Editor’s Note: This is the second of four articles looking at each of the four quarterbacks in the running to become Cal Poly’s starter for 2013.
It seems like every evaluation of Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown includes some form of the following statement: “He’s athletic.”
Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh said athleticism is Brown’s biggest strength as the sophomore takes part in a wide-open competition with three other quarterbacks to become the program’s next starter.
Senior linebacker Johnny Millard echoed the same statement after a spring practice scrimmage Saturday.
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Brown certainly comes from an athletic family. Older brother Terrence Brown is a cornerback skipping his senior season at Stanford to enter this week’s NFL Draft.
When Chris Brown was playing high school football at Compton Dominguez in 2010, he had offers from Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State with many coaches wondering what kind of cornerback or safety the 6-foot-1, 195-pound athlete would make.
“But I’ve wanted to play quarterback all my life,” said Brown, who’s been a quarterback since his Pop Warner days as an 8-year-old in Carson, “and I felt Cal Poly gave me the best chance to play the position I wanted to play.”
It’s time to prove he can replace another athletic Mustangs quarterback, two-year starter Andre Broadous, who similarly spurned offers to become a defensive back for bigger-name schools for the chance to lead the offense in San Luis Obispo.
Brown and redshirt freshman Tanner Trosin, also 6-1, are the two tallest candidates looking to replace Broadous. Sophomore Air Force transfer Dano Graves is 5-9, and junior Vince Moraga is 5-10.
As for Brown’s athleticism, it comes in an intriguing mix of arm strength and running ability.
As a senior at Domin-guez, Brown passed for 1,219 yards and ran for 774. He threw 13 touchdown passes and ran for six more without throwing an interception while leading the Dons to a 10-2 record and the No. 2 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs.
The move to Cal Poly seemed like a natural fit for Brown considering that, like the Mustangs, Dominguez also ran a version of a double-wing option offense.
But Brown has found that the Dons’ Wing-T isn’t nearly as detailed and precise as Cal Poly’s triple option, and mastery of reading the option is an area where Walsh said Brown must show improvement.
“The transition,” Brown said, “was more from an offense that has simple plays and was really just putting it in the air for the other players coming to a college level and having to call plays from the line and having to make checks and having to make reads. It’s just a little more organized. It was just trying to get used to getting back to the basics of learning defensive fronts.”
Brown said he also has to work on slowing down the game, becoming more accustomed to the upgrade in speed at the FCS level.
Like the other quarterback candidates, he is light on collegiate game experience.
Brown redshirted at Cal Poly in 2010 and served as the third-string quarterback last season.
His lone action came in a 41-14 victory over San Diego in last year’s season opener. Brown came off the bench in the fourth quarter to take over a drive in the final two minutes and immediately got a chance to show off his arm.
On second-and-7 at midfield, Brown unleashed a 50-yard bomb down the right sideline. Freshman receiver Roland Jackson beat his man but was unable to haul in what would have been one of the longest receptions of the season.
Still, it was a confidence building moment for Brown.
“When I head it was a pass play, I was pretty excited that the coaches trusted me to get the ball off and get some more points on the board,” Brown said. “That was just more or less trying to execute the play, just trying to get the ball off smooth with the protection of the line. It felt good for that to be my first pass at the collegiate level.”