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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Borges Throws In With Boller Second Time Around, at Cal

April 22, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER

It's unfortunate nobody bugged the offices of Al Borges, new offensive coordinator at California. It would have been tempting to eavesdrop on Borges' first meeting with quarterback Kyle Boller and listen to his explanation for what happened three summers ago.

In June of 1998, Boller was entering his senior year at Hart High while Borges was offensive coordinator at UCLA.

Boller had not started a varsity game, but his strong arm and growing physical stature made him a college prospect.

Boller showed up for a one-day UCLA camp, where the coaching staff frequently makes final decisions on which players to recruit. Also throwing that day was quarterback J.P. Losman of Venice, a long-time UCLA fan with far more varsity experience than Boller.

At the conclusion of the camp, Borges and Coach Bob Toledo decided to offer Losman the only UCLA quarterback scholarship. He accepted.

Boller, who grew up a UCLA fan, was left to ponder a different future.

Losman didn't last six months before leaving UCLA and transferring to Tulane. Boller ended up setting a state passing record his senior year, signed with California and started the last two years, twice beating UCLA and Borges.

In January, Borges was hired by Coach Tom Holmoe of California to revitalize the Golden Bears' offense and turn Boller into an All-Pacific 10 Conference quarterback.

So what really happened at the reacquaintance meeting this spring? Were there any mea culpas?

"We let it be," Boller said. "We already knew what happened. All we know is we're together now."

Added Borges: "I didn't apologize. It all worked out fine in the end. The kid is so good."

The future of each is tied to the other. Boller needs Borges to prepare him for a possible NFL career as he did with Cade McNown at UCLA. Borges needs Boller to improve as a passer and field general so California can win more games and help Borges prove he's head coach material.

The two have settled into a comfortable teacher-pupil relationship.

"He's made incredible progress from beginning to now," Borges said. "He's been a sponge. He's been very receptive to coaching. He wanted someone to drop the hammer on him occasionally and I think he's responded well. His completion percentage has gone up and his accuracy is getting better and better every single day."

In Saturday's final spring scrimmage, Boller completed 11 of 19 passes for 154 yards with no interceptions.

Learning a new offense and improving his footwork have been Boller's top spring priorities. Borges is not letting little things go by without a challenge.

"Everything has to be perfect, which is good," said Boller, who's 6 feet 4, 205 pounds. "I think I have the right coach who's going to teach me and give me a chance to be good. I can tell how important football is for him."

But back to that fateful decision in the summer of '98. Does Borges have any regrets?

"Kyle had never played a day of starting quarterback," he said. "He has grown significantly since then. He's a different product. You're going to hit some and miss some."

And what does he think now of Boller?

"He has all the skills," Borges said. "I think he can develop into a fine quarterback, I really do."

*

The successor to quarterback Drew Brees of Purdue is Brandon Hance, a former Taft High quarterback who is a redshirt freshman. He completed nine of 23 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown in Saturday's final spring game.

"It feels great," Hance said of assuming the starting job. "You feel the team is yours and have to establish yourself as a leader."

Hance, who guided Taft to the 1998 City Championship, will have more roll-out plays than Brees to take advantage of his speed.

Purdue lost virtually its entire starting offense from its Rose Bowl team, but Hance isn't concerned.

"I think all of us have to have confidence in one another and believe in our talents," he said.

Brees was third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and a second-round pick in Saturday's NFL draft. Hance has been bombarded with the same question over and over this spring, "What is it like to follow a guy like Drew Brees?"

"It's been asked 200 times since spring ball," Hance said. "I really don't feel that much pressure."

He's returning to Woodland Hills in May for a month, then will spend the summer in West Lafayette, Ind.

*

A Thousand Oaks girls' travel basketball team lost three games in three years in the Ventura County youth conference. Now the eighth-graders are moving on to high school.

Westlake should benefit most, with the arrival of Megan Ackerman, Brittara Blaine, Megan Gizatullin, Nicole Vollert and Megan Shie. Blaine, who averaged 12 points per game, is the sister of Westlake pitcher Justin Blaine. . . .

Freshman Marcin Jagoda, a Crespi graduate, made his debut Saturday night for UCLA's volleyball team, serving two points in the Bruins' five-game victory over Stanford. . . .

Football Coach Tim Lins of Moorpark High has a nice problem--too many quarterbacks. Aaron Garcia, Matt Broussard and Kevin Arbuckle all started games last season and return for their senior seasons.

Moorpark has added 6-2 sophomore Jimmy Brodaric, a transfer from Simi Valley. Lins' long-term project is his son, Jake, a sixth-grader who plays quarterback. . . .

After defeating pitcher Bobby Paschal and outfielder Erik Johnson in a game of H-O-R-S-E, baseball Coach Scott Drootin of Chaminade said, "It's hard to stop Magic Drootin."

*

Eric Sondheimer's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422 or eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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