There's a new face at Cal State Northridge--first-year Coach Bob Burt--and some familiar ones at Azusa Pacific, Occidental, Cal Lutheran, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer that should make this an interesting football season for the Southland's small colleges.
The familiar faces include several of the nation's top small college quarterbacks--Tom Bonds at Cal Lutheran, Robbie Bristow at Pomona-Pitzer, Mark Van Allen at La Verne, Robert Perez at Cal Poly SLO and Chris Parker at Northridge--and some top running backs, including Mike Kane of Northridge, Jim Gleed of Cal Poly SLO and Christian Okoye, originally of Nigeria, of Azusa Pacific.
In the national picture, Azusa Pacific is ranked seventh in one preseason poll, and Occidental is ninth in another.
Occidental, Redlands and Whittier are expected to be the top contenders in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Cal Poly SLO, Northridge and Cal Lutheran are relatively unknown quantities in the widespread Western Football Conference, which was dominated last year by Santa Clara and Sacramento State.
Here's a capsule look at the Southland teams:
AZUSA PACIFIC 1985 RECORD--7-2 overall
Playing as a small college independent, the Cougars have one of the nation's most intriguing players in the 6-foot 3-inch, 255-pound Christian Okoye at tailback. Starting only his third season in football, Okoye, who came to the United States as a track star, is an NFL prospect who is nearly unstoppable on the small college level. He has averaged about 130 yards a game since becoming a starter midway through the 1984 season. Despite his size and strength, Okoye runs 40 yards in 4.5 seconds and has a long jump mark of 23 feet. Quarterback Dave Titchenal, running the veer offense, should be able take advantage of defenses ganging up on Okoye, and there is more reason for optimism. The Cougars have 13 starters returning, including their entire offensive line, and expect to be stronger on defense, where two linemen and two linebackers are back. The secondary, however, has only one player returning. Coach Jim Milhon's team will open at home Sept. 13 against La Verne.