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Johnson Makes a Decision : Football: Former UCLA quarterback will transfer to Michigan State after also visiting Alabama, North Carolina and Arkansas.

August 31, 1990|MAL FLORENCE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bret Johnson, UCLA's former quarterback, has found a new school: Michigan State.

Pat Morris, an assistant coach at Michigan State, said Johnson has decided to enroll at the school.

Johnson visited East Lansing, Mich., Wednesday and made his decision Thursday.

Morris said Johnson visited Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina before arriving in East Lansing Tuesday night.

"He spent all day Wednesday watching practice, and he met with (head coach) George Perles and offensive coordinator Morris Watts. He also met with the quarterbacks," said Morris, a former USC assistant who once recruited for the Trojans in Orange County.

"We just explained our offense. To be honest with you, it wasn't a big sales pitch. He would tell you that we didn't beg him to come. We just said, 'If you like it here and like the people, you're welcome to come. We'll give you a scholarship.' "

Johnson left UCLA last week when he learned that his former backup, Jim Bonds, was named the starting quarterback, which was Johnson's status as a redshirt freshman in 1989.

The former El Toro High School star criticized the Bruins' decision, saying that he wasn't fairly beaten out for the position and that it was predetermined, as early as spring practice, that he wouldn't retain his starting quarterback job.

"Bob Johnson called me last week and said Bret had left UCLA and was looking at a bunch of schools and he wanted to know if we would be interested," Morris said. "I said, 'Sure. If he's interested in us, we'll take a look at him.' "

Bret's father, Bob Johnson, who coached his son at El Toro, refused to comment to The Times Thursday, just saying that no announcement will be made.

Morris said he had seen Johnson on film last year when UCLA played Michigan.

"We thought he was a good quarterback, but obviously we didn't promise him anything. We liked his quickness," Morris said.

"All of the things we heard about Bret were good, not just on the football field, but as a person."

Johnson told the Detroit Free Press: "I'm going to transfer to Michigan State, but I'm not going to answer any questions until I get to East Lansing Saturday night."

If Johnson enrolls at Michigan State, as expected, he would have to sit out a year under NCAA rules before he could play again.

Michigan State has a senior quarterback, Dan Enos, who is backed up by Jim Miller, a redshirt freshman.

The Spartans also have a true freshman in Mill Coleman, a two-time high school All-American from Farmington Hills, Mich.

Johnson was a highly regarded prep player at El Toro, leading his team to the Southern Section championship as a senior in 1987.

After redshirting at UCLA in 1988, he beat out Bonds for the starting job last season.

However, the Bruins struggled to a 3-7-1 record and Johnson subsequently said his losing the No. 1 position was part of the fallout of that season.

UCLA offensive coordinator Homer Smith said that Bonds was chosen over Johnson because he had a stronger arm with better "ball speed."

Smith also said he hadn't prejudged the quarterbacks and was waiting until fall to make his decision. That decision was made two days after the Bruins began practice.

Michigan State, which operates from the I-formation, had an 8-4 record last year, finishing in a tie for third in the Big Ten at 6-2.

Times staff writer Jerry Crowe and columnist Mike Downey contributed to this story.

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