Even Titans Have a Debate : Murphy Is Trying to Decide Which Freshman Will Be His No. 3 Quarterback

Times Staff Writer

Some coaches will do anything to avoid a quarterback controversy. The Rams, for instance, were almost reduced to giving away Vince Ferragamo so newcomer Dieter Brock wouldn't be under any added pressure.

The position is--as any coach will gladly tell you--overrated by the media and the fans. But that fact never made it any easier for players or coaches to absorb the inevitable criticism leveled by parties favoring one quarterback or the other.

If they could look into a crystal ball and be assured their No. 1 signal-caller would remain healthy all season, most coaches would probably cut all the other quarterbacks on the squad and rest easy for the remainder of the year.

Cal State Fullerton certainly doesn't come under the media scrutiny that the neighboring Rams do, and the Titans don't have a vociferous alumni association equal to Ohio State, but Coach Gene Murphy is still leaving himself open for a wealth of second guessing this season.

His No. 1 quarterback, senior Kevin Jan, has never started a major-college game. Jan has completed 12 of 28 passes for 87 yards in his career at Fullerton (three appearances in 1983). Senior Whit Brown, Jan's backup, has completed 4 of 9 passes for 40 yards in his Titan career (six games in 1984).

All of which leads us to Nos. 3, 4 and 5.

Murphy has yet to decide which of the three freshmen quarterbacks in camp will be in the third spot (and travel with the team to Missoula, Mont., for the season opener next Saturday). But he does know he's got three talented young athletes who could make an impact on his program. The only questions are when and how.

Here's a brief look at the Titans' trio of rookie quarterbacks:

Tony Dill--The 5-11, 180-pound graduate of Mount Miguel High School in San Diego reminds a lot of observers of Damon Allen, who led Fullerton's rise to respectability over the last two years. Dill, last year's Grossmont League Player of Year, also played wide receiver as a junior, was an outfielder and pitcher on the baseball team and played guard on the basketball team. Operating a veer offense, Dill completed 84 of 167 for 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.

"Tony's a versatile, all-around athlete," Murphy said. "He does look like Damon, he's as quick but not quite as fast. His only drawback is that he's only played quarterback for a year and a half."

Rod Gatlin--The El Toro High prospect has more going for him than the support of Orange County boosters. At 6-3, 188 pounds, he was a punishing runner in high school, looking more like Larry Csonka than Johnny Unitas much of the time. Gatlin, who was recruited by Arizona, Houston and Oregon, completed 53 of 108 for 945 yards and 6 touchdowns and rushed for 336 yards and 4 touchdowns last year. Another all-around athlete, Gatlin was a sprinter and long jumper and three-year varsity letterman in basketball.

"Rodney may be the best all-around athlete in camp," Murphy said. "He's improved more than anyone here. For two or three days, I debated about whether to move him to wide receiver or running back or maybe safety, but then I decided to hang with him at quarterback.

"He may look like the Tin Man setting up, but he's got great pure arm strength."

Carlos Siragusa--A native of Puerto Rico, Siragusa led Sweetwater High in National City to a 26-0 record (the longest current winning streak in California) the last two years. Last season, he completed 61 of 116 for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions. Siragusa, 6-4 and 200 pounds, also played basketball.

"Carlos probably has the best grasp of our offense at this point," Murphy said. "He's got more experience at quarterback than the other two, so mentally he's a little further along. He's a big, tough kid with a strong arm, and we've been working steadily on his technique for the last 17 days."

Murphy admits that he wishes one of the three would emerge as the quarterback of the future, but he also insists that watching them battle for the unofficial title of "Quarterback Heir Apparent" will be exciting.

"I see a lot of them every day, of course, since I work with the quarterbacks," Murphy said, "and it seems like every day, a different one will look better than the others. You'd sort of like to see someone start to come out ahead, but it's fun to watch them battle."

Murphy hopes to be able to tell soonwhich one is the best prospect, so he can begin converting the others to different positions.

"I don't think there's any doubt all three will be able to play some place," he said. "Each one is a versatile and talented athlete in his own right, but they're not all gonna be out there at quarterback at the same time."

Titan Notes

Add quarterbacks: Rich Sheriff, son of Hawaii Athletic Director Stan Sheriff, has transferred from Hawaii and will redshirt this year. Sheriff attended Northern Iowa before transferring to Hawaii but was injured and did not play in 1984. "Rich has two years of experience and two years of eligibility," Coach Gene Murphy said. "His potential and how the three freshman look will determine our recruiting philosophy next year." . . . "Whatever happened to Bo White?" is not the title of a best-selling novel, but it was the big question around the Fullerton football house last week. White, a senior from San Jose, is listed in the media guide as "the heir apparent at fullback" after Todd Gerhart moved on to the Denver Gold of the USFL. He finally showed up at Fullerton (he was taking a makeup summer class up north) and was at practice for two days before returning to the Bay Area to hand in some papers because he received an incomplete in the class. "He's so far behind now, he won't be making the trip to Montana with us. It's the continuing saga of the missing fullback," Murphy said. . . . Newcomers who have impressed Murphy during camp: Linebacker Bill Bryan, a freshman from Alta Loma, ("He's the one guy who really stands out," Murphy says); running back Eric Franklin, a sophomore transfer from Oregon who prepped at Santa Ana High School; linebacker Stan Bowers, a freshman from Edgewood High in West Covina; running back Keith Bowman, a freshman from Columbus, Ohio; offensive guard Steve Rowe, a freshman from Atascadero High, and nose guard Edmund Fowler, a freshman from Fontana High School. . . . Former Titans Mark Pembrook (Giants), Andre Pinesett (Colts) and Prentis Walker (49ers) were recently cut by their NFL teams. Tight end Marvin Williams is still with the Chargers and offensive lineman Daren Gilbert will be starting for the New Orleans Saints.

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