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Strong Move by Campbell

August 18, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK

Travis Campbell came to Cal State Northridge last season with a resume that included 18 career interceptions for Westlake High and two seasons being selected to The Times' All-Ventura County defense.

But with the Northridge secondary laden with seniors, Campbell played sparingly and mostly on special teams--which didn't make him feel special.

"It was hard last year having to sit and watch," Campbell said. "But I've always been at the bottom of things when I first come in."

This season, there is room at the top in what will be a revamped Matador secondary. And Campbell figures to step to the fore.

All four starting defensive backs from last season have departed, the team's only unit left depleted.

Campbell, who played in four games last season but did not start, is projected to start at free safety. Cornerback Karalus Doyle is the most experienced member of the secondary with safety Bryson Atkins out for the season with a knee injury suffered during the off-season. They are joined by a crop of talented newcomers, including freshman Steve Paysinger from Long Beach Wilson High, and junior college transfers Cory Oggs from Bakersfield and Martin Bacon of Chaffey.

Add to the mix Junior Thurman, a former USC defensive back who joined the staff this season to coach defensive backs. Thurman is the brother of Dennis Thurman, who played for the Dallas Cowboys and is a USC assistant.

"Travis has improved immensely since the spring," Thurman said. "He said, 'Coach, you're not yelling at me as much.' I said, 'Well, maybe you're doing things right.' "

Campbell played cornerback, as well as receiver, in high school. Free safety, he said, is a better fit.

"I like safety a little bit better," Campbell said. "The safety can do a lot more hitting."


The defense lost several key players from last season, but probably none as vital as linebacker Brennen Swanson, who led the Matadors with 13 sacks and finished as the school's career sack leader.

Swanson, however, is back as a coach.

"I'm doing this as an internship," said Swanson, who will work with linebackers. "I'm here all year."

Swanson, 23, said he has put his playing career on hold while working to complete his degree. He signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers but was released just before the start of practice last month.

"The XFL is probably the next thing for me," Swanson said.


Other new coaches this season include Chris Sulages (offensive line) and Daniel Escalara (running backs). Coach Jeff Kearin will serve as offensive coordinator and assume responsibility of quarterbacks coach in the wake of the departure of Aaron Flowers, now an assistant at Montana State. Bobby Connelly, who coached the offensive line last season, left to become an assistant at San Jose State. . . . Backup quarterback Mitch Ryerson returned to practice Thursday after sitting out a day because of a sprained calf muscle. Linebacker Isaac Gardner is hobbled by a pulled hamstring. . . .

Northridge's game at Weber State on Oct. 5 will be among five Big Sky Conference matchups telecast this season by Fox Sports Net, however the game will not be broadcast in Southern California. The games will be aired in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. . . . Northridge was picked to finish sixth in the Big Sky this season by coaches and media. Fans appear to hold an even lower opinion of the Matadors. An Internet poll on the Big Sky Conference Web site lists Northridge seventh in the nine-team conference, with only 3.6% of those who responded predicting Northridge will finish first. Coaches and media tabbed Montana and Portland State to finish first and second, respectively. The poll favors Portland State over Montana by a narrow margin. . . . Northridge will conduct a scrimmage Saturday at 10 a.m. at North Campus Stadium. The annual Red-White scrimmage and barbecue is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 11 a.m.

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