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Key Position Up for Grabs at Northridge : Fisher, Scott Compete for Quarterback Job While Opener Nears

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State Northridge’s season opener against Eastern Washington is just eight days away and Marty Fisher and Damone Scott are still battling for the starting quarterback position. But Coach Bob Burt insists there will be no quarterback controversy.

“We’ll pick one and he’ll play,” Burt said. “The only controversy comes if the other guy can’t handle it. If he doesn’t like it, he can pack his bags. This is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship.

“We’re giving them an equal opportunity to prove themselves. And the guy who starts the first game is not in cement. He might start the first game and not start again. Those things can change. Fortunately, these guys like each other and get along well.”

As one might expect from a team captain, Fisher takes an unselfish approach.

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“I just want to win,” he said. “If I start, I start. If he (Scott) starts, he starts. If we win when I’m in the game, great. If we win when he’s in the game, great.”

Fisher’s main concern is developing consistency. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior from Covina, Fisher served as Sherdrick Bonner’s backup the past two seasons.

Last year he completed 27 passes in 49 attempts for 315 yards with three interceptions.

Since Bonner’s eligibility expired at the end of the 1990 season, Fisher has been No. 1 on the depth chart. In the spring game, he managed just three completions in 14 attempts for 14 yards.

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Scott, a 6-2, 215-pound junior transfer from Western Michigan, completed four of eight passes for seven yards in the spring game, and aches for the opportunity to prove himself in a real game.

“I just want to be ready, whether I’m starting or backing up,” he said. “I have to be ready mentally. It’s more mental than physical.”

The difference between now and last spring is that Scott knows the plays.

“I understand the philosophy of the offense now,” he said. “I worked over the summer on visualizing the offense. I wanted to be comfortable, to come into camp and prove I can play.”

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Gradually, Scott has developed a rapport with his offensive linemen.

“They know I might do something a little different,” Scott said. “That the game might be a little quicker. I’m in great shape right now. If someone on the offensive line slips, I feel I can run and get out of trouble with not too much of a problem.”

By the same token, Scott knows what to expect of his offensive teammates, the receivers, in particular.

“I know what just about all our receivers are gonna do,” Scott said. “Who is gonna be the deep man. Who wants to come across the middle.”

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Scott believes the competition at quarterback, including third-stringer Coley Kyman, can only help the Matadors who relied on their defense last season in posting a 7-4 record and earning their first NCAA Division II playoff berth.

“They (coaches) are in a good situation,” Scott said. “They feel they have three quarterbacks who can get it done and that makes the competition more intense.”

Since missing spring drills and the first part of fall camp because of volleyball competitions, Kyman is lagging behind Fisher and Scott on the depth chart. An All-American volleyball player, Kyman competed in the Pan American Games at Havana earlier this month.

“Last year he was fourth (on the depth chart) and he won a game for us,” Burt said, recalling the second game of the season against Eastern New Mexico.

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With Bonner and Fisher injured in the season opener, Greg Bratten started for the Matadors. After failing to move the offense, he was replaced by Kyman, who led Northridge to its first win, 24-17.

“Coley has time on his side,” Burt said of the 6-6, 210-pound sophomore. “Someday he knows this is his job.”

For now, Fisher and Scott have the edge over Kyman but not on each other.

“One day one guy stands out real well and the next day the other guy stands out,” Burt said. “‘We could decide (who starts) the day before the game.”

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After watching defensive back Keith Washington and fullback Jim Warren incur serious injuries last Saturday, Burt decided against risking another scrimmage before the opener Sept. 7 at Eastern Washington, a Division I-AA team from the Big Sky Conference.

“Both of them were battling for a starting job,” Burt said. “That hurt us. Our problem will always be depth. Our first team on either side of the ball is fine. The question is if someone goes down. As much as we’d like to scrimmage every day, numbers are a distinct concern.”

Washington, a transfer from Cal State Long Beach, has a broken arm and will be sidelined at least six weeks. He was expected to help CSUN at cornerback and safety.

Warren, a junior from Orange Coast College, sprained ligaments in his left knee. At 6-2 and 234 pounds, he is Northridge’s largest fullback.

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Initially, Warren was expected to be out for the season, but the prognosis following an arthroscopic procedure Thursday is that he could return after four weeks of rehabilitation.

In a further thinning of the ranks, projected starting fullback Anthony Nichols injured his ankle in practice Wednesday and converted tailback Eric Joseph has missed a few practices because of a family matter.

Alo Sila, a preseason All-American, has been moved from nose guard to right tackle to make room for newcomer Carlos Adley. Adley, 6-2, 285, played last for Cal State Fullerton.

For a change, the offense was ahead of the defense at Wednesday’s practice. Several times in drills near the goal line, the offense scored.

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“We want to score touchdowns,” Scott said. “We don’t want to win with field goals, and it is not like we want to score 40 or 50 points neither. We know defense wins championships, but we want to make sure we score so we can make their job a little easier.”

Last season, CSUN averaged only 286.6 yards in total offense and scored just 21 touchdowns.

Cornerback Eric Barnes will miss the season because of academic ineligibility.

“Actually, our turnover is a lot less than a lot of places,” Burt said. “Several of our players needed A’s in summer school and they met the challenge.”

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