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Valley Area Now Fertile Ground for Quarterbacks

February 07, 2001|ERIC SONDHEIMER

The long-running hit movie, "Invasion of the Quarterback Snatchers," continues to play in neighborhoods throughout the Valley and Ventura County region.

It debuted in 1998, about the time Kyle Boller of Hart High was obliterating the state season record for passing yards.

Since then, college coaches have come from Berkeley, Palo Alto, Logan, Utah; West Lafayette, Ind.; Eugene, Ore.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Lubbock, Texas; Baton Rouge, La., and University Park, Pa., to lure the region's best quarterbacks.

When Kyle Matter of Hart signs today with Stanford and John Sciarra of St. Francis with UCLA, they will become the 11th and 12th quarterbacks from the region since 1999 to accept NCAA Division I scholarships.

The unprecedented interest in local quarterbacks shows no signs of waning.

Juniors Ben Olson of Thousand Oaks and Matt Moore of Hart are certain to sign after next season.

Each of the quarterbacks is 6 feet 1 or taller, received plenty of attention during summer passing leagues and demonstrated excellent leadership skills.

College coaches are flocking to the region for good reason--high school teams are passing the ball in record numbers.

"I remember back in the '91 season when we threw for 4,000 yards, not too many people threw for 3,000 yards, let alone 4,000," said Hart assistant coach Dean Herrington. "Now people are throwing the football."

Not long ago, a Boston College assistant coach was visiting Alemany to watch quarterback Casey Clausen.

The assistant turned to then-Alemany coach Jim Bonds and said, "Now I know why there are so many good quarterbacks in California--all you do is throw the ball."

Coaches who played quarterback or receiver have made four-receiver attacks the norm instead of the exception.

From Hart to Westlake, from St. Francis to Newbury Park, sophisticated passing schemes are serving as ideal training grounds for college quarterbacks.

Summer passing competitions, once frowned upon by coaches as a waste of time and energy, are proliferating like weeds in a neglected field. Tournaments featuring 48 teams are scheduled for June in Santa Barbara and July at Valley College.

California's mild weather allows quarterbacks to throw year round, increasing their exposure through combines and competitions.

The communication revolution has made it easier for schools outside California to identify prospective quarterbacks. With the click of a computer, schools can learn valuable information on the Internet.

"Schools back East weren't able to know what was going on in the West," said Steve Clarkson, who runs the Air 7 quarterback school. "Kids got recruited because of who they knew, not necessarily how good they were."

Boller started the quarterback onslaught by signing with California in 1999. He has started since his freshman season and should rank among the Pacific 10 Conference's top quarterbacks this fall.

Clausen led Tennessee to six consecutive victories as a freshman starter last season, completing 62.4% of his passes for 1,473 yards and 15 touchdowns in a balanced attack.

Brandon Hance from Taft redshirted at Purdue but is expected to be the replacement for Drew Brees this fall.

Scott Vossmeyer, a redshirt freshman from Crescenta Valley, will battle sophomore Jason Fife as the backup to Joey Harrington at Oregon this spring. Also competing will be freshman Chris Lombardo from Newbury Park. He enrolled last month after recovering from a broken leg sustained during his senior season in 1999.

Zac Wasserman, a redshirt freshman from Westlake, will compete with freshman Zack Mills and junior Matt Senneca for the quarterback job at Penn State.

Coaches at Utah State are thrilled with redshirt freshman Rob Fockaert from Paraclete, but he'll have to bide his time behind juniors Jose Fuentes and Jeff Crosbie.

Redshirt freshman Matt Cassel from Chatsworth will be the backup to Carson Palmer at USC this spring.

Redshirt freshman Jason Winn from Granada Hills will compete with sophomore B.J. Symons for the backup spot at Texas Tech, which returns junior Cliff Kingsbury, who passed for 3,418 yards last season.

Freshman Rick Clausen from Taft graduated last month and is already enrolled at Louisiana State, allowing him to compete in spring practice.

It would not be surprising if several area quarterbacks transferred because of a lack of playing time.

Finding a college that isn't overflowing with quarterbacks is one of the most challenging tasks facing recruits.

The coming year should bring all-out recruiting battles for Olson and Moore.

The 6-5 Olson ended his junior season by passing for a career-best 480 yards against Arroyo Grande. He's left-handed, with a powerful arm and equally impressive scrambling skills. Despite being the center for the basketball team, he leads the Lancers in three-point shooting percentage.

Olson attended Brigham Young's football camp last summer, likes the school and is Mormon. But he said he's also interested in Washington, UCLA, Stanford and California.

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