San Diego State senior Jesse Matthews could cement his name among SDSU’s top 10 all-time wide receivers should he choose to return next season.
Matthews’ career numbers are especially impressive given the Aztecs have featured a run-dominant offense during most of his tenure with the team.
The question is, will Matthews’ return to use his “COVID year” of eligibility?
“I still haven’t made a decision yet,” Matthews said. “I go back and forth on it.
“I have to talk to my family about it. Talk to the coaches. It’s a big decision for me. I have to weigh all my options and see what’s best for me and my future.”
Matthews, who came to SDSU as a walk-on from Christian High, ranks eighth all time in receptions (163), 17th in receiving yards (1,981) and 14th in receiving touchdowns (15) coming into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Air Force.
Based on his averages over the past two seasons, Matthews projects to be third all time in receptions, eighth in receiving yards and fifth in receiving touchdowns if he returns for the 2023 season.
Like every other college football player, Matthews aspires to play at the next level.
Gauging his professional prospects is perhaps the most important piece in determining whether Matthews makes himself immediately available for the NFL after this season.
“I’ve been blessed to play here for five years,” said Matthews, who has 34 receptions for 380 yards and three touchdowns this year. “I have an option to come back, something that’s really awesome, but, like I said, I have to talk to my family about it.
“I’ve tried to focus on the season, and focus on Air Force, try to finish this season out the right way, the way that these seniors deserve to finish, and play the best football that we can.
“I think I’ll give it a little more thought maybe next week, leading up to the bowl game. After the season’s officially finished, I’ll make my decision.”
Shaw gets scholarship
During a team meeting Monday in the auditorium at the Fowler Athletics Center, Hoke asked sophomore Mehki Shaw to stand up, then told the walk-on wide receiver from Scripps Ranch High: “You got a scholarship.”
The room erupted in cheers as Shaw was congratulated by his teammates.
The 5-foot-10 Shaw had a career night last week against New Mexico, catching six passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
He now is third on the team in receptions (28) and receiving yards (343) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (3).
“We had one left to give and he stood out,” SDSU head coach Brady Hoke said. “You look at what he’s done in the last six weeks. Also, every day how he practiced, returning kicks and punts and all that kind of stuff.
“And then just the effort he gives. He earned it.”
Hoke said he wanted to reward Shaw before the semester ended so the scholarship include the 2022 fall semester.
According to SDSU’s website, a scholarship for the 2022-23 year is valued from $23,888 (living with parents) to $32,110 (living in university housing). Basic tuition is $8,174 annually.
“From Day 1, he’s been willing to learn and try to grow as a receiver, take any knowledge that you give him,” Matthews said. “He’s someone who is very deserving of that scholarship.”
Praise for Coach Coop
Shaw is SDSU’s fourth walk-on in seven years to be given a scholarship — joining Curtis Anderson (2016), Matthews (2019) and B.J. Busbee (2021) — out of the wide receivers room.
“I think one thing that is pretty notable about that is we’ve all had the same coach, and it’s Coach (Hunkie) Cooper,” Matthews said. “I think it speaks a lot to his development of young men and what he’s been able to do with us young receivers who have been walk-ons.
“I just want to give him his flowers and his roses for what he’s done for not only me but all the receivers in the room.
“How he develops young men and football players is very special and something that should not only be noticed but celebrated. He’s a great coach.”
Browning earns MW honor
SDSU kicker/punter Jack Browning earned Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against New Mexico.
It was the second time being recognized this season for Browning, who kicked 30- and 46-yard field goals against the Lobos. He also punted twice, including a career-best 63-yarder.
Though a senior, Browning has a “COVID year” of eligibility remaining and is expected back next season.
Mountain West update
The Mountain West championship game matchup is set after Boise State (8-3, 7-0 MW) and Fresno State (7-4, 6-1) clinched the Mountain and West divisions, respectively, with victories over the weekend.
The teams will meet Dec. 3 in Boise for the conference title.
The winner is expected to be invited to the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, with the runner-up likely going to the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl.
Five other MW teams also are bowl eligible — Fresno State (7-4), SDSU (7-4), San Jose State (6-4), Utah State (6-5) and Wyoming (7-4).
There is another game of consequence, however, with Nevada (2-9) at UNLV (4-7).
The Rebels need a fifth victory to be considered for a bowl berth in the event there are not enough six-win teams to fill all 82 bowl slots.
Filling with 5-7 teams is based on their Academic Progress Report (APR) scores. Rice (5-6) and UNLV, with a win this weekend, would be the first two teams considered in such an instance.
Safety CJ Baskerville has returned to practice after missing the past four games with a right foot injury.
Whether Baskerville is ready to return to the lineup is another matter.
Cedarious Barfield is listed as the starter at Baskerville’s Boundary Warrior position. True freshman Josh Hunter is listed as the backup.