With just a few days left until the start of spring practice, the Cal Poly football team has lost one of the architects to an offense that ranked among the very best in the FCS last season.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Cook will be the new quarterbacks coach at Georgia Tech, where he got his start as a Division I assistant back in 2001.
Cook joined the Mustangs staff when head coach Tim Walsh took over in 2009. He’s served as co-offensive coordinator and play-caller since then, helping the triple-option offense morph into a multi-formation scheme that ran most of its plays out of the shotgun last season.
“We made great strides a year ago in kind of an evolution,” Cook said. “The whole offensive staff, we made those decisions, and we researched a lot.”
The Mustangs ranked third in the country with 324.2 rushing yards per game while finishing 9-3 this past season and getting a bye into the second round of the FCS playoffs. Cal Poly was also 13th in total offense per game (449.3) and seventh in scoring offense (36.7 points per game).
“Offensively, our numbers rise each year as far as points, yards and explosive plays,” Walsh said. “That’s a great tribute to the entire staff, but Bryan is the offensive coordinator, and he did a great job coordinating the offense.
“It’s a compliment to him, a compliment to our program, and he was much deserving of the opportunity.”
Though they passed for just 1,502 yards, the Mustangs led the nation with a 175.7 passing efficiency rating.
Coming into the start of spring practice, Cook said, “My big focus, even though we were ranked really high, was in pass efficiency. My focus was to find a way to throw it more efficiently. That’s where we spent our time in the offseason.”
That task, Walsh said, now moves to co-offensive coordinator Saga Tuitele, who coaches the offensive line and will now take over play-calling. Receivers coach Juston Wood, a former quarterback in the Arena League, will assume Cook’s former duties coaching quarterbacks.
While other coaches are shuffled in house, Walsh said he will make a replacement hire sometime near the end of spring drills, a string of 15 practices that opens with a 6:30 a.m. session at the Upper Sports Complex on Wednesday and wraps up with the Spring Game at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on May 4 at 1 p.m.
Cal Poly also lost defensive line coach Jamar Cain earlier this offseason when the fourth-year assistant left for the same post at Wyoming. Walsh said former Idaho defensive line coach Eti Ena has joined the Mustangs staff and will be present for spring practice.
For Cook, the move to Atlanta seems like something of a homecoming. He met his wife Julia during a three-year stint when he was an assistant coach at Georgia Tech under George O’Leary and then Chan Gailey. Cook joined former Yellow Jackets coach Bobby Ross at Army in 2004, and took over as head coach of the West Point Prep team the following year.
That’s where he met Walsh, who served as the offensive coordinator at Army for the 2007-08 seasons.
Now Cook joins Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, who brought his own brand of the option offense to the Atlantic Coast Conference when he came from Navy for the 2008 season.
Cook said it was the only coaching opportunity he pursued this offseason, and even though he was recognized for the points and yardage Cal Poly’s offense was able to compile, his network made the Yellow Jackets a natural fit.
“It was a combination of success and the relationships and my familiarity with this program and this institution,” Cook said.
“I would like to be a head coach, and that’s probably why I took this position, so somewhere down the line, I may have that opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Cook leaves behind a doozy of a quarterback position battle to replace former starter Andre Broadous.
Junior Vince Moraga has the most experience running Cal Poly’s option. Sophomore Chris Brown might have the strongest arm. Redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin ran the scout team last season after racking up a state record 6,364 yards of total offense his senior year at Folsom High.
Add to that trio recent Air Force transfer and sophomore Dano Graves, another former Folsom standout who won a Division II state title in 2010 when he was MaxPreps’ national player of the year and set a state record with 82 total touchdowns.
Cook said the competition was wide open, and he doesn’t expect a starter to be named coming out of spring drills.
Walsh did not indicate a frontrunner.