The Cal Poly football team is looking for the next Andre Broadous.
The Mustangs have found that replacing their triple option’s former orchestrator is not as easy as they’d hoped.
After Saturday’s spring game, the conclusion of a monthlong offseason practice schedule, Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh is no closer to naming a starting quarterback than he was at the start.
All four candidates — including sophomore Chris Brown, who sat out with a left wrist injury — remain viable contenders, Walsh said.
On Saturday, junior Vince Moraga, redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin and sophomore Air Force transfer Dano Graves led the offense to two touchdowns and a field goal at Alex G. Spanos Stadium two weeks after the defense shut them out completely in an extended scrimmage at the Upper Sports Complex.
The offense amassed 467 total yards and 30 first downs in an intrasquad scrimmage designed to emulate a regulation game complete with officials.
But while each quarterback has made strides, they’re also still correcting flaws.
“Each guy has to get to their maximum potential of who they are,” Walsh said, “and whoever does that first will probably be the starting quarterback.
“There’s no order right now. I wish I could say that there was. The competition is wide open, and there is no decision as far as who we are.”
Trosin led the most scoring drives, but he also had a teachable moment.
On fourth-and-2 at the 9-yard line, Trosin was stopped short on a quarterback sneak. It was exactly the kind of play spectators at Spanos Stadium witnessed Broadous convert countless times seemingly with ease.
As coach and quarterback had an intimate chat walking back down the field following the wasted drive, Walsh realized that maybe those short running plays weren’t as easy as Broadous made it look, and Trosin realized he needed to improve his conditioning.
“He said, ‘What did you learn on that drive?’ ” Trosin said. “I said, ‘I’m tired coach.’ … He said, ‘As the quarterback, you need to be the most in shape guy out there.’ ”
Said Walsh: “You have to find a way to get that first down. Down there, we go for it a lot because we know we can get it and when you do that, it puts doubt in our minds.
“I’d rather him learn that out here and not on a Saturday night next year.”
Trosin also looked much improved from the scrimmage two weeks ago, where he lost a fumbled snap on his first possession and was quickly replaced.
He was 3-of-4 passing for 43 yards and ran for 31 yards on 10 carries. One of his second-half drives set up a 27-yard field goal by senior kicker Bobby Zalud, and on his second drive of the first half, Trosin connected with sophomore Navy transfer receiver Sam Holguin for an 18-yard touchdown.
“That felt good,” Trosin said. “It felt like I could go out there, and the next time I get a series, I could try to do the same thing. My confidence goes up, and it gives me control under center to know exactly what to do.
“There’s still some areas I need to work on, but I’m going to take that as a learning experience.”
Moraga started with the first team, and was nearly flawless passing the ball.
He was 6 of 8 for 40 yards, including a 16-yard second-half touchdown pass to redshirt freshman receiver Carson McMurtrey, Trosin’s go-to receiver when they were teammates at Folsom High.
Moraga could have doubled his passing total on one throw, but a nicely placed deep ball to sophomore Roland Jackson went through the receiver’s arms and he could not make the lunging catch.
A speed threat that also ran a pair of end-around plays for 11 yards, Jackson ran behind the defense to set up the throw.
“Roland Jackson is a guy that we’re expecting at some point in time to be a play-maker,” Walsh said. “He’s fast enough, and he’s proved it, but he’s got to at some point make some plays for us. That’s going to come, and it was good to put him in that opportunity, but he’s got to make some plays for us.”
Graves, another Folsom product, joined the team the week before spring practice started. He was just 2-of-8 passing for 22 yards and threw a second-half interception tipped by a receiver and caught by junior cornerback and former Nipomo High standout Kevin Britt.
Graves did, however, pace the quarterbacks with 45 rushing yards on 11 carries.
Led by redshirt freshman slotback Kori Garcia’s 56 yards on nine carries, the offense racked up 317 rushing yards on 83 run plays. Senior fullback Matthew Rulon had 47 yards on nine carries, and junior fullback Brent Michaels had 46 yards on eight attempts.
Slotbacks Kristaan Ivory and Kenny Mitchell combined for six catches, with Mitchell leading the team with 53 yards on his three grabs. McMurtrey had two catches for 23 yards, and six others had one reception apiece.
Defensively, senior linebacker Xavier Ramos had a team-high 10 tackles. Junior defensive lineman Wesley Flowers had seven tackles, junior end Omar Omilabu and converted offensive lineman Joe Coleman had six stops apiece, and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Marcus Paige-Allen had a sack.
The quarterbacks will continue their four-way competition into training camp in August, but at some point within the first two weeks of fall practice, the focus usually shifts from position battles to game planning for the season opener.
“The sooner the better,” Moraga said, “because the mentality changes knowing you’re the guy.
“Game preparation is definitely different than competition. If you know you’re the guy, it’s kind of easier going into it, but if you don’t, there’s nothing you can do about that.”