Jamal Farmer Returning to Familiar Soil : College football: Former Granada Hills running back who had turbulent career at Hawaii will play senior season at Cal State Northridge.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After 2 1/2 productive, albeit controversial seasons at Hawaii, Jamal Farmer is coming home.

The former Granada Hills High running back said Thursday that he will finish his college career at Cal State Northridge.

Farmer, the Western Athletic Conference newcomer of the year in 1989, quit the Hawaii team after five games last season on the heels of his third one-game suspension in as many seasons.

The 5-foot-10 1/2, 225-pound ballcarrier is eligible at Northridge immediately because of the school's Division II status. He will have one season of eligibility.

"I see that CSUN is trying to make things better and since I'm from the Valley I want to help out," Farmer said. "I want to do the best I can."

If Farmer regains his form of 1989, he could give the Matadors a dominant tailback in the mold of Mike Kane and Albert Fann.

As a redshirt freshman in '89, Farmer ran for 986 yards and set an NCAA freshman scoring record with 18 rushing touchdowns. The only blemish on his season was a one-game suspension for lying to an assistant coach.

Tired from studying for an exam, Farmer missed a team meeting to sleep but told the coach he was meeting with a professor.

The following year, Farmer gained 664 yards and served a one-game suspension for criticizing the practice habits and effort of the Rainbows' offensive linemen.

"I was frustrated," Farmer said. "We were losing and they didn't seem to care."

Last fall, Farmer picked up 474 yards in five games, then quit the team after he was suspended for one game because he expressed dissatisfaction with not playing in the second half against Colorado State.

"We didn't see eye to eye," Farmer said of Hawaii Coach Bob Wagner.

Said Wagner: "You try to work with young guys, but at the same time you have a team to worry about. This (transfer to Northridge) could be very good for Jamal. He can go somewhere else and have a clean slate.

"I know he plans to go on to the National Football League. I wish him well."

Northridge Coach Bob Burt, an assistant at Hawaii assistant when Wagner was an assistant there, is intent on giving Farmer a fresh start.

"My discussion and my interaction with Jamal left me with the impression that he is a quality student and a nice young man," Burt said. "The way I'm approaching it and the way I think Jamal is approaching it is that this is a chance for him to finish on a positive note. We have discipline and we have rules and we feel he is willing to follow them."

Farmer, a Lake View Terrace resident, chose Northridge because of its proximity to home and because of the opportunity to play for Burt.

"Coach Burt understood what I went through," Farmer said. "My brother (Pete) played for him and I've seen him coach. He is down to earth. It will be nice to play for a coach like that. He's giving me a chance because I have only one more year."

Farmer finished the fall semester at Hawaii and has enrolled at Northridge for the spring semester, enabling him to participate in spring drills.

An economics major and a member of the dean's list, Farmer needs two semesters to complete his degree.

With the addition of Farmer and offensive lineman Charlie Williams, who transferred Thursday from Houston, Burt is making good on his promise to drastically change the lineup in the wake of a 3-7 season, his first losing campaign in six seasons as Northridge coach.

Williams (6-4, 285) opened the season as the Cougars' starting left tackle, then lost his position. He left the Houston program shortly thereafter, five games into the season.

Williams, a junior college All-American from Cerritos College, will have one year of eligibility. As a freshman at Cerritos he played on the same team as Don Goodman, a Northridge senior offensive lineman who earned Associated Press Little All-American honors last month.

"I think it's a real positive thing for our program that people of the caliber of Charlie Williams and Jamal Farmer, who've been away to the big time, have found that the grass isn't always greener and they've come home," Burt said.

Along with Williams, Burt announced the signing of Greg Sorensen, who will have two seasons of eligibility at Northridge. Sorensen, a 6-2, 265-pound center from Long Beach City College, earned All-Mission Conference honorable-mention honors in 1991.

Earlier, Brian Hay, a 265-pound offensive lineman from Grossmont College, and Chance Schwass, a 300-pound offensive lineman from Mt. San Jacinto College, signed with Northridge.

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