Jan Hethcock can’t speak to the specifics of Brandon Dawkins the football player. But as the athletic director at Dawkins’ alma mater, Oaks Christian (Calif.), Hethcock watched Dawkins play a lot of football through the years.
The recurring point Hethcock returned to during a conversation with Land of 10? Dawkins would never run out-of-bounds, but Hethcock wishes he would have done so a time or two to avoid a massive hit from an oncoming defender.
“He wasn’t a guy who would run out-of-bounds. That’s the kind of kid he was – a competitor,” Hethcock said. “He was not afraid to take a hit – or give it. He was fun to watch.”
That mentality alone could be a main reason why Scott Frost and Nebraska are reportedly interested in bringing Dawkins in as a transfer option at quarterback. Frost has said toughness is a prerequisite to be a quarterback at Nebraska. The first-year coach wants the quarterback to be a microcosm of the entire roster — and someone who isn’t afraid to fight for extra yards.
Already, Dawkins appears to have traits Frost would take a liking to.
Schematically, Hethcock couldn’t speak to the specifics of Dawkins’ play, or the type of offense he operated in (his coach at Oaks Christian is no longer with the school), but Hethcock recalled that Dawkins hardly ever lined up behind center. It was a pass-heavy system, too. And Dawkins was not afraid to pull the ball down and take off downfield. Hethcock went so far as to offer a comparison of Vince Young at Texas when describing Dawkins during his high school days.
“At Oaks Christian, Brandon was a lot of life,” Hethcock remembered. “He was enthusiastic and fun to be around. Everybody loved him. He played extremely hard.”
During his senior year, Dawkins played volleyball when football season ended in an effort to keep his footwork up to speed. He developed into a dominant player on the court. Dawkins also took over punting duties and served as the emergency safety, according to Hethcock.
Hethcock said Dawkins always came back to Oaks Christian to talk about his experience at Arizona with current students and the staff. Comes from a good family.
“Sometimes people don’t take him seriously because he has a very outgoing, positive personality,” Hethcock said. “Some people think he doesn’t care, but he cares. He gave 100 percent effort every game. I know that for a fact … Brandon left it on the field. I hope there’s some place out there that could use him.”
Dawkins started during the beginning of the season, but left after attempting just one pass against Colorado on Oct. 7. That game turned out to be Khalil Tate’s coming out party, as Dawkins’ replacement set the FBS record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in that game. Dawkins never regained his starting role and earned limited action when he was healthy again.
During the offseason, Arizona fired Rich Rodriguez and brought in Kevin Sumlin. Dawkins was already a transfer candidate before the coaching change, but the move seemed to solidify his decision. He announced he would be transferring on Feb. 22.
With Tanner Lee declaring for the NFL draft, Nebraska has just three scholarship quarterbacks eligible for next season: sophomore Patrick O’Brien, redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and freshman Adrian Martinez. Only O’Brien has collegiate experience, which consists of just 30 attempts. Transfer Noah Vedral will have to sit out the 2018 season because of NCAA regulations. Walk-on quarterback Matt Masker rounds out the position.
The Huskers had hoped to sign another quarterback in the 2018 class, but space filled up at other positions and Nebraska couldn’t make the math work. But factoring in anticipated attrition after spring practice, there could be a spot for Dawkins.
If Frost and Co. want someone with more experience, then Dawkins presents an intriguing option. Going after Dawkins could also be an insurance option if one of the aforementioned quarterbacks on the Huskers’ roster decides to transfer.
Dawkins, as Hethcock said, is comfortable with the ball in his hands, rushing for more touchdowns (6) than scores he had through the air (5) last season.
The timetable for Dawkins to make a decision is unknown. He has plans to visit Florida Atlantic and Indiana in the next few weeks, meaning Nebraska will likely have a chance to host him on campus if the staff desires. UCLA is also reportedly showing interest in him.