What is a spring football practice without a quarterback controversy to add spice to an otherwise drab series of drills?
Cal State Northridge, which started workouts Wednesday at North Campus Stadium, is going to find out.
For the first time in four years, the Matadors are absolutely, positively beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt sure who will line up behind center to take the first snap of the season Sept. 2 at Cal State Long Beach.
It will be Sherdrick (pronounced Cedric) Bonner, an interesting, if not unexpected, choice.
This marks the first time Bonner, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound junior, has been listed No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback.
The past two seasons he was a seldom-used understudy to Rob Huffman. Before that, he redshirted a season. And before that, he had a grand total of three games’ experience at the quarterback position while playing for Azusa High.
So why is it that Coach Bob Burt is so confident.
Because he has seen Bonner run, jump, throw and jitterbug around a football field enough to know that an abundance of athletic ability likely will counter any lack of experience.
For two years, Burt has referred to his string bean second-stringer as “the franchise” while favorably comparing him to a young Randall Cunningham.
There is no question that Bonner has the tools for his trade. As an all-around athlete, he has no peer on the CSUN team. Bonner, who has completed 43 of 77 passes for 584 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons, leaped 6-10 in the high jump in high school and two years ago was a top reserve on the Matador basketball team.
“We’ve had a lot of competition at quarterback in the past, but at this point we don’t anticipate him being threatened for the job,” Burt said of Bonner.
The quarterback’s supporting cast is headed by tailback Albert Fann, a two-time All-Western Football Conference selection. Fann, a 6-2, 220-pound junior who has gained 1,795 yards in his CSUN career, will be running behind an offensive line that is expected to have five returning starters.
Fullback and wide receiver are the positions with question marks. Russell Jenkins, Cornell Ward, Don Martin and Larnell Sykes are the top contenders at receiver. The starting fullback probably will be either Oscar Pittman, a 5-11, 210-pound transfer from San Jose City College; Jason Ferguson, a converted tailback; or Tim Beattie, a reserve last season.
Defensively, eight starters return for the Matadors, but only one is a lineman--6-5, 255-pound Mike Meehan. John Eichinger, a 6-4, 225-pound junior, is expected to make an impact at outside linebacker. He transferred from Oregon where he earned playing time as a freshman in 1986.
“We have talent,” said Burt, who is beginning his fourth season. “I feel optimistic--I always do. But I feel better about this group than I did last year. Their off-season program has been as good as any since we’ve been here.”
Northridge will visit Cal State Fullerton after the opener at Long Beach, marking the first time the Matadors will have faced Division I opponents in consecutive games.