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Colt Brennan is Hawaii’s senior quarterback and a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Josh Johnson is the University of San Diego’s senior quarterback and a candidate for Walter Payton Award, the Heisman equivalent for Football Championship Subdivision schools (FCS, formerly Div. I-AA).
Brennan would have been drafted last year, but he chose to come back to Hawaii for his senior season. Johnson, a fourth-year senior, began to be mentioned as an NFL prospect last year, with former USD coach Jim Harbaugh saying at least one NFL team rated him a first-day draft pick in the opening three rounds.
Brennan plays for a nationally ranked team and Johnson at a non-scholarship school, so Brennan is a national figure and Johnson a curiosity outside of people that have seen him play for the Toreros.
But Northern Colorado, to its misfortune, played both schools in the first three weeks of the season, so it only seems natural to ask the Bears to compare the quarterbacks.
Brennan (6-3, 205) completed 34-of-40 passes for 416 yards and six touchdowns in the first half of a 63-6 win on Sept. 1. Hawaii was leading 42-0 when Brennan was pulled at halftime. He ran three times for 23 yards.
Johnson (6-3, 200) completed 23-of-31passes for 281 yards and six touchdowns and rang up 428 yards total offense with nine carries for 147 yards. One run was an 89-yarder to the 1-yard line, when the Bears dropped eight defenders and Johnson ran from the pocket. Johnson was pulled after three quarters with a 49-6 lead Saturday night in a 49-13 win.
Northern Colorado defensive coordinator Cody Deti, who said he spent the summer studying film of both quarterbacks, didn’t rate one over the other, but he considers Johnson every bit the NFL prospect as Brennan. He did say, though, Johnson is the better athlete.
“Johnson is more athletic and can run the ball,” Deti said. “He made some plays against us that made us look foolish (see 89-yarder). He’s a tough kid, too. He got blown up in the end zone when he got his headgear blown off.
“He’s very accurate with the football. He threw fade balls right in there and threw some corner routes. I thought he held his composure and he looks like he has good leadership qualities out there.
“I would agree he’s an NFL prospect. He’s got the tools; he’s got the speed and he’s got an incredible arm. We saw the touchdown that he threw against Marist (on Sept. 8) when the ball was in the air 70 yards. We brought some blitzes against him and he made some good checks. There is no question he is a guy the NFL should look at.
“Colt Brennan is an excellent quarterback and throws the ball well. He plays in a great system, and I think USD has a good system for Josh Johnson. We’ve seen two real good quarterbacks in three weeks.”
And you thought San Diego State started the season with a tough schedule.
— TOM SHANAHAN