Four quarterbacks, one spot. Talk about a quarterback battle royale.
With the annual Cal Poly football Spring Game just days away, the fight for the starting quarterback position for the 2013 season is raging on. Four different players will take snaps under center on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in hopes of replacing former starter Andre Broadous, who finished his career last season leading the Mustangs to a Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth and a 9-3 record as a senior.
“You look up the definition of competition and this is what it’s all about,” Cal Poly quarterbacks coach Juston Wood said. “It’s about people bringing out the best in each other as they’re competing for this spot at quarterback.”
Entering last year’s spring game, Broadous was the favorite to get the nod under center. Not the same story this year.
Redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin, sophomore transfer Dano Graves, junior Vince Moraga and sophomore Chris Brown will all vie for that coveted spot making this year’s battle extra interesting.
But even more intriguing is the history of several of these quarterbacks, especially that of Trosin and Graves. They’ve battled on the gridiron before.
Both played prep football at Folsom High School in the Sacramento area and both proved to be very successful at that level. Graves won a California state championship with the Bulldogs, while Trosin broke several state, section and team records during his senior year, the only year he played at quarterback full time.
“You can tell both those guys came from the same program,” Wood said. “Both are extremely well coached in the pass game from the waist down. They’re both extremely competitive kids, and winning is important to those guys.”
Graves originally committed to Air Force from Folsom in 2011 after posting one of the best passing seasons in school history. Along with his CIF Division II title, Graves set a state record with 85 total touchdowns while throwing for 3,702 yards and rushing for 994 more.
He went on to play at Air Force’s equivalent of a team made up of redshirts — there is no redshirt eligibility at military schools — at the Air Force Academy Prep School the year after high school. There, he played on an organized team designed to be a sort of pipeline to the varsity squad at the Academy by playing games against community college teams.
But Graves admitted that the military lifestyle wasn’t for him and recently decided to transfer to the school that both of his parents attended — Cal Poly.
“(The transition) has gone pretty smoothly,” Graves said. “As of right now, I’m still learning the offense, but I feel that I’m picking up pretty quickly. I just need to keep grinding.”
Graves said getting game experience on the prep school team in Colorado Springs, Colo. helped him transition to Cal Poly and prepared him for the four-way quarterback battle. Nevertheless, he’s not as familiar with the Mustangs’ offense as the other three and has the most to learn.
“You don’t see it too often,” Graves said regarding the competition this spring. “There’s definitely a lot of competition, but you just got to stay focused, especially for me coming in as the only guy who hasn’t been in this offense yet. I have to pick everything up pretty fast.”
Graves will likely use his arsenal of quickness along with his ability to throw to try to impress the coaching staff this Saturday. At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, he’s the smallest of the quarterbacks, so he’ll have to rely on his other assets.
“Dano is really good with the ball in his hands,” Wood said. “He’s really dynamic in space making people miss.”
While Graves was leading Folsom to a state championship in 2010, Trosin was waiting in the wings for his turn at the helm of the Bulldogs’ offense. A year younger than Graves, Trosin took over his spot under center when Graves graduated and made the most of his one year at the helm.
Trosin amassed a California state record of 6,346 yards total yards — 5,185 through the air and 1,179 on the ground — and compiled four games of 400-plus passing yard performances en route to Max Preps State Division II Player of the Year honors. His 69 total touchdowns that year ranks second in state history behind Graves’ 85 set in 2010.
“It felt nice my senior year finally getting my opportunity to play, and I took advantage of it,” Trosin said. “Now I’ve just got to still play my game and see where it takes me.”
He hopes it takes him to the top of the depth chart next fall, but after running nearly every snap out of the shotgun at Folsom, Trosin will have to adjust to Cal Poly’s triple-option attack and get used to handling snaps from under center, according to Wood.
But despite his eye-popping numbers, Trosin wasn’t recruited by other schools out of high school like Graves was, so coming to Cal Poly was the natural fit for him if he wanted to play football. In return, the Mustangs got arguably one of the best arms the team has seen in years.
“Tanner’s x-factor is that he’s one of the best young passers I’ve seen in a long time,” Wood said.
While he didn’t exactly live in Graves’ shadow at Folsom, Trosin didn’t get that 2010 championship ring as a starter. Perhaps he’ll get the chance to lead Cal Poly back to a Big Sky championship and get the recognition some expect of a record-breaking quarterback.