With the news of Anu Solomon officially being ruled out for the The Territorial Cup Game Saturday morning, it was Jerrard Randall's time to pick up where he left off vs. Utah.
Midway through the second quarter, Jerrard Randall got yanked by Rich Rodriguez, and in came Brandon Dawkins, redshirt freshman out of Oxnard, CA. We had seen flashes of him before, as he got some playing time in the rout of NAU, and a few plays vs. UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State.
Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith has always spoken very highly of Brandon Dawkins. If the coaching staff is hardest on any one quarterback, it's always been Dawkins. Not because he makes bad plays in practice, but because this staff has always seen untapped potential in him.
Dawkins is a 6-3, 200lb threat, with some decent passing accuracy, and strong mobility. He's not the fastest quarterback of the bunch, but he has the athleticism, and the agility, to cut up-field. After redshirting last year, he got buried in the depth chart, and with his latest performance, it makes you wonder why he wasn't the No. 2 quarterback for Rich Rodriguez. Of course, you have to take into account Jerrard Randall's playmaking ability, but for a third string redshirt freshman quarterback to step into the game vs. a very aggressive defense, Dawkins played a great game.
After Jerrard Randall went 4/13 for 35 yards, and also ran four times for 22 yards, Brandon Dawkins came in, finishing 16/30, 305 yards, and two touchdowns on the day. He did throw two interceptions, and both went for ASU touchdowns. I'm not sure you can entirely blame him for those turnovers though. He was simply put in a position where he was forced to make a play, in desperation attempts to get the team downfield. And given the situation he got Arizona out of -- a 31-10 deficit -- you can't be too upset about those two late interceptions.
Dawkins was learning on the job vs. Arizona State, and the Sun Devils were bringing the pressure. But he was making plays with his feet, extending plays, and making guys miss. He finished with 21 rushes for 78 yards, and a gutsy touchdown run in the final minute, not afraid to lower his body, make an extra cut, and take a hit for extra yards.
The offensive line was giving Dawkins no help either. There were a decent amount of plays where he had plenty of time in the pocket, but the coverage was tight, and Dawkins was forced to step up into the pocket and flee for yards. But he was taking some hits in the pocket that would have definitely taken Anu Solomon out of the game, and would have definitely slowed down Jerrard Randall. That's just the benefit of Brandon Dawkins and his frame.
This is the potential that Coach Rod Smith has been talking about. And this wasn't even a 100% healthy Dawkins, as he was playing with what seems to be a stomach virus. Dawkins was throwing up on the sidelines after spending all of halftime throwing up in the locker room. Rich Rodriguez had said that he didn't think Dawkins would be ready to go in the second half.
It makes you wonder how Brandon Dawkins was third on the depth chart, but going into next year, and even into this bowl game, he has a strong case to compete for the starting quarterback job. Anu Solomon will come back from his concussion by the time the bowl game rolls around, but at this point, you'd think that Rich Rodriguez starts giving Dawkins some extended looks.
A week ago, I wrote about how advantageous bowl eligibly was for Arizona, with the extra reps helping with the development of this team, which includes Brandon Dawkins. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Anu Solomon will not be the starting quarterback for next season, citing the progression of Dawkins, and the influx of youth with Khalil Tate and Devon Modster.
The way Anu Solomon has played this season, it's hard to think of him as the future of this program. He's just too injury prone, and while he might not progress as fast as you'd like, he just hasn't done a whole lot to make you think he's theguy. And now, with Brandon Dawkins' strong performance, and the heart and fight that he showed vs. Arizona State, we very well might see No. 13 as the signal caller next season in what could be a quarterback controversy, and a major headline this upcoming offseason.