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PREP FOOTBALL 2000

The County Connection

UCLA's Foster, USC's Palmer Among Local Alumni on Rosters of Nation's Top Teams

September 01, 2000|LON EUBANKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a dream season for a high school running back.

DeShaun Foster ran for 3,398 yards, an average of 10.5 per carry, and scored a state-record 59 touchdowns for Tustin High in 1997.

Foster has shown flashes of that brilliance in two seasons at UCLA, but injuries have stopped him short of his full potential. Now, as he prepares for the start of his junior season, Foster hopes he can stay injury-free and regain some of the karma from three years ago.

"It's an important season for me," Foster said. "I want to be able to come back strong. It was real disappointing to have the ankle injury last season."

The injury kept him out of two games, and he missed most of three others. Foster finished the season as the Bruins' second-leading rusher with 375 yards, but it was well below expectations.

The season before, Foster ran for 673 yards, the most ever by a true freshman at UCLA. However, he missed most of the Oregon game and all the California game because of a sprained knee.

Still, UCLA fans have gotten a taste of Foster's ability.

Against USC as a freshman, Foster scored four touchdowns--including one on a 65-yard run--and finished with 109 yards rushing and 18 more on pass receptions. Against Stanford last season, Foster ran for 100 yards in 19 carries, caught three passes for 33 yards and scored twice.

Foster hopes there will be more games like those this season, thanks to his off-season conditioning work.

"I wanted to strengthen up," Foster said. "I've had enough of those injury problems, and I want to get back on the right track this year. I worked six days a week, four hours a day quite a bit of the summer, and I think it helped me. I wanted to be faster this year, and I think I am. Another year of maturity should help me."

Foster will be one of several former Orange County players in prominent roles for college teams this season.

Carson Palmer, who played at Santa Margarita High, is back as USC's starting quarterback after breaking his collarbone in the third game last season against Oregon. The injury came early enough in the season, however, that Palmer was able to redshirt and he retains three seasons of eligibility.

Palmer shared playing time with Mike Van Raaphorst in USC's first eight games in 1998, but earned the starting job for the final three games of the regular season and the Sun Bowl game against Texas Christian.

Palmer passed for 1,755 and seven touchdowns and had only seven passes intercepted as a freshman. He had a 73.6% completion rate and 490 yards passing before he was injured last season.

Two former Capistrano Valley High players also are among the Trojans' top backs. Junior Malaefou MacKenzie is expected to share time at tailback, and junior Charlie Landrigan is the returning starter at fullback.

Marcell Allmond of Anaheim (and Santa Fe Springs St. Paul High) is one of the Trojans' top receivers after making 14 catches for a 16.6-yard average as a freshman last season. Redshirt freshman Lenny Vandermade of Mater Dei is a key offensive lineman, and Ifeanyi Ohalete is one of the team's top defensive backs. Ohalete had 84 tackles, two interceptions and broke up 15 other passes last season as the starting free safety.

Another former Orange County quarterback, David Priestley, is expected to be in a key role this season at Pittsburgh, if he can regain the form he showed before an injury late last season.

Priestley, who played at Brethren Christian, earned the starting job as a sophomore but missed the last two games of the season after suffering a shoulder separation against Miami.

Priestley ranked 23rd in the nation in pass proficiency, completing 92 of 158 for 1,305 yards in nine games. However, he was sidelined for spring practice, and he and senior John Turman, who shared playing time at the position at times last season, have renewed their battle for the No. 1 spot for the season opener at home against Kent State.

Two other former county quarterbacks--Austin Moherman and John Leonard--are at different schools this season.

Moherman, who played at Capistrano Valley High, was Ohio State's starter early last season, but lost the job to Steve Bellisari and decided to look elsewhere. He originally announced plans to attend Murray State, but shifted to Southwest Missouri State when the Murray State coach moved to Illinois State. Moherman chose to drop to a Division I-AA program to avoid sitting out a season.

Leonard, who played at Mater Dei High and El Camino College, will have to sit out this season after transferring to Cincinnati. Leonard was the backup for Ryan Kealy most of last season at Arizona State, completing 29 of 74 passes for 340 yards. He participated in spring practice at Arizona State, but decided to transfer after it was over.

Sean Stein, the starting quarterback for New Mexico most of last season as a junior, is sitting out this season and considering transferring to another school in January for a final season of eligibility.

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