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Hamler Wins Three-Way Battle for Starting Nod at Quarterback

Hamler Wins Three-Way Battle for Starting Nod at Quarterback
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — When Spring Camp opened in early April, junior Jake Jeffrey, sophomore Kyle Reid and redshirt freshman Jalen Hamler were listed on the top of the depth chart as "Jeffrey or Reid or Hamler."
When Fall Camp opened August 2, the depth chart continued to say "Jeffrey or Reid or Hamler."
On Monday, the starter was announced by 11th-year Mustang head coach Tim Walsh.
Hamler has earned the nod for Saturday's season opener against the University of San Diego after a spirited five-month, three-man battle.
It was likely as difficult a decision as it was when Walsh faced a four-man quarterback clash between Vince Moraga, Chris Brown, Dano Graves and Tanner Trosin in 2013.
"All three quarterbacks I thought had a great Fall Camp," Walsh said of his current crop of signal callers. "We could have played any of them at any point in time. They all have a lot of strengths that we need to be good on offense, but we had to make a decision and we thought it would be fair to make the decision now to make sure we knew going into the game who would get the first shot. 
"Jalen is going to get it largely because dynamically he did some good things in camp," Walsh added. "His learning curve of the offense has gone way up in the last three weeks."
Jeffrey has the most experience of the trio. 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.
"Jake did a great job the entire camp," Walsh said. "He might have been the most consistent, but Jalen did some things we thought gave himself the opportunity to be the guy. Kyle Reid is going to have a role on the team as well. I think we would be comfortable in playing all three of them. 
"Jalen is going to get the first shot. I think he's deserving of getting it, but I'm not saying the other two guys are not far behind," Walsh added. "I just want to make sure that Jalen understands it is his opportunity to take it, run with it and make something of it for himself. 
"As the season progresses, we'll obviously do what is best for the team. Jalen is rolling and Jalen gets it. I think that's a good way to approach it with the talent and depth that we have at quarterback."
Back on August 10, Hamler broke off a 21-yard run for a first down and also had 11- and 14-yard runs in the Mustangs' first scrimmage of Fall Camp. In the final scrimmage August 17, Hamler's pitch to fullback Duy Tran-Sampson resulted in a 58-yard touchdown run and Hamler also hit wide receiver Ryan McNab on a 75-yard pass play for a touchdown.
In the 2019 Spring Game, Hamler called his number a dozen times and gained 49 yards while also completing four of seven passes for 71 yards and one score, an 11-yarder to Quentin Harrison. He engineered a pair of 70-yard scoring drives.
"To catch Jake mentally is going to be tough to do," Walsh admitted. "Jake is extremely smart, but Kyle and Jalen both made great strides that way too. We just think Jalen made a big, big stride as far as being the first in terms of understanding our offense and understanding the game. 
"And the speed of the game I think is important too. All those things went into the decision, but add that to Hamler's athletic ability and things like that and we think it gives him a good opportunity to be a very good quarterback in our system," Walsh added.
Cal Poly opens its 2019 season against the University of San Diego on Saturday 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 above of redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Hamler courtesy of Owen Main |