As much as Cal State Fullerton football Coach Gene Murphy wants to forget last season's 1-11 disaster, present circumstances make it nearly impossible.
The Titans began spring practice Monday with the same problems that plagued them in 1990--lack of depth and lots of injuries.
Starting linebacker Stan Breland and reserve linebacker Mike Gullo recently had knee surgery and will miss spring practice, as will starting defensive lineman J.C. Farrow, who is recovering from a hyper-extended elbow.
Starting offensive lineman Robert Reid (wrist) and reserve offensive lineman Jim DiFilippo (shoulder) are questionable for spring drills, and Kerry Reed, the only receiver returning with any varsity experience, will miss at least two weeks because of a skateboard-related knee injury.
In all, 45 to 50 players--barely enough to go two-deep at each position--are expected to participate in spring practice, which culminates with a May 11 scrimmage.
"When it rains it pours," Murphy said.
As if Murphy didn't have enough problems, about a dozen players and six assistant coaches left the team during an off-season in which the program was nearly eliminated. Several recruits who had made oral commitments to Fullerton signed elsewhere.
But those who have stayed seem determined to redeem themselves. Since February, players have been running three mornings a week and lifting weights, sometimes as late as 11 p.m.
"They've worked real hard in the off-season," Murphy said. "Last season hurt us personally. It wasn't only the losses, but the way we lost--we were embarrassed and angry. Hopefully, we won't have those feelings next November."
Spring is a time for optimism, when coaches from winning programs aspire to conference titles and those from rebuilding programs talk of .500 seasons.
Murphy's goal for 1991? "To be as competitive as possible."
With a schedule that includes games at Mississippi State, Texas Tech and Georgia, and with Big West Conference teams improving faster than Fullerton, winning will be difficult for the Titans.
Whether they're competitive depends on their defense, which allowed an average of 40.4 points and 506.8 yards last season.
Two of the best defensive players from last season, inside linebackers Teddy McMillan and Lorenzo Hailey, are back. "But other than inside linebacker, we're in a world of hurt," Murphy said.
Defensive success will hinge on many new players--some redshirts, such as linebackers Dan Godfrey and Jason Wells, but mostly junior college transfers. Murphy won't know how many recruits are academically eligible until the summer.
The Titan offense is not without question marks, but it appears Fullerton could have a solid line. Guard Shannon Illingworth, who started the first game last year but missed the rest of the season because of a knee injury, successfully petitioned the NCAA for another season of eligibility.
Tim Drevno returns at one tackle position, and John Cotti, one of Fullerton's most promising prospects, will move from tackle to guard. Wally Bonnett will move from linebacker to offensive tackle, and David Porter, a redshirt junior from El Camino College, has the edge at center.
Sophomore Terry Payne, who passed for 618 yards as the backup quarterback in 1990, and redshirt freshman Chad May will battle for the quarterback job. Reggie Yarbrough, who rushed for 1,014 yards and nine touchdowns last season, is a lock at running back, but the receiver positions are wide open.
Fullerton wide receiver J.J. Celestine, who caught 58 passes for 880 yards and six touchdowns in 1990, has signed a free-agent contract with Edmonton of the Canadian Football League team, Coach Gene Murphy said. . . . Volleyball Coach Jim Huffman has received letters of intent from six high school players, including Stacey Stanek, who is considered one of the nation's top setters. Stanek, a 5-foot-10 San Luis Obispo High senior, was rated among the top 50 high school recruits in the nation by Volleyball Monthly. The other signees: Christina Bennett, a 6-0 middle blocker from Taft High; Lisa Parbst, a 5-7 outside hitter from Monache High in Porterville; Casey Baldwin, a 5-9 outside hitter from Clovis High; Kristin Sharples, a 6-0 middle blocker from Oak Ridge High in Elk Grove, and Alyssa Donaldson, a 5-11 setter/hitter from Buena High in Ventura.
Stacey Harris scored a 37.40 and finished tied for 36th and Stacy Fowlkes scored a 37.35 and finished 39th in the individual all-around competition at last weekend's NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships at University of Alabama. Diego Lopez placed 33rd in the vault competition in the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships at Penn State. . . . Titan women's gymnastics Coach Lynn Rogers has received letters from four high school gymnasts: Heather Okland of Los Amigos High in Fountain Valley; Wendy Minch of Westland, Mich.; Jenny Ward of Los Gatos, and Christie Epperly of Roanoke, Va. . . . The Titan women's tennis team, which is led by senior Kelli Moore, will participate in the Big West Tournament this Wednesday through Sunday at the Ojai Valley Racquet Club.