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Four Cal Poly Candidates Seeking to Replace Protheroe at Fullback

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Hamler hands the ball off to sophomore Duy Tran-Sampson.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Hamler hands the ball off to sophomore Duy Tran-Sampson.
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — As with every college football team this time of year, coaching staffs are seeking answers to various questions during Fall Camp as they prepare their teams for the 2019 season.
Last week, 11th-year Mustang head coach Tim Walsh addressed his team's quarterback situation, emphasizing the fact that the top three candidates — junior Jake Jeffrey, sophomore Kyle Reid and redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler — likely will battle for the starting nod all the way to the end of camp August 23.
Question No. 2 is who will replace record-breaker Joe Protheroe at fullback? All he did last fall was shatter the single-season (1,810 yards) and career (4,271) rushing records at Cal Poly en route to seven All-America awards and his third Big Sky Conference first-team honor.
The fullback battle features four candidates.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Rivera made the switch from linebacker to fullback prior to Spring Camp and was a 1,000-yard rusher as a senior in 2016 at Kimball High School in Tracy, Calif. He had two carries for 28 yards in the 2019 Spring Game.
Dusty Frampton, a grayshirt last year after rushing for nearly 4,000 yards and 66 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Saint Mary's High in Stockton, is in the mix as well as sophomore Duy Tran-Sampson, who rushed for 5,054 yards and 41 touchdowns in his final three varsity seasons at Claremont High School. Frampton rushed for 67 yards on seven carries in the Spring Game, including a 42-yard romp on his first trip, while Tran-Sampson notched 19 yards on six totes.
Senior Trey Nahhas completes the quartet of candidates, but has yet to practice this fall as he continues his rehabilitation from minor knee surgery in the offseason. Expected to begin practice next week, Nahhas rushed for a CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section-leading 2,599 yards and scored 34 touchdowns out of a veer offense at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove. He did not play in the Spring Game.
"That battle is going to be ongoing throughout Fall Camp," Walsh said. "Any decision won't be made for a couple weeks. Every day somebody has done something extremely well. At that position, you have to be able to do everything well. Carry the ball, you've got to be tough, you've got to be able to block and occasionally catch the ball. 
"Rivera has done a great job blocking so far. Frampton and Tran-Sampson have done a good job running and an adequate job blocking. Nahhas is still down and hasn't competed for it yet, but at a certain point of time he will get in the mix as well," Walsh added. 
"We have four or five guys who might play in Game 1. Hopefully we will have a guy that we feel should be the guy who starts and we'll see how he does and that will determine what happens next."
Wednesday's practice session, the fifth of Fall Camp, featured full pads for the first time. Walsh was pleased with what he saw.
"I was concerned that we put in so much during the first four days that we would put the pads on and lose it and get totally into the physical part of the game and not the mental part of the game," Walsh said. 
"Overall, the older guys especially did a good job today. We have some younger players who are doing a phenomenal job mentally, which I am really surprised about. This is probably the best young class we've had mentally. 
"I was really surprised today with the level of efficiency. We're nowhere near ready to play a game, but we were somewhat efficient today, especially the 1s and 2s."
Walsh called for "quarterback live" during the final drill Wednesday, meaning that defensive players can go after and tackle the quarterback if he has the ball. Walsh's call came a few moments after defensive back D'Angelo McKenzie, the transfer from Washington State, delivered a bone-jarring hit on sophomore signal caller Conor Bruce.
"It wasn't supposed to be (quarterback live) on one particular play, but D'Angelo got him pretty good," said Walsh. "Certain periods we call for it to be live and there are other periods we don't. That happened to not be one, but Conor Bruce jumped right back up and he's fine. 
"D'Angelo now understands the rules a little bit better," Walsh added. "He missed a couple plays because of that hit. It's all in good spirit. They put the pads on and everyone wants to do the physical thing. They'll be fine. Conor's good to go. He probably needed that after coming off a real serious injury a couple years ago."
Walsh and his staff have scheduled a scrimmage of 35 to 40 plays Saturday morning at Doerr Family Field. A situational scrimmage is set for August 17.
Cal Poly opens its 2019 season against the University of San Diego on August 31 at 2 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Children 13 and under receive free admission on Youth Day. In addition, free clear bags will be distributed to the first 3,000 fans in attendance.
For tickets, click here.
Photo courtesy of Owen Main |