In the psychological whirlwind of preseason predictions, it is not unusual for coaches to tell untruths--even fib--about their team's chances.
Often football coaches who know full well that their teams are going to breeze through the schedule talk about how improved the competition is and they wonder, aloud, how they are going to survive.
Other coaches, who have a pretty good idea that their teams are lousy, talk in gallant tones of honor and manhood, and some even boast that last year was merely a season-long bad break, and that this year will be different.
In the days leading up to his 25th season, which begins Saturday against San Francisco State, Cal Lutheran Coach Bob Shoup lands somewhere between the two extremes. After a 6-5 record last year, Shoup is outwardly cautious. But he can't hide the fact that he feels good about the upcoming season.
"Last year we lost some close games," he said. "This time, we'll win the close games. We may end up surprising some people. With Tom Bonds and our team speed, I don't think a conference championship is out of the question."
Such a finish would surprise a lot of people, including the coaches of the Western Football Conference. They picked the Kingsmen to finish sixth among the conference's seven teams.
Shoup's optimism begins with Bonds. The junior quarterback has passed for 3,381 yards in his career. "When Tom is on the field, we play better," Shoup said. "He's not the biggest or fastest or strongest, but the sum of the parts is great. In our intrasquad scrimmage last week, he was the single dominant player on the field. The whole team has confidence in him."
Bonds, in turn, has confidence in senior receivers Darren Gottschalk and Joe Fuca. Gottschalk, a 240-pound tight end, was a first-team all-conference player last year when he had 40 receptions for 536 yards and six touchdowns. Fuca caught 33 passes for 642 yards.
The offensive line is experienced and for the first time in years, Shoup said, the line is his team's strong point. "The unit is seven players deep," he said. "And most of them have played together for awhile."
Andy Dickerson (6-5, 285) played on Miami's national championship team two years ago and transferred after Coach Howard Schnellenberger left the team. This is his senior year. Shoup said Dickerson is recovering from a contusion on his knee and will probably miss the season opener.
Tracy Downs, a junior, and 5-7 freshman Cary Grant will team in the backfield. "Grant is so small, he looks like a fugitive from a Pop Warner team," Shoup said. "But, I swear his feet are so quick, they don't touch the ground. We didn't intend to use him at running back, but the more we looked at what he can do, the more we want him to have the ball."
The defense has been bolstered by junior college transfers. David Moore of Phoenix College in Arizona and Terry Rowe of Glendale College, also in Arizona, plug holes at linebacker. Jim Buffo, a transfer from Valley College, is battling with Denny Blackburn for one of the linebacker positions. Rueben Solorio will switch to linebacker from the defensive tackle spot.
Mike Miller, Shoup's best defensive player, will anchor the line. John Hynes, a transfer from Indiana, and Russell Patterson from College of San Mateo will step into starting spots.
The defensive secondary, a weakness in last year's team, has been supplemented with Oscar Williams, a transfer from Ventura College and Fred Buchman, who transferred from Walla Walla College in Washington. Todd Leavens, the fastest player on the team, and Don Price will also see action.
"This is our quickest defense since 1975," Shoup said.
Freshman Greg Maw edged Kurt Lohse at kicker, and Kent Sullivan will punt.