SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- A workhorse in the Cal Poly backfield last fall, junior fullback Duy Tran-Sampson won't mind if his number isn't called 235 times in 2020.
"I won't get the ball as much, which is a good thing ultimately," said Tran-Sampson, the 23rd Mustang to crack the 1,000-yard mark with 1,037 yards, reaching the end zone eight times as a sophomore.
"There are more rotations, different schemes that we have ... it's not always one thing happening all the time," Tran-Sampson added. "We actually have several well-rounded individuals. We have different types of running backs we can use at different times. There will be less strain on me and that really helps everyone out. I am excited to see how it works out."
The changes are the result of a brand new football coaching staff, led by Beau Baldwin, hired in December after nine very successful seasons as head coach at Eastern Washington, including a national title in 2010, and three more years as offensive coordinator at Cal.
Tran-Sampson, who broke off an 87-yard run down the right sideline for a touchdown on his first carry of 2019 and added a 34-yard scoring run against San Diego and a 65-yard romp up the middle in the season finale at Northern Colorado, was limited to one catch for two yards in 2019. He expects to be more involved in the receiving aspect of his position this fall.
"Definitely," the second-team All-Big Sky Conference fullback said. "This year there's going to be a lot more catches for me."
Baldwin has hired nine new fulltime assistants, retaining just one from Tim Walsh's staff in defensive assistant Josh Letuligasenoa, a linebacker for Cal Poly from 2012-16. Former Mustang center Harry Whitson remains on the staff as well, serving as offensive quality control coach.
"I think the new coaches are fantastic," said Tran-Sampson. "They have great vibes all around, they have good energy and they know what they are talking about all around. I like the coaches."
It's been an odd offseason for the Mustang football team. Less than three weeks before Spring Camp was to begin, all collegiate athletic activities across the nation were halted due to the conoravirus pandemic.
That order prevents the new coaching staff from conducting any organized workouts with the players. Team activities are limited to conditioning drills with Mustang strength and conditioning coach Jordan Davis and weekly positional Zoom meetings. With the campus in a virtual lockdown, players are taking Spring Quarter courses online.
Answer: I've adjusted very well. I love online classes. It's easier for me because I can work on my own time. I don't feel stressed about being in classes for an hour. It's also easier for me to focus on a screen rather than having a lot of people around me in the classroom."
Q: How has your daily routine changed because of the pandemic?
A: I have handled the pandemic mainly by having a routine to build around. For my days, I need structure with this whole pandemic thing and the quarantine. I first wake up at 8, take a shower, do some homework for a couple hours, watch my videos from my classes, work out around lunch time, go to bed by 12 and repeat. We have Zoom meetings every week with our coaches, really small positionals, and I have been following the football workouts given by our strength coach.
Q: How has the transition from the Walsh Era to the Baldwin Era gone for you?
A: For me, it's been pretty smooth. We haven't really had any chance to try out the new offense and defense because spring got canceled. Everything is coming around. Everything makes sense to me.
Q: What do the 235 carries, 1,037 yards rushing, four games over 100 yards on the ground, becoming the 23rd Mustang in program history to surpass the 1,000-yard milestone and getting a chance to play a Pac-12 team (Oregon State) mean to you?
A: They mean fun memories from last year, but it's very over and we have to get past it. No point in reminiscing. There are other seasons to go.
Q: Outside of football, any great memories during your first three years at Cal Poly?
A: I've have plenty of memorable moments, mostly with my friends I've made from football. We've gone through a lot. It's been quite the journey. I hang out mostly with C.J. Cole, Fenton Will and Mason Hurst. We've done a lot of dumb stuff together. We've had our moments. We've fought. You meet these people for the first time your freshmen year and then everything just builds on itself, getting better and better. It's great.
Q: After three years in San Luis Obispo, are you still happy with your decision to continue your athletic and academic careers at Cal Poly?
A: Absolutely. I walk out of my room every day and I look at the hills and it's like 'this is a beautiful place to be'. I am very grateful for everything. Great school, great people. SLO is just a very nice community, very relaxing and calming during these times.
A: I had to actually learn football when I got to Cal Poly. In high school, I didn't know anything. It was like I would get the football, run to the opposite side and don't get tackled. Here, I still try to do the same thing obviously, but I actually have to know what is going on with the play, what the defensive scheme is and all the pressures that the defense can bring. Just being more aware of what football is as a whole, not just me.
Q: You had to learn a new offense when you arrived at Cal Poly and now you are in the process of learning your third different offense this fall.
A: The Triple Option was very new to me when I got here. We ran an old-school straight Power I-Back offense in high school. Learning another offense is doable. This offense is more like my high school offense. We now have a single running back, so I am excited for it.
Q: I was told a while back that you had roller skates in your locker at Mott Athletics Center.
A: I did when I first got here. I roller skated everywhere on campus, but with a whole bunch of people around you, it gets too messy, so I just do it myself in a secluded area. I still do avidly roller skate. Back home (in Claremont, Calif.), I live next to a roller skate rink, so I go at least four times a week.
Q: What do you plan to do once you get your bachelor's degree in biological sciences?
A: My current plan right now is to do either a grad program here at Cal Poly in biology or apply for a physician's assistant program somewhere else. I know Santa Maria has a new physician's assistant program that's opening up, I think this year or next year. For me, I want to get a smaller degree first, get into the real world, see how I feel about it. If I really feel passionate about getting a doctorate degree, then I will go back to school and get a doctorate degree. That's if I still want to get into the medical field.
By Eric Burdick • File photo courtesy of Corey Coulter • Videos courtesy of Cal Poly Athletics, Pac-12 Networks and Duy Tran-Sampson