The San Diego State Aztecs are set to consistently be a force in the race for the Mountain West Conference crown. With San Diego State’s top 10 returning players outlined below, it’s safe to say they’ll once again be dominant on the defensive side of the ball. Running their own unique 3-3-5 defense, it seems like year after year, SDSU provides the nation with some of the top defensive backs. This year is no different.
For each Mountain West team’s top returning players: Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming
Top 10 returning players at San Diego State
As the countdown to the regular season continues, as does our top 10 returning players series. We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players to San Diego State in 2022.
10) Cedarious Barfield, S
With sticky coverage skills from his days as a cornerback, Cedarious Barfield is still blossoming as the Aztecs’ starting field warrior. He moves incredibly well laterally and has plenty of closing speed from his track days in high school. Barfield returns opposite some extremely talented secondary mates to form one of the best units in the country.
9) CJ Baskerville, S
Coming on strong as the season progressed, CJ Baskerville started the final four games of the 2021 season. He capped a great true freshman season with his first collegiate interception against UTSA in the Frisco Bowl. Baskerville has great size at 6’2″ and over 200 pounds, playing the boundary warrior role nearly to perfection. With an expanded role in 2022, expect to hear Baskerville’s name much more.
8) Michael Shawcroft, LB
It’s hard to miss Michael Shawcroft when watching the SDSU defense. Shawcroft routinely makes plays in every facet. He comes downhill in underneath coverage like a missile. Shawcroft patrols his side of the field with sticky coverage and sure tackling. He also presents a challenge against slow-to-react offensive players because of his keen instincts paired with his superb athleticism.
7) Alama Uluave, C
With 18 straight starts to his credit, Alama Uluave has been a constant for the SDSU offensive line over the past two seasons. A dominant athlete, Uluave moves people around in the run game with ease, utilizing his strength surprisingly well despite being on the move more often than not. Additionally, Uluave presents a wide base, strong anchor, and great technique in pass protection.
6) Tyrell Shavers, WR
2021 was a modest season for Tyrell Shavers, hauling in just 18 receptions for 213 yards. But the former Alabama and Mississippi State receiver is set to see a boom in targets his way. Shavers has shown the ability throughout his career to go up and get the ball against any defender. He uses his 6’6″ frame very well in contested situations, but he also has plenty of twitch to his routes.
5) Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson, OT
The big man on the right side was dominant in 2021. Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson started all 14 games for the Aztecs a year ago, limiting pressure in the passing game and paving the way on the ground. Crenshaw-Dickson is a massive man at 6’6″ and 320 pounds but moves with great agility and lateral footwork. He has a great sense of balance through contact and is hardly overmatched by any pass rusher or defender.
4) Jesse Matthews, WR
One of the country’s best feel-good stories, Jesse Matthews is so much more than a former walk-on at SDSU. Matthews is a master of his craft, running crisp routes with subtle breaks that allow him to separate from any defender. He returns as the team’s leader in every major receiving category from last year, including nine touchdowns which were more than the rest of the team combined. Matthews understands coverages well, navigating himself to the open holes in zone or using the field dynamics to his advantage against man coverage. .
3) Keshawn Banks, EDGE
Set to see an increase in production, Keshawn Banks fills the mantle left behind by Cameron Thomas. Yet, his 2021 season opposite Thomas was dominant in its own regard. Banks finished with five sacks and a bevy of other quarterback pressures as he consistently rushed off the edge and met Thomas at the quarterback. Banks has a compact frame that allows him to use his strength against mismatched tackles and other would-be blockers. He also has the most experience on the San Diego State defense, with 34 career starts to date.
2) Jonah Tavai, DT
Finding his way to 8.5 sacks last season, Jonah Tavai was a monster in the middle of the SDSU defense. Tavai anchors the Aztecs’ 3-3-5 defense with his play on the defensive line. Utilizing his rugby background, Tavai is no stranger to moving the pocket as he handles the masses with his brute strength. He also presents a challenge with his hands, quick feet, and low center of gravity to uproot any offensive lineman. Tavai finishes nicely and is equally impressive as an enforcer against the run.
1) Patrick McMorris, S
A year removed from leading the team in total tackles, Patrick McMorris returns to pace the Aztecs’ defense in 2022. Starring in the SDSU “Aztec” position, McMorris utilizes his athleticism and underrated strength to play equally as well in coverage as he does in run defense. A former high school running back, McMorris sure knows how to handle the ball and find the ball in the air, as evidenced by his four interceptions and 75 return yards from a season ago.
If he’s not making tackles at or around the line of scrimmage, intercepting passes, or just generally affecting the offense’s gameplan, he’s breaking up plays in both facets.
Honorable mention players returning to San Diego State in 2022
- Seyddrick Lakalaka, LB
- Dallas Branch, CB
- Chance Bell, RB
- Caden McDonald, EDGE
- Jay Rudolph, TE
- Noah Avinger, CB