By Ernesto Gonzalez:
Despite an offseason of changes to San Jose State’s coaching staff, defensive backs coach Will Harris is remaining on board after the Spartan secondary ranked in the top 20 in passing yards allowed last season.
Head coach Brent Brennan praised Harris, saying that he worked hard all winter even when the Spartans didn’t have a head coach.
“His fingerprints are on nearly every kid that we have recruited in this class,” Brennan said. “The biggest question remaining is how the new secondary will handle and prepare themselves for the pressure of maintaining the weight of a top-twenty pass defense?
Cornerback Andre Chachere and safety Maurice McKnight will both return to the Spartans as seniors.
Chachere made first-team All-Mountain West and had his best year as a Spartan last season, averaging three tackles per game, team-high 14 pass breakups and had a six total takeaways.
Mcknight on the other hand, has been nothing short of spectacular as he hasn’t had under 60 tackles in a season since becoming a Spartan, solidifying his role as the backbone of the secondary. White, Ezell, and Toussaint will be fortunate enough to learn a thing or two out of SJSU’s veteran defensive backfield.
Dwight Lowery and Bene Benwikere are two of SJSU’s most recent star cornerbacks and are currently playing in the NFL.
Brennan was asked during the signing day news conference if he sees any elite players in this years’ signees.
“There are some stars in this recruiting class,” Brennan said.
Three of the 23 signees will be in Harris’ hands.
The Spartans are bringing in Tre White, a 6’0 cornerback, from the Bay Area. He specializes particularly when playing zone coverage, and has a rare college football ability of defending with his eyes on the quarterback. Eyes on the QB will help a ton, especially when SJSU play conference quarterbacks Josh Allen of Wyoming, Dalton Sneed from UNLV or Dru Brown from Hawaii, who all are capable of extending plays with their legs.
CB Brandon Ezell, 6’1”, from Cerritos Junior College in Norwalk, California also committed. He thrives on instinct, hand-eye coordination (thanks to four years of high school lacrosse), leaping ability and knows how to time his jumps. This is important for the Spartans, as they will be facing tall receivers such as Hawaii’s Marcus Kemp or KeeSean Johnson from Fresno State throughout the upcoming season.
John Toussaint, a 6’0 defensive back comes to SJSU out of Merced junior college. Nicknamed “The Truth,” Toussaint is a ballhawk and could be a valuable piece for the Spartans. He will look to be a centerpiece to the turnover juggernaut the Spartans’ defense was last season with 19 turnovers.
It’s the beginning of a long process for the Brennan era, but if the Spartans want a shot at another bowl game, it must keep its strength where it is – in the secondary.