Since the school’s inception in 2001, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian has been known for it’s quarterback play.
Three starting quarterbacks from Oaks have earned D-I scholarships, Joey Halze (from Oklahoma after a stop at a JC), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and Nick Montana (Washington). The 2007 starter, Chris Potter, went to Boise State as a scholarship receiver and the eventual 2010 starter, Richie Harrington, walked on at Oregon State, where he’s a backup to Sean Mannion.
When the 2011 season started, a transfer from Utah, Luke Falk, earned the starting nod, but struggled in his first two starts.
Enter in a 6-3.5, 215-pound sophomore, big on size and arm strength, but short on experience.
After longtime prep coach Bill Redell made the decision to switch to Brandon Dawkins for the Lions’ game against county-rival St. Bonaventure, many questioned the decision to give Falk the quick hook and go with Dawkins.
But Dawkins made it work. He won his first start against the Seraphs and would go on to finish 10-2 as the starter, the only losses coming to Westlake in the regular season and in the CIF Finals.
The finals were a microcosm of Dawkins: big plays mixed with inexperience. His 338 yards passing and four touchdowns were countered with five interceptions, including a crucial pick-six that turned the tide of the game and gave Westlake life after trailing 28-7 before rallying to win 49-42.
Yet there was enough of the big play potential from Dawkins against a vaunted Warriors defense (he ran for 107 yards and a touchdown), that it was easy to see the future would be bright for Dawkins.
“He’s just so young,” teammate Jordan Payton would say after the game. “But he’s going to be so good.”
Dawkins would finish the season with 2,844 yards on 207-of-312 passing with 31 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. He would run for 344 yards and seven more touchdowns.
“When I first started the year, it was all just so fast to me,” said Dawkins. “Having a year like I did was easier with guys like Jordan, Ishmael (Adams) and Carlos (Mendoza). They really helped me process things and I wouldn’t have been able to jump into that roll without guys like them being there with me.”
Now, the clear-cut starter for the Lions, who are moving into the Pac-5 in the CIF-SS, Dawkins has two more years to wow college coaches, who’ve been making frequent stops on La Tienda for the better part of a decade.
“Obviously, the experience was the best way to learn things,” said Dawkins. “Now schools are already showing me interest but I have had a lot of teammates kind of prepare me for what the process is like. Alabama has been showing me interest and UCLA has been showing me a lot and those are the main two.”
With Payton and Adams off to UCLA, Dawkins said the Bruins are high on his list, but his dream school has always been Alabama.
“My dad was born and raised in Alabama and a lot of my family is out there,” said Dawkins. “I grew up watching them and that was always my dream to play there. But really, when you’re a sophomore in high school, any school is your dream school to play football at.”
Interestingly, Dawkins has drawn comparisons to one of the Tide’s arch-nemesis, former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
“A lot of coaches have compared me to Cam Newton, and that means a lot to me,” said Dawkins. “The way he fit in to Auburn’s offense and the type of skill set he had, for people to have compared me to him, that’s a good player to be compared to.”
Dawkins also likes a host of other Pac-12 schools, namely Oregon and Washington, and said it’s too early to start focusing on anyone.
“I still have a lot of time to worry about recruiting, and I just want to improve as a quarterback,” said Dawkins. “I have some things to work on, and I learned a lot this past year. We’re moving up to the Pac-5 and it’s going to be a really big step and those are some really good teams we’ll play in the playoffs. It’s going to be a big change but we’ll have to really be prepared. At times last year, we took our schedule lackadaisically and we can’t do that anymore. So it’s my job to really focus on that.”
Despite losing offensive weapons like Payton, Mendoza and Adams, the latter two a two-headed monster in the backfield, Dawkins will welcome back his longtime teammate, Francis Owusu, a four-star receiver in the 2013 class.
“Since my first year of football when I was like eight years old, Francis and I have been on the same team,” said Dawkins. “We don’t live too far from each other and on weekends, we’ll go out to the park and workout. We’ve been working out a lot together. It worked out in the Westlake game too and I think people are excited because of it (the two connected for three touchdowns). Westlake tried to shut down Jordan, but they left Francis open and that opened up our passing game.”
Dawkins said that he expects Oaks to pass more this year as he’s developed more.
“I really think that I’m just developing as a passer and not using my legs as much,” said Dawkins.
Yet he also knows there are things that he can work on to get better, and one, his size, was one of them.
“When the season started, I was like 175 pounds, so guys like Justin Solis (who signed with Colorado), would just pick me up and threw me down,” said Dawkins. “Now I’m at 215 and I just want to stay this big so I can handle the bigger guys.”
Dawkins has been playing with the 1925 All-Stars, where Owusu has been one of their featured receivers, and backing up Scout 300 member Troy Williams, with the plan to be the guy next year, just as Williams waited his turn behind Max Wittek, now at USC.
“I’ll be doing everything with 1925 and learning a lot from Troy and some of the older guys,” said Dawkins. “I’m always wanting to listen and learn more.”