SAN DIEGO — Denny Stolz says football, with its multiple offenses and situation defenses, is a complicated game, but his recruiting needs this year were simple. Stolz wanted linemen and linebackers. He says he has found both.
Of the 24 players announced as having signed with San Diego State Wednesday, 18 are either linemen or linebackers, and at least 14 could be considered defensive recruits.
"We needed immediate help on defense, and that's what we set out to find," Stolz said. "We needed to improve our defense, and I think we've done that."
The narrow focus of SDSU's recruiting effort can be traced to the Aztecs' weak defensive performance last season. SDSU ranked 95th out of 104 NCAA Division I-A teams in total defense, allowing an average of 434.4 yards per game.
Stolz said he is intent on improving that. He has indicated the Aztecs will switch to a 3-4 front from the 4-3 alignment they used during his first two seasons at SDSU. To do so, Stolz said he needed to recruit at least four or five players who could step in and play next season, especially at linebacker, where the Aztecs return only five lettermen.
With seven linebackers in the group of incoming players, Stolz said he believes he has found that help.
"We went after a lot of tall, rangy linebackers," Stolz said. "We want guys who can cover (the pass), but we want guys who can rush the passer, too."
Among the group of linebackers who committed to the Aztecs were Haywood Mathis, a Times' all-San Diego County selection from Mount Miguel High School, and Derrick Williams of Carlsbad.
Mathis and Williams were two of six San Diego County high school seniors to sign with the Aztecs Wednesday, the first day high school players and graduating community college players could sign with four-year colleges. That is a drop from last season, when the Aztecs took a record 19 players from San Diego County, including 13 of their 16 high school recruits.
Stolz said the Aztec needs, especially for linemen, led them outside the county.
"Last year, San Diego produced a lot of great skill players and that is what we needed," he said. "Next year we'll take some more skill players, but this year we needed linemen."
That search led the Aztecs to their only two out-of-state players--Darren Cooley, a 6-foot 3-inch defensive lineman from Windsor Hills Baptist High School in Oklahoma City, and Brent Montler, a 6-2, 215-pound center from Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo.
California players again dominated the recruiting class.
The Aztecs signed 14 seniors from California high schools and seven players from California community colleges. Two of the community college players--linemen Steve Blythe and Derek Sang of Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana--are attending classes at SDSU and will be eligible for spring practice starting March 7. Also enrolled and eligible to start practice is Mark Hyatt, a 6-4, 235-pound freshman defensive lineman from Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley who did not attend college last fall.
Hyatt will count against this year's NCAA allotment of 30 scholarships, as will Dan McGwire, a junior quarterback who is sitting out the season after transferring from Iowa. That leaves SDSU with five scholarships available. Stolz said he intends to award those in the coming weeks. He was not, however, promising any big surprises like last season, when the Aztecs signed Vista running back Tommy Booker and Lincoln receiver Patrick Rowe after the start of the letter-of-intent period.
"Linemen and linebackers don't get the publicity," Stolz said. "So maybe the names this year aren't as recognizable."
But while the class might lack marquee value, it doesn't lack glamour. Not when one of the recruits is the winner of TEEN magazine's 1987 Dream Guy contest.
Scott Kilgore, a 6-1, 190-pound linebacker from Gunderson High School in San Jose, is featured in a two-page spread in the magazine's March issue, in which he is described as a "hazel-eyed heartthrob" and a "gem of a guy."
"I don't know about all of that," Stolz said, laughing. "When I saw him, he was rolling around on a wrestling mat."