Cal Poly’s 2019 football team opened season No. 11 under head coach Tim Walsh with a spirited practice session on a mild, breezy Friday afternoon on the artificial turf at Doerr Family Field.
Topping the list of question marks the Mustang coaching staff has compiled for the next four weeks leading up to the 2019 opener August 31 against the University of San Diego is who will call the signals on the offensive side of the ball.
The three choices are junior Jake Jeffrey, sophomore Kyle Reid and redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler. The depth chart at the opening of Fall Camp, just as it did in the spring, says "Jeffrey or Reid or Hamler" at the top.
Jeffrey has the most experience. He started the last six games of the 2017 campaign after Khaleel Jenkins went down with an injury, completing 53 of 108 passes for 727 yards and two touchdowns, and played in eight games last fall as well, connecting on 15 of 28 passes for 208 yards as Jenkins’ backup.
Reid saw action in six games a year ago, mostly in the final minutes of the games, and Hamler was a redshirt last fall after passing for 4,372 yards and 49 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 342 attempts and rushing for 1,437 yards and 21 more scores in his varsity career at Lawndale High School.
“The quarterback battle is going to take a couple weeks,” Walsh said. “They all possess different qualities that we really like. The guy who will be the most consistent within the qualities that he possesses will win it.”
Walsh hinted that he might use two, maybe even three quarterbacks in a game this season.
“We probably will see multiple guys,” Walsh said. “They all possess different qualities that are very advantageous to us depending on what our opponent is doing.
“If somebody gets going and proves he can do the things we need him to do, day in and day out, play in and play out kind of a basis, then that guy deserves to be the guy,” Walsh added. “It’s not going to be a situation in which I’m going to play three because I want to play three. I’ll play three if I think I need to, but I think we’ll find some winning success formula with one of them who can do it consistently.”
GRESHAM, Oregon — Parker Reynolds met his mark.
Each of the three candidates at the signal-calling position owns different qualities.
“Jalen and Kyle both are extremely athletic. They’re different athletes though. Kyle is a fast powerful guy and Jalen is kind of a finesse quick guy. They’re different in their athleticism but both are very athletic. They are going to be very good ball carriers. Which one of those two will be more accurate throwing the ball, especially the deep ball, may end up being the guy,” Walsh said.
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“Jake on the other hand kind of does everything pretty well. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s extremely smart. He started five or six games in his career already and he can throw it.
“There’s all kinds of different formulas for what we’re looking for. All three possess things that we like, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Walsh's Mustangs, winners of four of their last six games following a 1-4 start to finish 5-6 a year ago, this fall take on Pac-12 member Oregon State, all three teams which shared the Big Sky Conference title a year ago, eight-time defending Pioneer League champion San Diego — which has qualified for the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs four times in the last five years — and five teams in the preseason top 25 FCS polls.
Five of the teams on the 2019 schedule qualified for the 2018 FCS playoffs. One of them is the Toreros, who defeated Cal Poly in the opening round of the 2016 FCS playoffs on a rainy Saturday afternoon inside Spanos Stadium.
A total of 25 practice sessions are allowed prior to the first game, including 19 for Fall Camp. Twenty walk-throughs are planned as well in preparation for this, the 101st season of Cal Poly football.
Fall Camp ends August 23 and, following a two-day break, the Mustangs finalize preparations for San Diego starting Monday, August 26.
Walsh and his coaching staff welcomed back 56 lettermen, including 16 players who started five or more games a year ago. Ten of the returning starters are on defense while the offense must replace three starters right up the middle — Jenkins, record-breaking fullback Joe Protheroe and center Harry Whitson. Three other offensive linemen and a slot back also need to be replaced.
The Santa Maria Outlaws 9U team went undefeated to win the Swing 'n Surf Tournament in Pismo Beach last month.
The Mustang coaching staff — with two new members, Wes Nurse replacing Allen Brown as cornerbacks coach and Josh Letuligasenoa replacing Matt Ta'ufo'ou as outside linebackers coach — also welcomed back 22 redshirts and injured players, one grayshirt, 10 squad members (those who didn't play in any games last fall), four transfers and six walk-ons.
“It was the first day of practice and it looked like it, no question about that,” said Walsh. “There was some enthusiasm and then things kind of mellowed out. When you bring 28 or 29 new guys in and you mesh them with the old guys, there will be some mistakes and some sloppiness, which there definitely was today. They’ll learn from that.
“We’ll be better tomorrow, I can guarantee you that,” Walsh added. “No decisions on the quarterback situation today, but I was pleased with most of what I saw on the offensive side of the ball.”
The Mustangs and Toreros kick off the Youth Day contest at 2 p.m. Kids 13 and under receive free admission. In addition, free clear bags will be distributed to the first 3,000 fans in attendance.