San Diego State appeared to be fresh out of freshman football recruits going into this season.
Mark Hayes reconsidered his decision to attend SDSU and signed with Arizona State.
David Woodhouse opted for a professional baseball contract.
Darryl Crawford was ruled ineligible under Proposition 48.
But Coach Denny Stolz said: "I don't know if the guys we lost could have played more than the kids here now. I'm happy under the circumstances. It's a better freshman class than I thought it would be. I didn't think we could recruit from December to February and have a good freshman class."
Because Stolz coached Bowling Green last year, he did not begin recruiting for SDSU until Dec. 15. That was the day after Bowling Green had a perfect season ruined by a 51-7 loss to Fresno State in the California Bowl.
On Stolz's way from Fresno to San Diego, he and SDSU assistant coaches Tim McConnell and Ed Schmidt (also from Bowling Green) began making recruiting calls from Los Angeles International Airport.
Doug Scovil, Stolz's predecessor, had been named SDSU's head coach in December, 1980. Five years later, Scovil said he did not consider the first recruiting class a fair evaluation because he arrived late.
Stolz, at least for now, is taking a different approach. He thinks the Aztecs recruited so well that at least six freshmen could make the travel squad in 1986.
"What surprises me is that the big kids are good players," Stolz said. "Normally, big kids aren't quite as good in the beginning. They grow fast and are awkward. They always seem to show well later."
Aztec freshmen are making their best showing in the defensive line. Three could make the travel squad--Demetrius Bell from Morse High School, Wade Thoemmes of Honolulu and Milt Wilson of Daniel Murphy High in Los Angeles.
The past five years, Scovil's tendency was to redshirt freshmen. Stolz tends to think in other terms.
"In this particular year and time, our freshmen who can help us win will play," Stolz said. "I won't redshirt someone just for the sake of making him a redshirt. We're definitely going to play the kids who we think can make a contribution as the year goes on."
A look at SDSU's top freshmen:
Demetrius Bell (6-1, 270), defensive lineman. Bell was the defensive player of the year in the City Eastern League last season at Morse. The Aztecs consider him in the mold of starting defensive tackle Levi Esene--short and powerful.
Bell played every down at offensive guard and defensive tackle for Morse.
"He was our strongest freshman," said McConnell, SDSU's defensive coordinator. "He's probably stronger than he knows. He came in and bench-pressed over 400 pounds, and our strength coach would term his high school techniques as suspect."
John Carlson (6-3, 225), fullback. Carlson was Mr. Versatility at Costa Mesa High. He caught 40 passes and was named all-league tight end, rushed 38 times for 224 yards, averaged 38 yards a punt and played defensive end.
Stolz defines a Division I fullback as one who is physical and can block. Carlson is as close as anybody the Aztecs have to answering the description.
"He's in a position where you need a physical type," Stolz said. "He'll be in our power picture."
Monty Gilbreath (5-9, 170), wide receiver. Gilbreath was a two-time most valuable player for his team and an all-league player at Taft High School in Los Angeles. He caught 23 passes, rushed 47 times for 365 yards and scored 11 touchdowns last year.
More important to the Aztecs, Gilbreath is a punt and kickoff returner.
"That's a soft spot in our depth," Stolz said. "He has done it before. He's an exciting player."
Jack Skoog (6-5, 210), quarterback. Ideally, the Aztecs hope to redshirt Skoog. He was an all-state Class B quarterback at Ionia High School in Michigan, where there are Classes A through C. He was a three-time all-conference player.
Last season, Skoog passed for 1,602 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games. The year before, he passed for 899 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"He's about what we thought we had (when recruiting him)," Stolz said. "He's a great player."
Nick Subis (6-5, 244), offensive lineman. Subis was his league's lineman of the year last season at West Torrance High. Although the Aztecs recruited him as a center, he has also played offensive tackle in practice.
"He's the best offensive lineman right now of our freshmen," Stolz said. "Usually, there are very few freshman offensive linemen who can play. He happens to be one who is mature enough to play."
Wade Thoemmes (6-3, 230), defensive end. Thoemmes was the state's Defensive Lineman of the Year last season while playing for University High School in Honolulu. He was considered among the most surprising freshman players at the outset of SDSU's practices.
"The thing that jumps out after you've been around him is his extreme intensity," McConnell said. "He has an intense attitude uncommon in most freshmen."