After the first spring scrimmage, Cal Poly’s four-way quarterback battle is still wide open.
Instead of separating from one another in Saturday morning’s 62-play session at the Upper Sports Complex, the Mustangs’ football foursome of signal-callers all shared the same pitfalls.
With snaps split somewhat evenly between junior Vince Moraga, sophomore Chris Brown, redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin and sophomore Dano Graves (a transfer from Air Force), each unit fumbled away possessions, and the entire offense was held out of the end zone.
“With the competition between us and the quarterbacks, the most important thing is ball security,” Moraga said. “That’s the one thing that really sticks out and overshadows the good things you do. Just being able to manage the offense, lead us downfield, sustain drives and not make errors.
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“I wouldn’t say we did as good as we could have, but a lot of those mental errors, they could definitely be fixed, and that’s something positive to look at.”
The best drive of the scrimmage might have been the first of the day. Moraga led the first-team offense on a 12-play drive against the first-team defense.
But after a 30-yard run by junior slotback Kristaan Ivory gave the offense a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line, senior slotback Cole Stanford lost a fumble at the 3.
All five of the Mustangs’ projected starters on the offensive line sat out while rehabbing off-season surgeries.
As quarterbacks and centers shuffled in and out, each offensive unit suffered from bobbled exchanges, bad snaps and busted pass protection.
Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said he anticipated those challenges considering the personnel, and he was closely watching each quarterback’s poise under pressure.
“I’m looking to see how they deal with the good, the bad and the ugly,” Walsh said. “We know they have young offensive linemen. In the future, they’ll be players, but we’re not expecting them to be the guys next year. So, there’s going to be some mistakes. We look to see how the quarterback is dealing with all the things he had deal with.”
Brown was the second quarterback to pilot the offense, and he broke off a 15-yard run in the opening segment. Brown also hit Roland Jackson for a 25-yard pass down the sideline in the fourth and final segment of the scrimmage.
Jackson nearly scored the only touchdown of the day when his defender fell down, but the sophomore receiver stepped out of bounds. Moraga came on to finish the drive, but the offense lost the ball again on a fumbled handoff.
Trosin was the third quarterback to play, but after he lost a fumble on his first set of plays, Graves came in and played the remainder of the second segment.
Graves had runs of 20 and 10 yards but was also sacked twice, and the drives stalled.
Graves played primarily out of the shotgun to give the defense a look more similar to what it will see from Big Sky Conference opponents this season, Walsh said, not necessarily an indication of the tendencies under new offensive playcaller Saga Tuietele.
Though more spectator eyes were on the offense, it was a dominant performance for a Mustangs defense that will have to replace only two starters from last season’s starting unit.
And those defenders are as interested in the quarterback battle as anyone else.
“They all just bring something different to the table,” senior linebacker Johnny Millard said, “and I’ve kind of noticed that going against all of them. Tanner’s got a great arm. Vince is a great facilitator of the offense. Dano’s got great feet. Chris is a great athlete. They all just bring something different with different strengths and shine in different areas.
“They’re all pushing each other like crazy, and you can feel that out here, and it makes the atmosphere really exciting.”