When the NCAA's stricter scholastic eligibility requirements for incoming athletes at Division I schools took effect this year, it was thought that many who failed to meet them would forfeit their scholarships and enroll at junior colleges to keep their playing skills sharp.
The theory went that community colleges would get much of the fallout from athletes who bombed on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. But the theory isn't holding up for Santa Monica College football. "I haven't really noticed that at all," said Coach Pat Young.
Freshmen who didn't get the necessary SAT scores to play for a Division I school also had the option of entering the four-year college and not playing or practicing during their first year. And many seem to be doing just that.
In any case, none have shown up to play for Young's Corsairs.
Another fallout theory also has been refuted at SMC. When West Los Angeles College, the only other Westside community college, dropped football this year, some thought that a lot of players who spent their freshman seasons on the WLAC team would be donning Corsair jerseys this fall.
But the only ex-Oiler on the SMC roster is 6-3, 235-pound sophomore guard Eric Richardson, who was listed as a tight end at WLAC.
Young said he was surprised that more WLAC players didn't show up at Santa Monica. "We had the same turnout we got with or without (West Los Angeles dropping the sport). It's quite surprising."
Former WLAC Coach Jim Babcock had a strong team last year, including a host of freshmen. The Oilers defeated SMC, 22-21, in their opener and went on to post a 6-3 record before football was dropped because of widespread financial belt-tightening in the Los Angeles Community College District.
It's a safe assumption that Young would have had a powerhouse if some of the ex-WLAC freshmen had enrolled at SMC. But he should still have a strong team without them.
Last year the Corsairs were 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the Western State Conference, and Young has 20 lettermen returning.
On offense, key veterans include quarterback Kevin Bray, running back Ken Williams, wide receiver Randy Peterson and center Bill Beteta (6-2, 220), who played guard last year.
Bray took over as starting quarterback in the second game after his predecessor, Floyd Brewer, quit the team. Bray completed 91 of 200 pass attempts for 1,399 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Williams was a second-team all-conference selection, running for 512 yards on 97 tries (a 5.3-yard average) and three touchdowns. Peterson received all-conference honorable mention.
Top defensive players include inside linebacker Todd Deeds (6-2, 215) and cornerback Randy Johnson. Both were second-team all-conference, and Johnson was tough against the pass with five interceptions.
Young thought that Johnson would have a lot of help in the secondary with the return of safety Ken Quash, who also had five interceptions. But Quash injured an elbow in practice, had surgery and is lost for the season. Sophomore Jimmy Marshall will take his place.
Young said the loss of Quash was "really a crusher for us" and raises doubts about how well his squad will be able to cover the pass.
Another question mark is the offensive line, where Young said the depth is "almost negligible."
However, if the offensive line comes together and some newcomers mature rapidly to provide pass protection, Young said his team should score a lot of points through the air.
He said that Bray "had a good learning year, and he'll have some excellent wide receivers." Besides Peterson and letterman Ken Randolph, there are well regarded freshmen at wide receiver, including Demetrius (Pee Wee) Smith from Gardena High, Gene Clark from Locke High and Marcus Bowen from Bell High. The starting tight end should be 6-4, 215-pound Fabian Pope, the former Crenshaw High star who was at the University of Washington last season.
Other newcomers expected to make an impact include freshman Mike Sanders, a former Venice High star quarterback who was at California Lutheran for part of last year; offensive tackle Dale Evans (6-1, 260), a top performer for Santa Monica High last season, and sophomore defensive tackle Lance Jackson (6-5, 260), who was at Oregon State last year and is a graduate of Hawthorne High.
Young said he looks for a good year on offense, but he added that "we'll have to see how well we do on defense."
The Corsairs open at home Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against Southwestern of Chula Vista.