Cal Poly football fans hoping to see the nation’s leading rushing attack in 2014 will have to wait a bit longer than this afternoon’s spring game to see a full stable of running Mustangs.
Thousand-yard rushers Chris Brown and Kori Garcia have both been ruled out of the 90-minute scrimmage — which starts at 1 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium — with the latter set to undergo a surgical procedure to repair a broken bone in his foot suffered last week.
Garcia, who was thrust into the starting slotback position last year after returning team MVP Kristaan Ivory was arrested in connection to an alleged robbery attempt at a campus fraternity, ran for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.
The non-contact injury occurred during practice April 20, and after an MRI revealed the break, head coach Tim Walsh said Garcia went to his native Los Angeles for another screening before surgery.
Walsh said the expected recovery time is six weeks, and that Garcia, Brown and backup slotback Elias Stokes should all be back for training camp.
Stokes will also not suit up for the spring game after he too went down with a non-contact injury during a recent practice. While his knee injury was initially feared to be to the ACL and require surgery, Walsh said the former Paso Robles High standout will be fine with rest.
“He’s a veteran,” Walsh said on whether the 2010 Tribune County Player of the Year will suffer from missed time. “He played enough last year and shown that if he’s 100 percent, he’ll be a contributor somewhere on our team.”
Quarterback depth still being determined
While Brown, who rushed for a team-best 1,381 yards and threw for 1,465 more in 2014, is the unquestioned starting quarterback heading into the season, the pecking order behind the senior has yet to be set.
That includes the status of incumbent backup and senior Dano Graves, who still has a redshirt year available.
Walsh hasn’t ruled out possibly redshirting Graves to save his final year of eligibility for 2016, but a lot of that hinges on Walsh’s comfort level with either junior Andrew Barna or redshirt freshman Kai Ross as the immediate backup this season.
Walsh said Graves “has been made well aware” of where the situation stands, and he’s looking to have a decision after two weeks of camp this summer.
First, Walsh is hoping to see more from Barna or Ross.
“There’s been some flashes, but enough inconsistency that we want to continue to see how they play,” Walsh said. “It’s still on the table, but it’s unfair to Dano to say anything definitively right now.”
As for Brown, the school and Big West single-season quarterback rushing record holder is still recovering from an ankle injury that knocked him out of the season-finale win over San Diego in which Graves ran for two second-half scores.
Relegated to a walking boot for most of the 15 spring practices, Brown wore pads and participated in a limited role for the first time Wednesday.
“If this was a game week,” Walsh said, “he’d play.”
Other things to look for today:
• The competition at fullback to replace departed starter Brandon Howe. Walsh said versatile sophomore Joe Prothroe will start with linebacker-turned-fullback Jared Mohamed as a backup expecting to see time. “Joe is so valuable in everything he does,” Walsh said. “Jared, at pure fullback, is probably just as good as Joe. But when you go into shotgun and things like that, Joe is able to do so much and has a chance with Kori to give us two feature backs.” Freshman Tony Miro as well as other players coming in next year will likely slot in behind the pair.
• Not many jobs can be officially won today, but Walsh did say performances at two positions in particular can go a long way toward finding starters for the season opener at Montana. “Linebacker has a chance to make an impression with us in regards to the first game,” he said. “I think safety is in that category as well. We have four or five guys at safety that are in the mix.”
• There will be no changes to the spring game points system. The offense (wearing green) can score a point for a first down and two points for plays of 25 yards or more with field goals, touchdowns and extra points counting their usual amount. The defense (in white) will get a point for every drive that ends in no points for the offense, three for a three-and-out, six for a turnover and 12 for any defensive touchdown with the extra point to follow. “I bet we’ll have some big plays on offense but not be very consistent,” Walsh said.
“You want to manage the number of plays certain guys get and not push the envelope, but in football, playing the game is really the only way to know if some of these guys will be ready.”