The Oak Leaf

Preparing for a new football season

Christopher Jackson, Staff Writer

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Despite losing five games for the first time in 10 seasons, the SRJC football team is not in a rebuilding year. Rather, in the eyes of head coach Keith Simons, this is a team rebuilt and ready for redemption after finishing the year with a 5-5 record and missing a bowl game for the first time in nine years.

When asked about his first impressions of the team heading into the 2010 season, Simons said the thing that stood out most was everyone, the defensive unit especially, coming “back in shape” and ready to “get right after it.” Allowing them to focus immediately on the season without spending time on extra-conditioning. Which is important, because the NorCal Conference is tough.

Simons believes his team is up to the task. The Bear Cubs return the entire offensive line that Simons sees, notwithstanding their struggles as freshman, as ready to step up and be the vital cogs that “make us go.”

The loss of quarterback Grayson Galloway has created an opening for Jarred Hasskamp and Blake Bledsoe, who are competing for the starting job as quarterback. While Simons has confidence in both their abilities, they are still inexperienced. With a new quarterback, pass protection becomes even more important.

One need only to look at David Carr, first overall pick in 2002 NFL Draft, sacked 76 times his first year, to see how spending your first season under 230-pound defensive linemen can crush a young quarterback’s confidence.

A quarterback on the ground also keeps the ball out of the hands of returning wide receiver Mitchell Ortiz, who lead the conference in catches and yards in 2009. Cameron Richmond, third in conference in catches and touchdowns in 2009 and Jared Garcia, back after taking last year off from football, add experience to this receiving corps ready to carry on the tradition of SRJC high-powered, high-flying offenses.

With such gaudy passing numbers over the years it becomes easy to overlook the run game, but coach Simons knows that to win, a team must “be able to run the football.” Simons is looking toward incoming freshman Nick Beauchamp out of Skyline High School, in Sammamish, Wash., to get the run game going in the right direction.

Beauchamp played in the same spread offense that Simons uses here in high school, so his growing pains to the college level should be less severe than those of other freshman learning a whole new system for the first time. Hopefully, Beauchamp and the entire running back group get it going early, because Simons said, “If we can do both,” (pass and run the ball effectively) “we’re hard to beat.”

The defense boasts “one of the best secondaries in my 15 years” Simons said, with returning safeties Chris Yeakey and Travis Hayes anchoring the backfield. Gaston Benson leads the cornerback unit, where questions surround the health of Jason Varret.

If he is not healthy for the start of the season, Chris Collins and Ryan Decker will compete for his starting spot. Also coming back, linebackers Jeremy Marlow and Brandon Poulson give defensive coordinator Lenny Wilkins two big athletic 220-plus pound bodies to crash into opposing quarterbacks and any unfortunate stragglers who slip by defensive lineman Andre Shishkin, whom Simons sees poised for a “dominant” season.

The biggest key to the season as Simons sees it, is they have “got to get back to playing Bear Cub football.” The defense has to play fast and hard, and the offense needs to establish a credible ground attack to open up the pass game.

Last year’s 1-4 conference record speaks to a team whose focus wavered down the stretch, but add a year to mature and Simons is confident the Bear Cubs are ready.

When asked his goals for the season Simons said, “Win the NorCal Conference Championship and win the state championship. That’s our goal every year.”

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A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Preparing for a new football season