Five days after Heisman Trophy contender Marshall Faulk and his San Diego State teammates began drills, their opening day opponent, Cal State Northridge, will start its own preparations.
The Matadors, who will make their Division I-AA debut Sept. 4 against the Aztecs at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, could not afford the dorm fees to open fall camp before 9 a.m. today. As it is, housing is available to only 50 of the 84 players and walk-on freshmen cannot join the team until school starts Aug. 30 because of the limited food and housing budget.
With 12 returning starters from a 5-5 team and the recruitment of several touted transfers, Coach Bob Burt expects to field the most talented team in his eight seasons at Northridge.
The catch is that the Matadors are playing the toughest nonconference schedule in their history, beginning with the I-A Aztecs and continuing with Weber State and Northern Arizona of the I-AA Big Sky Conference and I-A Nevada Las Vegas of the Big West.
The running game appears to be improved with the recovery of tailback Robert Trice from a chronic hamstring strain and the recruitment of El Camino College All-American tailback Mark Harper.
Along with Harper, the key addition is Oregon transfer Clayton Millis, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound sophomore quarterback who will battle returning backup Coley Kyman.
Seven starters return on defense, including linebacker O.J. Ojomoh, the leading tackler in 1991 who missed the '92 season because of academic ineligibility. Two of the team's top defensive players, Ivy Calvin and Victor Myles, and transfer Oscar Wilson are finishing summer school this week and are expected to retain their eligibility.
The coaching staff will have a slightly different look. Linebacker coaches Pat Blackburn and Jim Clausen and offensive line assistant Dan Barnes did not return.
Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach Mark Banker and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Rich Lopez embark on their 13th seasons. Running backs coach Scott Norton is back for his fifth season and defensive line coach Dennis McConnaughy starts his fourth.
Dale Bunn returns as quarterbacks coach. Mark Lovett, an assistant from 1986-88, handles the wide receivers, and LeRoy Irvin returns as defensive backs coach.