After two years as head football coach at Santa Monica College, Ralph Vidal will be sharing the credit with someone else this season--and the blame.
Owen Hahn, a veteran assistant at the school, has joined Vidal as co-head coach of the Corsairs. Hahn will continue to coach the special teams and running backs. Vidal will remain as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. They will divide administrative duties.
Vidal and Hahn have some assets they can both brag about, including returning quarterback Jeff Barrett, a talented bunch of receivers and some massive, experienced defensive linemen who may scare some ballcarriers into running for cover.
Although the Corsairs finished 5-5 last year, Barrett had an excellent freshman season. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound graduate of Burroughs High in Burbank completed 102 of 188 passes for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns with nine interceptions.
He should improve on those numbers, throwing to the returning O'Bannon brothers--wide receiver Turhon and tight end Jermaine--and to little-used sophomores Napoleon Banks, a wideout, and Jeff Williamson, Jermaine's backup last year. Turhon had 29 receptions for 436 yards and four touchdowns in 1989, and Jermaine had 13 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Barrett will also be throwing to several freshmen, including Jason Lucky and Greg Hooks. Lucky, one of the state's best receivers in 1988 at St. Bernard High, was at Ricks (Idaho) Junior College last year, but he did not play because of an injury. Hooks starred for Culver City High last year as a wide receiver, defensive back and punt returner.
With that kind of offensive personnel, it is not surprising that the Corsairs will be throwing the ball more often. Vidal said the team will have "more of a wide-open offense" with more multiple sets. "We're going away from the (I-formation) ball-control idea."
He said that the offensive changes have been "dictated by the personnel. We have a lot of tight ends and receivers, and we haven't really had the big fullback. You change the scheme to get your athletes into the flow and that makes us more dangerous."
Danger signs probably should be hung around the necks of the Corsair defensive linemen, all sophomores: tackles Adrian Brayboy (6-6, 316) and Mark Cottingham (6-5, 290), and ends Lewis Capes (6-4 1/2, 272) and Andre Murray (6-3, 276).
Cottingham and Capes, both from Great Britain, were not only SMC newcomers last year but were also new to American football. Vidal said that Cottingham "is really ready to be a force" and that Capes "is arriving. He's a little bit behind Cottingham, but he's catching up."
The most noticeable thing about the running backs is their inexperience. Sophomore Dante Ware (6-1, 188) was good at returning kicks last year (17 for 451 yards and a 26.5-yard average), but as a running back he had only eight carries for 51 yards.
Other runners, all freshmen, include Derek Armester (6-2, 190), Jason Grant (5-6, 162), John Haqq (5-9, 158), Johnny Mack (5-8, 175) and John Williams (6-1, 190). Haqq rushed for more than 1,200 yards at Culver City High last year.
Haqq and Hooks are among seven SMC freshmen who were named to The Times 1989 All-Westside first team. The others are linebacker Art Cabral (6-0, 191) and offensive tackle Julio Diaz (6-6, 280), both of Venice High; linebackers Darren Johnson (6-1, 205) of Westchester and Bryan McElroy (5-10, 191) of Palisades, and defensive end Devon Sando of Beverly Hills (6-0, 231).
Johnson is nursing a shoulder injury and is doubtful for the team's opener. SMC will play host to Saddleback at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Corsair Field.
Hahn and Vidal had expected to be deep at the linebacker positions, but Johnson is only one of several at this spot who are injured. It's possible that All-Western State Conference selection Prentice Parker and freshman Russell Greene will miss the season. Parker is sidelined after shoulder surgery, and Greene had to have a metal rod removed from a leg he broke in an all-star game last year, because it was irritating a tendon. Freshman Chris Russo is out with a knee injury.
There is plenty of depth at defensive backs, where the veterans include Paxton Griffin, Mark Ricks, Dennis Carrier, Dan Robinson and Demetrie Cooley. But the offensive line is an uncertain commodity and will have to come together to provide pass protection for Barrett and his receivers.
Vidal thinks Bakersfield is easily the class of the conference, followed by Moorpark and Pierce. As for the Corsairs, he said: "I don't know. We could be anywhere from the middle up. We have to develop the offensive line, and we have to find linebackers."