With quarterback Khaleel Jenkins graduating, Cal Poly Football is now faced with an important question: Who will be the starting quarterback next year?
Although head coach Tim Walsh and his staff have not named a frontrunner, it appears that junior Jake Jeffrey, sophomore Kyle Reid and redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler are the candidates being considered.
“Jalen and Kyle both have tremendous talent,” Walsh said. “Don’t count out Jake Jeffrey, because he really gets how to play our game and our offense.”
So what do each of these candidates bring to the table?
Jeffrey has the most in-game experience and is the most familiar with Cal Poly’s form of the triple-option offense. Jeffrey played in the final six games of his redshirt freshman season after Jenkins was injured. With Jeffrey starting, the Mustangs went 1-5, with the lone win coming against a winless Portland State team. That was Cal Poly’s only win of the 2017 season.
In this year’s spring exhibition game — the candidates’ opportunity to showcase themselves — Jeffrey completed one pass for four yards and ran for a loss of three yards on his lone attempt.
“I think it’s a good fight — I embrace the competition, and I’m excited to see who [the new quarterback] is going into the season,” Jeffrey said.
Despite a somewhat lackluster spring game stat sheet, Jeffrey remains determined moving forward.
“We’ve still got a whole fall camp after this, but it’s been fun, and obviously it makes you better when you have a tough competition,” Jeffrey said.
Reid served as the backup to Jeffrey in his redshirt 2017 season but saw no playing time during the 2018 season. In his limited playing time, Reid has completed one pass on one attempt for a 14-yard gain. On the ground, he picked up 62 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts.
“I’m just working on all the personal stuff that I have to do,” Reid said. “So all the individual characteristics, all the qualities I need to develop on as quarterback, and focusing on all the schemes.”
In the spring game, Reid connected on both of his passing attempts and rushed for 16 yards on five attempts.
Unlike the other candidates, Hamler has yet to see any in-game playing time. He is making a strong impression early, however.
“I’m just going to come in, compete, do what I got to do, run the show and hope at the end of this I come out on top — or whoever it is, the best man will win,” Hamler said prior to the spring game.
Although the spring game is purely an exhibition, if there was a “winner,” it was Hamler.
Hamler completed four of his seven pass attempts for 71 yards and connected with junior wide receiver Quentin Harrison on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Hamler also rushed for 49 yards on 12 attempts.
In his four years at Lawndale High School in Los Angeles, Hamler passed for 4,372 yards and 49 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 342 attempts and rushed for 1,437 yards and 21 more touchdowns.
Cal Poly went 5-6 in the 2018 season and graduated 16 players, including Jenkins and all-time leading rusher Joe Protheroe.
The Mustangs will open the 2019 season against the University of San Diego on August 31 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Though Walsh will ultimately have to name a starter by then, he is not showing signs of who the frontrunner is.
“It’s a battle, and we’ll see who wins out,” Walsh said.