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Johnson, Marinovich Move Their Rivalry to UCLA, USC

February 11, 1988|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

From the South Coast Conference to the Pacific 10 Conference, the rivalry will be continued.

When Bret Johnson of El Toro High School signed with UCLA and Todd Marinovich of Capistrano Valley in Mission Viejo signed with USC Wednesday, the stage was set for some future showdowns between two of the best quarterbacks in the country who just happened to play their high school ball within a few miles of each other in Orange County.

Johnson, who visited USC, Notre Dame and Penn State as well as UCLA, said that he chose UCLA because he felt most comfortable there. And he said that his decision was not based, in any way, on what Marinovich was planning to do.

Marinovich, whose family has strong ties to USC, visited only Stanford and USC, knowing that those were his top choices and not wanting to waste the time or money of any of the other schools that were calling.

For Marinovich, the decision was made two weeks ago when, on his visit to USC, the coaches took him onto the field at the Coliseum and showed him the scoreboard flashing a "Welcome Todd Marinovich" while he soaked up the feel of the piped-in crowd noise. Marinovich said: "It was spine tingling. When I walked down the tunnel, I was thinking, 'This is where I have to go.' When I walked down the tunnel of the Coliseum, I knew. When I walked across campus, I knew."

USC did not have the same effect on Johnson, and UCLA Coach Terry Donahue is glad of that. Donahue said: "Bret Johnson is the only quarterback that we recruited. He was the only quarterback we offered a scholarship to. We put all of our eggs in one basket, and we're delighted to have him.

"We've been recruiting Bret Johnson for two years. We knew he was the one we wanted."

UCLA also signed one of the most sought-after running backs in the country, Kevin Williams of Spring, Tex.

Williams, who rushed for 1,339 yards in just eight games this season, was considered the nation's No. 1 prospect by the National High School Football Recruiting Service. Donahue said: "We really needed to replace Gaston Green's speed, and we think we did that with Kevin Williams. He's a track man with excellent speed."

Williams reportedly runs a 4.45-second 40-yard dash.

Before committing to UCLA a few days ago, Williams considered Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Johnson and Williams led the list of 18 high school seniors signed by UCLA Wednesday. Of the high school players signed, 10 were considered first-team All-Americans. The Bruins also signed one community college player, defensive back Damion Lyons of Oakland.

Marinovich led a list of 29 players who signed with USC--26 high school players and three junior college players. Of the Trojans' high school recruits, six were All-Americans.

The most celebrated of the Trojan recruits also had the most impressive statistics. Marinovich, who played for two years at Matre Dei in Santa Ana and two years at Capistrano Valley, set a national high school record with 9,149 passing yards.

Marinovich is the son of 1962 USC team co-captain Marv Marinovich. Todd's mother also went to USC. His sister is there now. And he also had an uncle, an aunt and a grandfather who were Trojans.

Johnson, who has led El Toro to the Southern Conference title the last two years, passed for 6,538 yards and 63 touchdowns in his career.

Asked what he liked about Johnson, Donahue said: "I like everything about him. I like the fact that he's won two CIF championships. I like his field presence, his leadership, his athletic skills, his mobility, his throwing arm. Everything."

Donahue and Johnson expect Johnson to redshirt next season while Troy Aikman plays his senior season at quarterback for the Bruins. After that, as Donahue puts it, "It's going to be wide open, and it's going to be a real battle." The Bruins have three or four quarterbacks waiting behind Aikman now.

Johnson said that the fact that Aikman was at UCLA was one of the plus factors. "You know that the starting quarterback has one more year, and then it's open competition," he said.

Among the other top Bruin recruits are Brian Jacobs, a 6-foot 5-inch, 255-pound offensive lineman from Hart High, running back-defensive back Willie Crawford of Beverly Hills High, tailback Shawn Wills from Hanford High, wide receiver Sean LaChapelle from Napa's Vintage High, linebacker Meech Shaw from Ponca City (Okla.), nose guard Andrew Brigida from Northern Valley High in Old Tappan, N.J., and wide receiver Fred Gilbert from Huntsville High in Texas.

The top Trojan recruits include punter/placekicker Ron Dale of Boulder City (Nev.); linebacker Kurt Barber of Paducah (Ky.) Tilghman High; Matt Gee of Arkansas City (Kan.) High; defensive back Lamont Hollinquest of Pius X High in Downey, and defensive back Stephon Pace of Bishop Amat in La Puente.

Two of the Trojans' community college signees, Randy Hord of Riverside City College and Mike Petrini of Bakersfield College, were All-Americans.

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