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By Shelby Mack / The Californian
BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The starting quarterback for Bakersfield College this season is no mystery.
The Renegades held their first official practice on Thursday, and sophomore Brian Burrell is firmly entrenched as the Renegades' starting QB.
"I have not been told that, but I understand that," Burrell said this week.
A 2011 Bakersfield High School graduate, Burrell won the starting job before last season. But last Sept. 17 at Antelope Valley College, in only his third game, Burrell was sacked and hit the ground hard, suffering a broken left collarbone.
"I remember I heard it snap," Burrell said. "It really didn't hurt that bad when it happened, but you could feel the bone sticking out. I was more scared than anything. I tried to move it and I knew it was broken.
"The worst pain was having my shoulder pads on and they were trying to yank them off. I was screaming. Finally, someone said, 'This isn't working,' and they got a knife to cut them off. That ruined those shoulder pads."
Burrell's left arm was in a sling before that game ended. Three days later, he underwent surgery. He said he still has a plate with "four or five screws" attaching it to the collarbone, along with a five-inch scar running on top of his shoulder.
He said he was told it would be eight weeks in a sling, but he healed more quickly than expected. Burrell was even cleared to play prior to BC's final game of the season, Nov. 12 at Canyons.
"But the way last season was going (the Renegades finished 4-6), there was no point in going back out there," Burrell said. "There was no chance we were going to make the playoffs. And I'm hoping for a medical redshirt."
BC coach Jeff Chudy said he thinks Burrell will get a year of eligibility returned at his next school. That school will need to petition the NCAA before the redshirt request will be considered.
Burrell said it was a mental challenge sitting out last season while he healed.
"It was tough, really tough," he said. "It was tough being on the sidelines and not be able to do anything at all. And I'd never sat before."
Burrell added: "After sitting out last year, I realized how much I wanted to play and how much I missed it. When you play football for four months straight, you get worn out.
"But after getting hurt after three games and missing the whole season, I've been waiting. I've never wanted to play as badly as I do now."
Watching last season, then participating throughout the spring in team drills has made Burrell better prepared for this season, he said.
He was a strong passer and runner during his BHS years. In his brief time on the field last season, Burrell was 40-of-73 for 587 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
"Last year we had only one returning starter," Burrell said. "This year it's a lot better. It's not so much coaching us on what to do, it's about how to do it. We're getting better instead of trying to figure out what we're supposed to do."
Chudy said Burrell's work ethic stands out.
"He has done everything we've asked him to do and then some," Chudy said. "He's exactly what you hope your quarterback will be. He's the hardest worker in the weight room. He hasn't missed a workout. He's stepped up his commitment level."
Chudy compared Burrell favorably to Jacob Bower, who holds BC's single-season passing record with 3,034 yards in his only season with the Renegades in 2007.
"I think he has a chance to be the best quarterback I've seen since I've been up here, and that's 20 years," Chudy said. "He has an unbelievable arm. He's extremely mobile and from a leadership standpoint he rivals Bower. ...
"It's been awhile since Brian's played the game, but you look now: He's got all the tangibles and I think he's got some of the intangibles that you need to play the position that separates you at the next level. His future is extremely bright."
Burrell, who was Division I eligible out of high school, said he planned on playing only last season at BC and then hoped to transfer to a Division I program. "Then the injury threw a monkey wrench into it," he said.
Burrell had some Division I opportunities out of high school, he said.
"I had offers from Idaho and Utah State, and I talked with Reno and Virginia," he said.
"One said, 'We're waiting on the head coach.' Then I got a call from Idaho. They offered the scholarship to someone else. Utah State pulled their offer, then Reno and Virginia never offered me."
Notes: Chudy said "96 or 98" players reported to BC's first official practice on Thursday, which is typical. "We're always right around 100," he said. The state mandates that no pads are allowed for the first three practices. BC will practice without pads today and Saturday morning, then don pads for the first time Saturday afternoon. ... The season opener is Sept. 1 vs. Santa Ana College in Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m.