The San Jose State Spartans will be playing a new brand of football with yet another transfer quarterback expected to start in 2022. Despite the coaching staff remaining mostly intact, the Spartans will rely on a strong defense and a new face at quarterback with Chevan Cordeiro transferring in from Hawaii. Fortunate for Cordeiro, that strong defense is just that: strong. San Jose State’s defense is led by talent at every level, and they dominate their top 10 returning players in 2022.
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 Jose 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 Jose State in 2022.
10) Soane Toia, DT
If there’s one player on the defensive rotation that showcased an elite ability, albeit on a limited sample size, it was Soane Toia. Toia, the younger brother of All-American Siaki Ika at Baylor, is cut from the same type of material as his nationally-known older sibling. He has a long reach and a terrific combination of balance and strength in the middle. Toia is a name to watch.
9) Malikhi Miller, WR
It was in a limited manner last season, but Malikhi Miller was impressive in 2021. He averaged a whopping 22.0 yards per catch and needed just nine receptions to reach 198 total yards through the air. With a new passing attack and the shifty duo of receivers occupying the slot, Miller could become the deep threat for Cordeiro to rely on from the outside.
8) Alii Matau, LB
With great instincts, Alii Matau finished third on the team with three sacks a year ago. He timed blitzes perfectly and knew how to finish if he had clear pass-rushing lanes. Matau also showcased an ability to run the alley against the run and close off backside lanes with his presence in the middle.
7) Tre Jenkins, S
If the linebackers in front of Tre Jenkins weren’t making the tackle, you better believe ball carriers were rarely getting by him as the last line of defense. Jenkins is a true downhill force with great technique against the run and plus-coverage skills if tasked with one-on-one situations. He roams free in the San Jose State defense, fitting right into his skill set where he can utilize his speed in the open field.
6) Kenyon Reed, CB
A highlight reel waiting to happen, Kenyon Reed showcased what made him a former Kansas State Wildcat in 2021 with the Spartans. Recording a 58-yard pick-six as his first collegiate interception, the 6’0″, lanky defensive back proved he can lock down receivers in his coverage. He showcased great fluidity in his hips and has an ability to keep everything in front of him, largely allowing his receivers nothing when it comes to yardage after the catch.
5) Isaiah Hamilton, WR
San Jose State’s leading returner in receptions and receiving yards, Isaiah Hamilton wins both at the catch point and after the catch all the same. He averaged 14.6 yards per reception a season ago and has displayed sure hands during his career. Hamilton uses his speed and elusiveness to find breaks in coverages and stem off his route breaks to find open lanes for his quarterback. He’s a reliable No. 1 from the inside for whoever is throwing passes in 2022.
4) Cade Hall, EDGE
Pairing to make one of the better edge-rushing duos in all of college football, Cade Hall is back for one more go with the Spartans. Hall finished with six tackles for loss last season as well as four sacks. He rips through smaller tackles with reckless abandon and uses his brute strength to push the pocket. If he’s not bringing down the quarterback, he’s affecting the passer with his ability to get his hands up in the lane or push his blockers into the throwing lanes.
3) Kyle Harmon, LB
An absolute tackling machine, Kyle Harmon has recorded 342 total tackles over the past four seasons. Since taking over as the starting middle linebacker halfway through the 2019 season, Harmon has averaged double-digit tackles per game. He has the ability to take over contests, recording a whopping 12 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage against Nevada a season ago. That’s what separates him from the rest of the linebackers with gaudy tackle numbers: Harmon’s tackles happen at or behind the line of scrimmage more often than not.
2) Nehemiah Shelton, CB
The SJSU defense didn’t cause many turnovers a season ago, but when they did record a takeaway, Nehemiah Shelton was likely responsible or close to the man responsible. Shelton brings with him incredible length but sacrifices nothing in the way of speed in coverage. He recorded two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in a dominant season outside in 2021.
1) Viliami Fehoko, EDGE
A master of his craft, Viliami Fehoko is back after 24 straight games and 31 career outings in his time at San Jose State. Fehoko is a dominant pass rusher with an incredibly high motor and better technique. He led the team with seven sacks a season ago while posting a team-high 12.5 total tackles for loss. Fehoko lives in the backfield, whether it’s a pass or a run, and is an opposing tackle’s worst nightmare with his blend of speed and strength off the edge.
Honorable mention players returning to San Jose State in 2022
- Jaime Navarro, OT
- Charles Ross, WR
- Jermaine Braddock, WR
- Lando Grey, DT
- Jordan Cobbs, LB
- Noah Wright, DT