The Orange Coast College football team is thinking pretty positively about the coming season. The optimism is mostly because of 11 returning starters, the most of any team in the Central Division of the Mission Conference.
OCC struggled to a 4-6 record last season, the third for Coach Bill Workman. He is 17-13 overall.
"I'm excited about this team," Workman said. "I think this team has more character. I think it can overcome adversity, which we couldn't do last year."
The main problems a year ago were inconsistent play at quarterback and the offensive line.
Mike Angelovic started the season at quarterback but broke his leg in the third game and didn't return. Replacements Steve Calhoun (54 of 106, 662 yards) and Mike Crowe (21 of 55, 251) had decent numbers but trouble scoring; each had two touchdown passes, but they combined for 12 interceptions (Calhoun seven, Crowe five).
Both are back competing for the starting job along with freshman Greg Angelovic, Mike's brother, and Mike Cederoth. Cederoth was on the 1987 team that went 8-2 but sat out last season.
"We have a good little battle going on at quarterback," Workman said. "But right now, Angelovic has the edge."
The offensive line returns three starters--center Warren Taylor, tackle Mark Fely and guard Tim Warady. All three are at least 15 pounds heavier after a valuable year of experience.
Jason McGehee, who led the team with 403 rushing yards in 72 carries last fall, is back at fullback but also could play some tailback. Mike Vaez, a 22-year old graduate of Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, is the leading tailback. Tom Walker, from Newport Harbor High, is among the leading freshmen who could work into the backfield.
John Apostle returns at tight end but has a shoulder injury and has been slow getting started. Mark Craig (25 catches, 368 yards) is back at wide receiver, joined by Melvin Johnson, a transfer from Taft.
The defense--OCC's strength last season, when it allowed only 20 or more points in a game twice--could be faster and better, Workman said.
Scott Balmos is back at free safety, where he had two interceptions and 43 tackles, but that's it for experience in the backfield. Lawrence Hatch and Dwayne Armstrong will be at the corners, and Joe Fumi-Fiamawle, a transfer from El Camino College, will join Balmos at safety.
Joe Hester, who led the team with 128 tackles last season, is back at inside linebacker. Joe Johnson heads a list of others who will challenge to play alongside him.
Kevin Roberts is back at one outside linebacker. Several, including Sean McMillan, Danny Abraham and John Kelly, are challenging for the other spot.
Todd Katovsich is the lone returner along the defensive line, where the Pirates will be most inexperienced. He had 58 tackles, including six sacks, last season.
"If the right people can play, we will be even quicker on defense than last season," Workman said. "But each day is a learning processes. We just hope we're ready."