone in October derailed the progress in his redshirt season and spilled over into the spring.

“Coming back this spring, I was trying to get back into playing shape while also still working on my collarbone, so I wasn’t able to produce as well as maybe some of the other kids,” he remarked. “It kind of shifted my game in a sense to the point where the coaches couldn’t really evaluate me, and ultimately it kind of led to an agreement that maybe it’ll be best for me to get a new start somewhere else.”

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The firing of WR coach Hunkie Cooper earlier this year added another layer to the process.

“Coach Coop was the one that brought me in, so I feel like he was the only coach that really vouched for me,” Kelly explained. “I feel like when you have a relationship with a certain coach, and a new coach comes in and tries to replace that, it’s definitely not going to be the same.

Credit: Don De Mars/EVT

Coach Cooper is really about developing our younger players, whereas the coaches now want somebody that can play right away, and it makes sense that they want a veteran receiver.”

“This new staff didn’t recruit me,” said Mahasin, lamenting on the fact that without Cooper and former coaches Jeff Horton and Jeff Hecklinski, he felt he was “left out here by myself.”

“You can only control what you can control, and I can’t control what they decide on me. I’m going to keep working and grinding and trying to be the best player and man I can be.”

Kelly praised Krause for the effort he put in during spring camp to develop a relationship with all of the wide receivers and overall spoke very fondly of his time at SDSU.  

“As far as the journey to San Diego State, I appreciated every step of the way, and the coaches definitely helped me as far as my first year went,” he said. 

The portal window opens at a stressful time for Kelly and Mahasin, who need to juggle classwork, term papers, and preparing for upcoming finals while also navigating the uncertainties of the current college football landscape.  

“I didn’t expect it to be like this, but that’s just the way this journey goes as far as footballers because it’s a business now at this point, and anything can happen,” Kelly noted. “You can’t really be guaranteed a spot anywhere. So many spots are already filled, and it’s going to be tough. But I’m willing to work through it because I’ve dealt with adversity. The injury alone kind of speaks for itself as far as my recovery and being through that.” 

Kelly says he’s nearing 100% physically and is eager to show prospective schools what he can do. His goal is to end up at another D1 school, but he is not against going the junior college route back home in Los Angeles as an intermediate step to his ultimate destination. 

“I just want to end up somewhere that I can be the best player that I could possibly be.”

The Wide Receiver Group

SDSU Post-Spring Depth Chart for WRs. Credit: GoAztecs.com

With the departures of Mahasin and Kelly, 12 wide receivers (only six of which are on scholarship) remain on the current roster. Ten of those players are listed among the three wide receiver positions on the post-spring depth chart (walk-ons D’Andre Edwards and Onijai Sellers are not). Two incoming freshmen, Tyson Berry, and Baylin Brooks, will arrive in the summer as part of the Class of 2023 signing class. 

In addition to the recently departed players to the portal, Darius De Los Reyes underwent knee surgery towards the end of spring camp, and his availability for the fall season is unknown. 

It is evident that the staff needs to add at least two receivers to the room in the transfer portal. Experience and size are two areas the current room lacks. Senior Brionne Penny is the lone receiver on the current roster expected to play snaps in the fall taller than 6’0. Jelani Whitmore (6’2) is making a transition from defense to offense in 2023 and is listed fourth at the Z position. 

Last season, the Aztecs had two physical possession receivers in, Jesse Matthews and Tyrell Shavers, who were able to provide Jalen Mayden with big targets in the passing game. Mekhi Shaw is the most productive returning player who will slide from the #3 receiver to #1. The staff will look to find comparable receivers to replicate the safety valves Matthews and Shavers held in their time on the Mesa. 

Josh Nicholson, Phillippe Wesley, and FCS transfer Raphael Williams will be counted on to give the offense an explosive ability they have lacked for several years, but their lack of experience at the FBS level has to concern the coaching staff.  

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