The Cal Poly football team does not have a high volume of players to replace this offseason, but they all come at crucial positions.
And with the FCS playoffs over for the Mustangs following last week’s 18-16 second-round loss at Sam Houston State, head coach Tim Walsh must now focus on getting his team ready to face next fall’s recently announced 2013 schedule that includes games against two FBS opponents.
There were rumors Walsh was coveted by Idaho last month, but part of the reason he said he declined to interview when someone with connections to the program phoned was to see through first-hand what he had built in San Luis Obispo.
Next season will be the first that Cal Poly’s roster will be comprised solely of players signed by the fourth-year coach.
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“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Give me one good reason why you would rather stay at Cal Poly,’ ” said Walsh, whose current contract runs through the 2016 season.
“I feel like we’ve kind of built it to that point because these guys are the guys that we’ve recruited.
“There’s still some things on the horizon that this place can accomplish.”
The Mustangs have a challenging schedule largely because of the two FBS road games in September.
For the second straight season, Cal Poly will open the year at home against nonscholarship FCS rival San Diego on Aug. 31. Then come trips to Mountain West Conference members Fresno State and Colorado State on Sept. 7 and 14.
The Big Sky Conference opener at Portland State comes a week before a nonconference home game against Yale on Oct. 5, and the Mustangs close out the season with eight straight Big Sky games, including home matchups with Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington and road games at Montana and UC Davis.
Of the few decisions Walsh has to make on starting spots, quarterback will be the most scrutinized.
Departing seniors include quarterback Andre Broadous, running back Deonte Williams, center Geoff Hyde, tackle Karl Winklelman, middle linebacker Kennith Jackson and cornerback Nico Molino.
With Broadous and Williams, Cal Poly loses 39 touchdowns and more than 2,000 rushing yards.
Jackson, second on the team with 97 tackles, and Williams were the Mustangs’ only two all-Big Sky Conference first-team honorees. Molino, an honorable mention, had a team-high four interceptions and 16 pass deflections.
Outside linebacker Nick Dzubnar, who led the team with 107 tackles as a sophomore, will move over to middle linebacker with former Wisconsin transfer Cameron Ontko becoming an every-down player at Dzubnar’s old position.
Williams should be replaced by Kristaan Ivory, who ran for 728 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore reserve. Senior cornerback Bijon Samoodi, a former starter who redshirted this season with a hip injury, should move into Molino’s spot.
The offensive line could see a shuffle, but Cal Poly has plenty of depth there after injuries this season forced three freshmen into the starting lineup.
Overall depth is strong after four recruiting classes by Walsh, and it doesn’t appear as if there will be many opportunities for true freshmen to play right away.
There is no clear-cut solution to replace Broadous, however.
Vying for the quarterback spot are Vince Moraga, Chris Brown and Tanner Trosin — all three of which, Walsh said, are on equal footing going into spring practice.
“We still really want to continue to grow in the pass game,” Walsh said, “so that would be a position of emphasis from the protection standpoint. Some of it will depend on the quarterback, but we think all of them have some attributes. Chris and Tanner both have strong arms. Both are very accurate throwers.”
With possibly the strongest arm, Brown was a highly touted recruit after a successful senior year running the option at Compton Dominguez High in 2010 but did not practice after sustaining an eye injury midway through this past season.
In one year as the starter at Folsom High in 2011, Trosin passed for 5,185 yards and 49 touchdowns and ran for more than 1,000 yards. He spent most of this past season with the scout team.
Moraga, who will be a junior, was a primary backup behind Broadous and has the most experience in the offense, one still rooted in the triple option.
“You have to be able to run the base foundation of the offense first,” Walsh said.
“Vince has a good opportunity to show what he knows and what he can do. The shotgun option stuff as well as the under-center make a determination on what we think is the right way to move with each quarterback.”