Clayton Millis doesn’t know if he’ll ever sit down with Coley Kyman and discuss the rivalry between the two.
Their intense competition for the starting quarterback job at Cal State Northridge is always in the back of their minds, yet the tension remains unspoken, buried beneath friendly, but superficial conversation.
“It’s sort of a weird situation because we both want the same thing,” said Millis, a sophomore who transferred from Oregon to Northridge in July.
“We feel different pressures. He feels it’s time to prove himself and I left a program to come here and start in a program that’s on the rise.”
Kyman, a three-time All-American volleyball player who completed his collegiate volleyball eligibility last spring, left the U.S. national volleyball team for his final season of football eligibility. He has not started at quarterback since 1988, his senior season at Reseda High. In parts of three seasons as a Matador reserve, he has completed 28 of 69 passes for 330 yards.
“A lot of people talk about the battle between us, but I’m not thinking about it,” Kyman said.
“I’m worried about learning the offense. If I start, I start; if I don’t, I don’t. It would be great to be the only guy here, but competition makes him better, it makes me better, and it makes the team better.”
With the opener Saturday night at San Diego State fast approaching, it appears Kyman will start. He was nearly flawless in last Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage and the coaching staff has always shown a preference for quarterbacks who have been in the system longer.
“I’m the new kid, so that’s normal,” Millis said. “But I hope I’ll eventually surpass him.”
Although the Matadors will use two running backs on occasion, only one will play in their run-and-shoot scheme, leaving tailbacks Robert Trice and Mark Harper in a competitive situation similar to the quarterback battle.
“I got a guy behind me so I can’t mess up,” said Trice, who ran for 478 yards in 106 carries last season despite a chronic left hamstring strain.
Harper, a junior transfer from El Camino College, welcomes the challenge to unseat Trice as the starter.
“I love competition,” he said. “I have nothing against him. Whoever does better gets the job.”
In the run-and-shoot, Northridge will use four wide receivers at the same time, primarily Saadite Green, Victor Prince, Duc Ngo and former Simi Valley High standout David Romines. Green and Price transferred from Cal State Fullerton at the end of fall camp last season and were not able to learn the routes and impress the coaching staff until midway through what proved to be a 5-5 season, CSUN’s last in Division II.
Green made 23 catches for 408 yards and Prince had 10 for 134 yards. Over a full season, those numbers should grow, particularly if Kyman or Millis can execute the run-and-shoot offense against American West opponents.
Tight end Chris Fregeau, 6-6, 230 pounds, from St. Genevieve High and Pierce, and Travis Hall, formerly of Chaminade High, also will be used in the run-and-shoot as H-backs.
The offensive line, which was inexperienced and injury-plagued last season, features three returning starters: right tackle Charlie Williams, a 1992 first-team all-conference selection, left tackle Brian Hay, and center Greg Sorensen. Ed Babayova, a fifth-year senior from Van Nuys High who has made great strides despite his lack of size (6-4, 220 pounds), will start at left guard and Eric Thomas is the right guard.
Unlike last season, there are a number of linemen who can step in in case of injuries, including transfers Jeff Duke (CS Fullerton), Omar Uresti (Citrus), Trevor Watters (Cerritos), and Jonathan Beauregard (New Mexico State), redshirt freshman David Kasubowski (Burbank High) and freshman Tom Koykka (Highland High).
Another change since last season is that all five starting offensive linemen can play all five positions, including center.
“Everybody has to snap the ball every day in practice,” said Rich Lopez, offensive line coach. “Last year we went through three centers because of injuries.”
In another effort to build cohesion, the blocking schemes will not change whether the Matadors employ two running backs or the run-and-shoot.
Northridge’s defense, with seven starters returning, will begin the season as the strength of the squad.
Three starters return in the secondary, led by cornerback Ralph Henderson, a preseason Division I-AA All-American selection by one national magazine. Opposite Henderson is third-year starter Vincent Johnson, a junior from Cleveland High. Gerald Ponder returns at free safety.
Redshirt freshman James Woods and senior Cedric Hackett are vying for the strong safety job. Woods, a former San Fernando High standout, has the edge. Hackett, formerly of Hueneme High and Ventura College, has been slowed by a sore knee.
Linebacker, a traditionally strong position at Northridge, is no different this season. Starting outside linebackers Ivy Calvin and Angel Chavez return, along with 1991 starter O.J. Ojomoh and 1992 part-time starter Tim Leonard.
Although Coach Bob Burt does not time his players, the 6-2, 218-pound Calvin is probably the team’s fastest player. A preseason All-American, he made 99 tackles and seven sacks last season.
Chavez, an all-conference honorable mention selection, led the ’92 squad with eight sacks for losses totaling 50 yards, and was in on 71 tackles.
Ojomoh set a school single-game record with 22 tackles against Cal State Fullerton in 1991, and his 90 tackles ranked him second on the team. He was academically ineligible last season.
“Now I gotta show what I can do to make up for last year,” Ojomoh said.
Depth is a strength at linebacker. Backups include transfers Arnie Madrid (Oregon State) and Billy Dykes (Valley), the cousin of Matador all-time rushing leader Albert Fann, and returnees Penn Bushong, John Herrera, Tony Simon, a 1990 graduate of Burbank High, and Patrick Johnson. A part-time starter in ’91, Johnson missed the ’92 season after suffering two broken fingers.
Injuries decimated the defensive line in 1992, prompting defensive coordinator Mark Banker to use a 2-5 alignment, and leaving defensive line coach Dennis McConnaughy like the Maytag repairman: eager to work, but with nothing to do.
Extensive recruiting efforts centering on the defensive line have given McConnaughy players to work with, including newcomers Oscar Wilson and Timothy Gardner.
They join holdover Victor Myles (6-4, 240), a small but quick tackle who ranked fifth on the squad last season in the team’s defensive rating system.
At 6-3, 282 pounds, Wilson gives the line the size it lacks as does reserve nose guard Mudavaghnu (Moody) Mushonga, a 265-pound transfer from Cal State Fullerton whose career began at Hawaii.