After many years of spending a good deal of the month of January in a film room, Bob Burt has discovered a simple fact when evaluating a football prospect on film:
If you have to look closely, it probably is not worth it.
Burt and his staff at Cal State Northridge estimate they spent about 150 hours watching film of more than 100 prospects during the past few months.
"You learn," Burt said, "that the really good players you don't have to stare to see. They jump right out at you. You can tell just by watching three or four plays."
Damiean Jenkins, a senior at Saugus High, shot off the screen and into Burt's lap in the first minute of viewing.
"I remember he was playing nose guard," Burt said. "He ran around the center, there was an option going the other way, and he chased the quarterback down and tackled him behind the line of scrimmage."
Scholarships are earned from such plays and on Wednesday Jenkins accepted an offer from Northridge.
The 6-3, 235-pound defensive tackle was one of eight players to sign Wednesday, which was the first day high school seniors could sign letters of intent.
John Goyich, a fullback from Azusa, Jim Burke, a linebacker from Woodbridge, and Dave Herbert, a center from West Covina, were the three other high school players to sign. They were joined by four junior college transfers: defensive linemen Mike Meehan of Southwestern and Rod Weber of San Bernardino Valley and linebackers Jeff Dixon of San Jose City and Andre Washington of Glendale.
Tommy Howard, a cornerback from San Fernando High, verbally committed to Northridge on Tuesday night but backed out Wednesday in hope that an offer from Nevada Las Vegas was forthcoming.
Northridge, which cannot afford to offer full scholarships, is forced to pan for players after the major colleges have sifted through the best prospects.
Once in a while, Burt said, a nugget is left over. Jenkins, for example.
"He's quick, big, and going to get bigger," Burt said.
Coaches whose teams opposed Jenkins and Saugus last season agree.
"He has blue-chip potential," said Harry Welch of Canyon. "He can be an impact player very soon. Northridge may have gotten a steal. I saw him on film go against some good people and it was no contest."
Said Rick Scott of Hart: "He ate us alive. He's the best nose guard we faced all year. Against us, he was all-world."
Actually, Jenkins was second-team All-Golden League, an injustice according to Dick Flaherty, Jenkins' coach at Saugus.
"We won one league game and sometimes when that happens a deserving player gets overlooked," Flaherty said. "That's what happened to Damiean."
Jenkins, who should be one of the state's best discus throwers this spring, played hurt much of the season, which is another reason he was overlooked.
He strained ligaments in his left knee in Saugus' second game, then did the same thing to the right knee four weeks later against Canyon. Four weeks after that, Jenkins reinjured the left knee in a game against Antelope Valley.
"It was a very painful year," he said.
Jenkins also is considered to be very raw. He played at Saugus four years, but just started to learn some fundamentals last season, Flaherty's first at the school.
"The first three years I was on my own," Jenkins said. "We basically did what we wanted. I didn't learn much until last season."
Burt is aware that the key word with this recruit is potential.
"He's not ready to play for us right now, but he will be," the coach said.
The same could be said of Goyich of Azusa, who was a high jumper-water polo-basketball player until two years ago.
"I begged him to come out for football for two years before he finally did," Azusa Coach Mark Schuster said.
Goyich came out for the team as a junior midway through the 1986 season. "He was a linebacker at first, but we decided to move him to fullback. The first time he carried the ball in practice, he ran over about eight guys. He had no idea what he was doing, but he just carried people with him."
Last season, Goyich (6-1, 205) gained 907 yards and averaged 8.2 yards a carry. Both Burt and Schuster compare him favorably with Sherdrick Bonner, who Northridge recruited out of Azusa two years ago.
Bonner, CSUN's backup quarterback last season, played only one full season of football and only parts of games at quarterback.
"He has the same kind of potential," Schuster said. "He's naturally strong and can carry 230 or 235 pounds without losing a step."
Burke (6-2, 210) was most valuable defensive player on a Woodbridge team that went 13-1 and won the Desert-Mountain Conference championship.
He averaged nine solo tackles a game, played part time at fullback and was the long-snapper for punts and field goals.
Herbert (6-3, 215) was first-team All-Sierra League on offense and second-team on defense.
"Of the spots we wanted freshman at, the only one we didn't get was a tight end," Burt said. "Obviously, we're pleased. We'd like the four-year players to be the backbone of the program."