Transfers often being the order of the day, it is not unusual for the makeup of a junior college football program to change dramatically from one season to the next.
But Valley Coach Chuck Ferrero couldn't believe his good fortune with the influx of Division I talent to his Western State Conference school this season.
No less than five players from Division I schools transferred to Valley, and another top prospect signed a letter of intent with Florida State but chose to attend the Van Nuys school when he failed to meet the NCAA's Proposition 48 requirements.
Offensive guard Jeff Zentner (6-foot-2, 255 pounds) and defensive tackle Eric Sims (6-4, 300) top the list of incoming talent.
Zentner is a sophomore transfer from San Jose State while Sims decided against FSU after failing to attain the minimum score of 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test necessary for athletic eligibility.
"The number of transfers is about the same as in previous years," Ferrero said. "But we've never had this many really quality athletes transfer at one time."
Sam Edwards (Arizona), Lamark Allen (Weber State), Eric Barber and Muhammad Zaid (both from Grambling State) are the other transfers.
Edwards, a former All-City defensive back for Reseda High, was suspended at Arizona for a year for his involvement in an off-campus fight last season. However, he is expected to return to the Tucson school next season.
Allen, a do-it-all offensive player at Saugus High in 1987, should bolster the Monarchs' receiving corps, while Barber will play cornerback and return kicks. Zaid, who gained 1,014 yards for Van Nuys High in 1987, will battle for the starting tailback position.
Eight starters return from last year's team (6-4, 6-3 in conference play), which finished third in the Southern Division of the WSC.
Kicker Jim Harper and offensive tackle Alex Campos were all-conference selections and tight end Sean Brown led the team with 34 receptions for 410 yards.
Ferrero said the race to replace Todd Studer at quarterback is wide open among Trendell Williams, Brent Spurlin, Josh Young and Mark Mangoni.
Glendale (10-2, 8-1) was ranked second in the conference in defense last season, but offense will be the Vaqueros' strength under first-year Coach John Cicuto, the defensive coordinator for 13 seasons.
The starting offensive line returns intact, led by all-WSC guard Chris Allen (6-2, 250) and tackle Anthony Navarro (6-4, 260).
Darren Fitzgerald will replace Keith Fitzgerald (no relation) at quarterback while running backs Sean Hampton and Doug Dragomer will attempt to improve upon their 1,000-yard rushing efforts of last year.
The offense will also be bolstered by the transfers of quarterback Ronnie Lopez, tight end Jason Teitel and running back Wes Bender from Pierce College.
"Our weakness will be defense," Cicuto said. "We're very inexperienced. We have talent, but we're real green. If our defense can improve at a pretty rapid pace, we should be OK."
Cicuto is counting on nose guard Chad Keiser (6-2, 250) and lineman Damon Hinton (6-4, 255)--both all-WSC selections--to shore up the Vaquero defense.
Lineman Robert Tabrizi (6-3, 250), outside linebacker Mark Reeve (6-3, 210) and safety Roy Talavera (6-1, 185) are returning starters.
Moorpark (9-2, 8-1) had the state's No. 1-ranked defense (173.8 yards a game in the regular season) and Jim Bittner, in his 11th season as coach, hopes the Raiders will again make life miserable for opposing offenses.
"That's definitely going to be our strength," said Bittner, whose team tied Glendale for the Northern Division title last season. "My main concern right now is the inexperience of our offensive line."
Center Carlos Hernandez (5-10, 260) is the only returning starter from that group, but the Raiders have some sizable newcomers in tackles Kevin Elder and Ned Russell (both 6-3, 300), and guard Roger Kleinhands (6-2, 250).
Quarterback Jason Merrill (63 of 124 for 1,136 yards and 13 touchdowns) returns, as do wide receivers James Gambrell and Rick Wright.
If the line jells, the Raiders should have a potent running attack, led by Marc Monestime, a redshirt freshman from Montana and Thousand Oaks High, and sophomore Johnny Brown (445 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season).
Linebackers Jeff Lujan (6-2, 230), Scott Urich (6-0, 215), Ray Monsones (6-0, 225) and All-WSC performer Tom Briggs (6-1, 230) are the heart of the Raiders' 3-4 defense.
Vince Plymire and Mack Humphrey, who transferred from Montana along with Monestime, are two talented newcomers.
Plymire (6-4, 270), who won the heavyweight division at the state JC wrestling championships last year, will play on the defensive line and Humphrey will start at strong safety.
"I feel pretty good as far as the defense goes," Bittner said. "If the offensive line comes together, we should be pretty good."