Like most football teams' preseason prognosis, Cal Lutheran's forecast includes some good news and some bad news.
The bad news is that the Kingsmen lost more than 30 players to graduation and defection. The good news is that the Kingsmen lost more than 30 players to graduation and defection.
It sounds trite but, after finishing 2-8 last year and being outscored, 109-0, in its last two games, Cal Lutheran could benefit from addition by subtraction.
Jim Bees, the quarterback who tied a Cal Lutheran season record with 21 interceptions, and the entire starting secondary, which surrendered 19 touchdown passes and recorded only five interceptions, are among the dearly departed.
Yet, Cal Lutheran also lost significant talent. Gone are some of its best players: wide receiver John Bankhead, Cal Lutheran's only All-Western Football Conference selection; Torii Lehr, a second-team All-WFC linebacker; and punter Kent Sullivan, who is currently trying out with the Chicago Bears.
Twelve starters and 24 lettermen are gone, but despite the losses, the team is approaching the season with optimism. A stronger offensive line and weaker schedule could even allow the Kingsmen to put together a winning record.
Scratched from the Cal Lutheran schedule are Portland State, Cal State Sacramento and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which collectively powdered the Kingsmen, 151-6, last season.
Azusa Pacific and La Verne, two teams against which Cal Lutheran owns a combined 28-3 series edge, have been added to the schedule. Believe it or not, though, the Kingsmen will miss the challenge.
"There are a lot of downers this year," said center Pat Wolcott, a fifth-year senior and offensive captain. "We don't play Portland State and Cal Poly, which to me is a disappointment. . . . A lot of people in the administration say we don't have any business playing those guys, but as athletes we don't want to play easy teams."
Cal Lutheran is in the first year of a three-year transition from the WFC, a National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Division II conference, to the NCAA Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
In the interim, the Kingsmen will compete in the NCAA Division III and Division I of the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics. With three games against WFC teams, Cal Lutheran will maintain an associate membership in the WFC this season.
"There aren't many textbooks that tell you how to go about doing that," CLU Coach Bob Shoup said in early August.
Now operating under Division III rules, CLU canceled spring practice and was unable to offer athletic scholarships to incoming freshmen.
Then, just when it looked like the players could finally get down to playing football after a tumultuous off-season, Shoup was told this will be his last year as coach.
"A lot of people are not happy about the situation Coach Shoup is in," sophomore quarterback Tim Zeddies said. "So if this is his last year, we want to give him a good send-off."
Shoup has slightly more than two weeks of fall practice to prepare the Kingsmen for their Sept. 9 opener at Sonoma State.
"Amazingly, we still have some quality players," Shoup said. "Unfortunately, not many of them are in the skill positions. We do have some strength in our offensive line."
Four seniors will start on the offensive line, and the quartet averages 263 pounds a man. Brobdingnagian Ken Whitney, a 6-foot-4, 290-pounder who can bench-press 610 pounds, will add heft to the line after moving from tight end to right tackle.
"I'm going to like hiding behind him," said Zeddies, who passed for 381 yards in six games.
None of the Kingsmen rushed for 1,000 yards last season. In fact, the Kingsmen didn't rush for 1,000 yards as a team.
Leading rusher Noel Chesnut is gone, but Zeddies and Wolcott predict that Cal Lutheran will nonetheless run the ball more than last year and may even mix in some option plays. Senior Dean Henderson is the leading returning rusher (174 yards in 53 carries).
Five starters return on defense. Inside linebackers Mike Mollinado and Ken Steward--who is expected to appeal a ruling that left him ineligible Monday--are the Kingsmen's leading returning tacklers. Linebacker Cary Caulfield, who starred at Canyon High and arrived at Cal Lutheran after attending Army and Brigham Young, could make the linebacking corps the strength of the defense.