Over the years, Utah has welcomed transfer quarterbacks of various abilities and experience into its program.
But none has had the credentials, background and accomplishments of Baylor graduate transfer Charlie Brewer.
The Austin, Texas, native, a four-year starter with the Bears, was one of the most prolific QBs in school history, and helped lead Baylor to the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2019 season.
Brewer arrived on campus in Salt Lake City in January, marking his first time in the state of Utah. He is becoming accustomed to the mountains that surround the Wasatch Front.
“Way different than Waco and Austin,” Brewer said of his new environs.
While snowfall is expected in Salt Lake City at this time of year, Texas has been battered by severe winter storms recently that have knocked out power and Texans throughout the state have suffered.
“Everyone’s good. Everyone’s bundled up,” he said of his family. “Most people have lost power here and there. People aren’t used to that type of weather. I got out of Texas at the right time.”
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior is an avid hunter and fisherman, making Utah a good landing spot for someone with those avocations.
But that’s not why he’s here. He’s here to play football at a high level and help Utah win games.
“Maybe in the summer I’ll get to branch out and do some of those things,” Brewer said. “Right now I’m getting acclimated and learning the playbook.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is happy to have a quarterback of Brewer’s caliber and experience on board on a team in need of a new starting QB.
“We’re ecstatic that he’s here,” Whittingham said. “He’ll be the guy in spring ball that will get the majority of the reps.”
At Baylor, Brewer threw for 9,700 yards, No. 2 in school history, and became the second player in Baylor history to eclipse the 10,000-yard mark for total offense in a career with 10,797 yards — including 1,039 rushing yards. Brewer passed for 65 touchdowns and ran for 22 TDs.
“I’m able to run and throw. I can be a part of the running game and get outside the pocket as well as throw the ball,” Brewer said, describing his style. “Going into this new offense, what I need to work on is first learning it. We’re a big run, play-action team. I’ll keep working on play-action, under center. Those are things I can work on.”
Brewer, who has established a reputation for being accurate, athletic and smart, comes from a football family. His brother, Michael, played football at Virginia Tech. His father, grandfather and uncle all played quarterback at the University of Texas.
Since arriving last month in Salt Lake City, Brewer has been studying the playbook and bonding with his teammates.
“It’s been good. Obviously it’s different going somewhere new and trying to establish yourself there,” he said. “The most important thing is to gain the trust of your teammates and earn their trust. Then you can take more of a leadership role once you do that. All the guys have been very welcoming. It’s been as smooth a transition as you could hope for.”
Brewer is looking forward to competing in spring ball.
“I’m going to take it day by day and get better every single day,” he said. “It’s about getting a hold of the new offense and getting some actual repetitions in spring ball and getting better, being in control in the huddle and everything. I’m excited for it. All I expect of myself is to get better each day and keep learning the playbook.”
After a challenging 2020 season at Baylor, Brewer entered the transfer portal, looking for a place to finish his final year of eligibility.
“When I was transferring, I wasn’t really sure but I had a really open mind to anything,” he said.
Whittingham reached out to Brewer and eventually Brewer had conversations with both Whittingham and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.
Brewer was familiar with Utah’s program. He remembered during the 2019 season, his Baylor Bears and the Utes were among the top teams in the national rankings as they vied for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“I already knew a lot about Utah. They’ve had a lot of success,” he said. “I remember when we made a run at Baylor I remember looking at the rankings and Utah was a spot ahead of us. I definitely remember that.”
So why did he choose Utah?
“I was just ready for a change and to go somewhere for my final year. What I was looking for was to be part of a great team. That’s what Utah is,” Brewer said. “I really like coach Whittingham and the rest of the staff, coach Ludwig. I got along with those guys right away. It just felt like a comfortable fit coming up here. I felt like it was a really good opportunity for me. I’m excited that I’m here.”
The feeling is mutual.
“We’re elated that we do have him. He went into the portal and we jumped on him right away,” Whittingham said. “We told him what we had to offer here as far as an opportunity. Bottom line, Charlie felt good about what our plans were and the opportunity he had here. He felt like it was a good fit.”
Brewer said he’s already established good relationships with Whittingham and Ludwig.
“In some ways, coach Whittingham reminds me of my first coach at Baylor, coach (Matt) Rhule,” he explained. “I really appreciate coach Whittingham giving me the opportunity. We’ve gotten along really well, and same with coach Ludwig. He has a ton of football knowledge. He knows a lot about the quarterback position. Being in the same room with him, talking football, I’ve already learned a lot and I have a lot to learn. He does a really good job of explaining everything.”
By the time the season kicks off in September, Brewer is hopeful that fans will be able to pack Rice-Eccles Stadium and play in that electric atmosphere.
“I really hope that the stadium is full,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. That makes the season more fun. Having a full season is more fun, more energy. Whatever happens, we’ll have to make the best of it.”
Fitting into the Utes’ offense
There are a number of differences between the Baylor offense that he engineered the past four years and the one at Utah.
“This offense is more multiple, a lot of run and play-action compared to the previous offense, which was more of a spread attack,” Brewer said. “That’s the main difference. ... In this offense, it’s a little more wordy. Some of the concepts are the same. But the verbiage of the playbook is the main difference.
“Being able to get that down is the most important thing. Going from system to system, the verbiage of everything is always going to be different. I think that’s the biggest challenge as you go into a new offense, being able to get that down.”
“I see a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, a lot of guys that are big-play guys,” he said. “We’ve got a few really good tight ends, some guys on the outside and Covey in the slot. We’re really good at every position. We’ve got some new running backs in. There’s a lot of talent.”
One of those running backs is another player that’s transferred from a Big 12 school and has been a Big 12 rival — Oklahoma transfer TJ Pledger.
“We’ve played against each other a few times,” Brewer said. “It will be fun to be on the same side this time.”
Utah’s roster also features other heralded QBs, including Texas transfer Cam Rising; new Texas transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson; and four-star recruit Peter Costelli, who signed in December and is already enrolled in school.
“We have a really good quarterback room,” Brewer said. “We have a lot of guys that are really talented and know football.”
The Baylor rebuild
Brewer decided to sign with Baylor in 2017, the year after a scandal rocked the program, resulting in the dismissal of the football coach, Art Briles, as well as the school president and athletic director.
Reeling from well-publicized misconduct within the program, Baylor hired Rhule, who had previously led Temple to back-to-back 10-win seasons.
One of Rhule’s first early-enrollee recruits in 2017 was Brewer, who played at Austin’s Lake Travis High, a school that also produced Heisman Trophy winner and current Cleveland Browns star Baker Mayfield.
Rhule offered Brewer a scholarship without seeing him actually play in high school.
“But every person I asked, they would talk about him in such a way that meant something to me,” Rhule once told ESPN. “How much of a winner he was. And what a competitor he was. That just stood out.”
Brewer had originally committed to SMU before he flipped to Baylor.
As a true freshman QB in the middle of a major rebuilding project, Brewer took some lumps as the Bears posted an 1-11 record in Rhule’s first campaign. But he also revealed glimpses of his potential — such as rallying his team to a 23-point comeback in the fourth quarter against West Virginia.
“Well you know we might not be winning,” Rhule said in 2017, “but at least we know we have a quarterback.”
In 2018 as a sophomore, Brewer helped lead Baylor to a 7-6 record, including a heart-pounding victory over Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl.
Then in 2019, Baylor went 11-3, including a 26-14 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. That season, Brewer established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
A Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist, Brewer started all 14 games, completing 215 of 389 passes (65%) for 3,161 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed 147 times for 344 yards and 11 TDs.
Brewer dealt with concussion-related issues in 2019 but said “a lot of that stuff was blown out of proportion a little bit. I feel great. I’m as healthy as I’ve been in my college career. I’m all good.”
After the 2019 season, Rhule jumped to the National Football League as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
“He’s had a huge influence on my career,” Brewer said of Rhule. “He really made me a better person and a better football player. He did an amazing job. He did a lot for me. It was good to play for him. I knew that opportunity would come for him and I couldn’t be more happy and excited that he’s a head coach in the NFL.”
In 2020, Brewer and his team, under coach Dave Aranda, struggled to a 2-7 season amid the pandemic.
“It was a crazy season. A lot different from other seasons,” Brewer said. “We probably won’t ever experience a season like that again.”
How does Brewer describe his career at Baylor?
“It was a good experience. From when I first got there to what the program was to that third year, the difference from one win to 11 wins was pretty cool to be a part of that transition,” he said. “That last year (2020) we kind of took a bad turn and we didn’t have a great season. So I’m ready to regroup myself and get back on track on the winning side.”
From Big 12 to Pac-12
Not only is Brewer changing schools, but he’s also changing conferences — going from one Power Five conference to another.
“It will be different playing a whole new set of teams. But I’ve always been a big college football fan,” he said. “I’ve watched teams play in each conference. There are some really good teams in this conference. I’m really excited to play in the Pac-12.”
While Brewer knows firsthand what it’s like to play in a New Year’s Six bowl, he knows that a Rose Bowl berth could be waiting at the end of a stellar season in 2021.
Brewer also knows there’s plenty of work to do.
“I think we do have a great team. There’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Now, especially for me, it’s about getting reps and keep getting a grasp of the playbook,” he said. “I think we have the ability to have a really good season. There’s a lot of things that go into that. Once you check those boxes and you put in the work and get those reps, some of that stuff can happen, like having a great season.”
More than anything, Brewer wants to help Utah achieve greatness this season. But he’s also hoping his senior season can be a springboard to a future in the NFL.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Coming here and being on this team, if I’m able to put together a good year, I definitely think that will put me in a good position to go to that next level.”
Along the way, Brewer is hoping to add to his impressive list of accomplishments.