Willie Tucker is on the way out of San Luis Obispo, and with about a month left until the start of spring drills for Cal Poly football, Tanner Trosin is exiting a glut at quarterback.
Tucker, a senior receiver and the Mustangs’ top receiving threat, and Trosin, a sophomore quarterback, each said they are leaving the program to play in an offensive scheme with more passing.
Trosin said Tuesday he will finish out the quarter at Cal Poly before leaving for a junior college near his hometown.
That leaves the Mustangs without a proven go-to threat to catch passes and makes a quarterback corps once rich with options seem suddenly thin.
Tucker clarified a report linking him as a recruited walk-on to Oregon State. The receiver said he has also been in contact with Boise State, among others, and has yet to make a commitment, though he is leaning toward the Beavers.
“I’m just trying to get back to a traditional offense,” Tucker said. “I want to go somewhere where there’s more passing going on.”
Tucker turned down an opportunity from Nevada to sign with Cal Poly out of El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge High and said coaches pledged the Mustangs’ offense, which led the nation in rushing with its double-wing triple-option attack, would open up its passing game during his recruitment three years ago.
That may have been the direction under former offensive coordinator Bryan Cook, but Cal Poly found its best success while running the ball last season after Cook was hired away by Georgia Tech in the offseason.
Since he has yet to redshirt, Tucker said he plans to join an FBS program and sit out next season in compliance with NCAA transfer rules. He will be a senior in 2015.
“Really, I just kind of want to go somewhere where I can do a little more route variation,” Tucker said, “just trying to get back to where I was at in high school.
“I also want to challenge myself by going up a level.”
In 2013, Tucker suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game of the season, a home loss to Yale, but he still finished with the second-most receiving yards.
Tucker had 18 catches for 312 and two touchdowns last season and led Cal Poly with 28 catches for 517 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.
For him, the transfer was a difficult decision.
Tucker’s time at Cal Poly “has been unforgettable and awesome to say the least,” Tucker said. “It definitely helped me grow. I made a lot of great friends and people I’m going to know for the rest of my life. I don’t regret anything about it. Everything’s a learning process. I’m just glad I had an opportunity to be here with the players and coaches. I just feel it’s the right time to move on.”
Slotback Kristaan Ivory had a team-high 33 catches and returns for his senior season.
Slotback Chris Nicholls, who had 15 catches, is a converted wideout who could find his way back outside. The other top receiving threats are sophomore Cam Akins and junior Jordan Hines, who had eight and seven respective catches last year.
Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh will be looking for sophomore Carson McMurtrey, who was Trosin’s top target at Folsom, to step up as well as junior Roland Jackson.
There is also time to sign a high school recruit or a transfer.
“I guess we’ll be back in the market to find a wideout, and they’re out there,” Walsh said. “We’ll find a guy that wants to be here and hopefully be every bit as effective.
“I don’t think we’re bad. I just think we’re improving. There’s guys that will step up, but that’s the bottom-line thing. They’ve got to do it.”
Junior quarterbacks Chris Brown and Dano Graves, who rotated starting duties last season after Vince Moraga suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the year, both return and figure to battle for the starting spot.
Five months after surgery, Moraga, who would be a senior, will not be healthy in time for spring practice. In fact, Moraga said he is on track to graduate this spring and has not decided whether to return to the field.
Trosin would have been third string, but he was unhappy with his level of playing time last season.
The fourth of a four-man position battle that raged equally through last spring and throughout training camp, Trosin played in four games, completing all four of his pass attempts for 38 yards but did not play any meaningful situations.
Trosin was arguably the most effective quarterback in last year’s spring game and fall scrimmage, performances he hoped would get him more time on the field.
He was 3 of 4 for 43 passing yards and a touchdown and ran for 31 yards on 10 carries in the spring game. In the fall scrimmage, Trosin was 4 of 7 for 68 yards and a touchdown and ran twice for 31 yards.
So, Trosin — who set a state record with more than 6,000 yards of total offense his senior season at Folsom High — will play one season at American River College in Sacramento while looking to transfer to a four-year school.
Coaches “just didn’t give me a shot this past year,” Trosin said. “I heard them say that they would give me a shot, but that never ended up happening. I felt like there were multiple opportunities to play.
“It never happened, especially when I balled out in the spring game and in fall camp. I guess I’m a little shocked that they never gave me the opportunity.”
Unless the Mustangs can snag a transfer before practice begins, they will enter the spring with just two scholarship quarterbacks, Brown and Graves, Trosin’s former Folsom teammate.
At ARC, Trosin will run a spread offense much more similar to the scheme he ran at Folsom than Cal Poly’s triple option.
“I can open up and actually show my abilities on the field,” Trosin said. “I feel like I can’t be my normal self in triple option.
“I love Cal Poly. It was a great place to live. You’ve got the beach there. Everything else was solid. I love being there, but I came here to play football, and football hasn’t been treating me well.”