After last weekend’s Cal Poly football Spring Game at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, one thing is clear: The quarterback situation still remains a mystery.
Not one of the four main quarterbacks distanced themselves from the pack for the right to be called the starter in the fall, and because of that, head coach Tim Walsh will have a difficult decision to make come training camp. But each quarterback knows they’ve got what it takes to get the nod under center, as long as they produce in the months leading up to the season.
And for each individual pass hurler that’s locked into the quarterback battle, that production comes in very different forms.
Junior Vince Moraga took his familiarity with the offense into the Spring Game on Saturday and finished the day 6 of 8 passing for 60 yards with a touchdown pass.
The Oxnard native has the most experience of any quarterback running Walsh’s triple-option offense, as he was Andre Broadous’ backup last year on a team that went 9-3 and made it to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs for the first time in four years. Not to mention, he’s been a part of the team since 2009.
“I’m really comfortable with our offense as a whole and what we’re trying to do when we’re out there on the field,” Moraga said.
The oldest of the four quarterbacks in the competition, Moraga even saw some first-team repetitions in practice on those weeks that Broadous was hurt last year.
But Moraga’s ascension to second string this past season, along with a shot at the starter’s role this year, proved to be a rocky one at first. He nursed a back injury in his first year on campus and didn’t spend the season with the team that fall, as he was forced to grayshirt. On top of that, he was deemed ineligible to play in his second year, but he’s back now looking to capitalize on his opportunity at Cal Poly.
“Vince made some good throws that didn’t wind up being touchdowns, but probably should have been,” Walsh said of Moraga’s performance following the Spring Game. “We know what Vince can do, and we feel confident that he can get out and set a kind of tone for the other guys to live up to.”
As for the competition he faces with the other quarterbacks, Moraga has emerged as a leader by example, Walsh said. Moraga, though, views it more as a symbiotic relationship between him and the others.
“I’m getting used to it,” he said of the dead heat with fellow quarterbacks freshman Tanner Trosin, sophomore transfer Dano Graves and sophomore Chris Brown. “It’s been like this all spring and the rotations have been going pretty well. Behind the scenes, we’re all brothers, and we have each other’s backs. When we’re out there on the practice field it’s not too much of a competition. We’re correcting each other and picking each other up.”
While still very much in the race for next year’s spot at the helm of the offense, the sophomore Brown spent Saturday’s Spring Game on the sidelines nursing a left wrist bruise suffered during the first week of spring drills.
According to him, the Compton, Calif. native will be vying for the starting spot by using his athleticism to impress the Cal Poly coaches going into training camp. After all, Brown was originally recruited for his speed and shiftiness that helped Dominquez High School to a 10-2 record and a second round berth in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs his senior year.
He passed for 1,219 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing for 774 yards and six scores in that campaign. Doing so, he caught the attention of several Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools such as Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii. Based on his natural play-making abilities, he was offered to play cornerback or safety at those schools, but the 6-foot-1 Brown chose Cal Poly because he simply wanted to play quarterback.
“It worked out the way it was supposed to work out,” Brown said. “I’ve always wanted to be a quarterback since I was young. I’m here and trying to make due of my situation.”
If awarded the job, he’ll replace another athletic quarterback in Broadous who also passed on bigger name schools to get a shot at playing quarterback.
“Athleticism and being able to produce is my greatest strength,” Brown said. “Athleticism has a lot do with (production).”
No matter their strengths, though, each quarterback will have a lot to prove throughout the summer and early fall as the competition continues further. According to Walsh, he’d like to narrow the competition down by mid-August in preparation for his team’s first game against San Diego on Aug. 31.
“Each guy has got to get to their maximum potential, and whoever does that first will probably be the starting quarterback,” Walsh said.