SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Progress was made during Cal Poly's 2018 Spring Camp, says 10th-year Mustang head football coach Tim Walsh.
"There is no question we're a better football team than we were at the end of the 2017 season," said Walsh. "There is great competition at a lot of positions and hopefully that will lead to better performances by whoever gets those positions."
Cal Poly closed out the 2017 campaign with lopsided losses to Sacramento State and Northern Colorado, putting a sour cap on a 1-10 season.
Last Friday night's annual Spring Game, won by the offense for the first time in three years, 43-31, was highlighted by two touchdowns from the offense and three turnovers forced by the defense.
Quarterback Jake Jeffrey (pictured above) scored on a one-yard keeper and hit Michael Roth with an 18-yard scoring pass. The offense also scored points on plays of 20 or more yards, with Drew Hernandez rushing for 21 yards, Jeffrey adding 20- and 23-yard keepers, quarterback Kyle Reid contributing a 21-yard run and slot back Will Semone scampering 24 yards.
Jeffrey was five of eight for 50 yards passing, including a pair of 18-yard completions, while Reid (pictured at left) was one of three for three yards.
"Overall, our play was better in the Spring Game, but our offense was better in the 14 previous practices," said Walsh. "Additional progress has to be made in the coming months.
"The attitude and execution were good over the 14 practices prior to the Spring Game, but the offense was outplayed physically in the game and you have to credit the defense for that."
Walsh also was concerned with the turnovers, two lost fumbles and an interception (by Bradley Mickey). "We need to take care of the football. In practice, we did a better job, but in the game we turned the ball over three times and that can't happen in the fall."
With only one senior — Tiasamo Savusa — on the defensive front, progress with the younger players was slow during Spring Camp, "but our forward defensive linemen started playing better and I was pleased with their attitude and execution," Walsh said.
Aside from Savusa, the defensive front positions were manned mostly by freshmen and redshirt freshmen this spring as injuries took their toll. Saia Fonongaloa and Pouono Faaagi missed the last four or five practices in addition to the Spring Game.
"Stanton Manumaleuna, Myles Cecil and Jojo Falo (the transfer from Air Force Prep) all made great progress during the spring," Walsh said. "Much of our success in the fall will depend on how the young players can overcome their youth."
Walsh liked what he saw from the experienced group of cornerbacks this spring.
"We really have six guys who can play at a pretty high level," Walsh said, focusing on seniors Dominic Frasch and Jerek Rosales, juniors Kam Dennis and Mark Reza and sophomore Daniel Fox. In addition, sophomore Kevin Howell joined the group after transferring from Nevada.
"Howell had a great spring and Spring Game," said Walsh, "and he will put pressure on the others."
Another area of intense competition will occur at inside linebacker with sophomore Joey Ruiz, junior Nik Navarro and redshirt freshman Fenton Will battling for two spots. "And junior Anthony Rosales (a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College) and senior Grant Alton are not very far behind either," said Walsh.
Held out of most or all of Spring Camp due to injuries were first-string quarterback Khaleel Jenkins, fifth-year senior fullback Joe Protheroe and senior offensive lineman Harry Whitson, who will move from left guard to center this fall.
All are expected to be ready and healthy for Fall Camp in early August.
Filling in for Jenkins at quarterback during the spring, Reid led all rushers in the Spring Game with 67 yards on 17 carries and Jeffrey added 52 yards on nine trips.
"Reid had a great spring and an excellent Spring Game," said Walsh. "We saw flashes of brilliance and saw some bad things (turnovers). Jeffrey played smart and has a good understanding of what to do. He had a great spring, too.
"I feel real good about the quarterback position," Walsh added.
The Mustang players will continue with conditioning during the final seven weeks of Spring Quarter and many will participate in voluntary workouts during the summer months leading to the opening of Fall Camp on August 3.