The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
After College of San Mateo’s first scrimmage a week ago, the Bulldogs were not any closer to naming a quarterback. Or any other starting spot on the roster, for that matter. That includes right guard, a position expected to be filled by Dominick Jackson, who was shifted from left tackle over the season and has verbally committed to Alabama after initially picking UCLA.
“He was in my fat man club,” said CSM coach Bret Pollack, who saw the 6-foot-7 sophomore drop nearly 20 pounds from last season’s listed weight of 325 pounds. “I’m not going to have fat, sloppy guys.”
With limited time to train in pads prior to next week’s season opener at home, Pollack’s top priorities were to be physical and to focus on getting in shape.
“We put the guys on the NFL conditioning test, the 300-yard shuttle test,” Pollack said Tuesday. “And right now 87 percent has passed, which is good. But I told them my goal was 90 percent, so we have some more work to do there.”
Pollack delegated a lot of last year’s responsibilities to his staff this season and will concentrate on the offensive line and head coaching duties. CSM lost four games last season, the most since going 5-5 in 2008 and missing the bowl season. It’s a big reason why the Bulldogs are picked to finish fourth in the rugged six-team NorCal Conference.
“All it is, is a reflection of last year,” Pollack said of the preseason poll, in which CSM is ranked 11th in the state. “And that’s probablywhere we deserve to be after last year.”
To avoid defeats like the 29-28 nail-biter with San Joaquin Delta, the overtime shocker at De Anza and the last-minute meltdown at CCSF, the Bulldogs decided to set firm, clear expectations — beginning with morning workouts in January.
“You tell a kid run or you tell a kid I want you to run 40 yards in 4.2 seconds, which one is going to get you a better result?” Pollack said. “Well, the more accurate one if you hold someone accountable for it.”
On top of Jackson, the offensive line returns Hanitelli Losi at right tackle, Viliami Fukofuka at center and Semisi Mataele, who saw spot duty at left guard. (Though Pollack stressed none of them are guaranteed starting jobs.)
Vying for the quarterback gig are Willy Fonua, who led Menlo-Atherton to the CCS Div. I final in 2011, Delta transfer Casey Wichman and Justin Burgess, who greyshirted at Chabot last year.
“They’re not turning the ball over, they’re being efficient with the football,” Pollack said. “They’re a little more balanced than what we’ve had in the past in throwing.”
The frontrunner at tailback is George Naufahu, who in the Bulldog Bowl gained 135 yards on six carries, scoring touchdowns of 70, 30 and 4 yards.
“Toward the end he took over,” Pollack said.
Returning slot receiver Quincy Nelson, though, outgained Naufahu for the season 533 to 524 on the ground in CSM’s veer offense.
On defense, the secondary is loaded with cornerbacks Joe Turner, BJ Hayes (medical redshirt) and Deshane Hines joining safety Sam Atoe as veterans. Last year, CSM played roughly 60 percent of its snaps against four-receiver sets.
“The way football is going, to basketball on grass, so having more DBs is good from a defensive standpoint,” Pollack said. “The linebacker is becoming extinct. That’s what is happening.”
The defensive line, which includes sophomore Rika Levi, is bolstered by Sacramento State kickback Trevor Kelly. He’s looking to follow the path of safety Matt Vinal (Serra-San Mateo), who left Cal Poly to play one season at CSM before upgrading to UNLV — one of a record 32 transfers for the Bulldogs.
“This program is not for people who want to come and play football for two years and leave to do something else,” Pollack said. “This program is for kids that want to come and transfer and play football and get a degree. That’s what we focus on.”
Coach: Bret Pollack, 5th year
Last year: 7-4, 2-3 NorCal Conference (4th); won Bulldog Bowl (49-20 over Sierra)
Two key losses: LB Tevita Lataimua, WR Aaron Criswell
Two key returners: G Dominick Jackson, RB George Naufahu
Predicted finish: 9-2, 4-1 NorCal
Key date: Oct. 26 vs. CCSF
Sept. 7 vs. Laney, 1 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Chabot, 1 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Diablo Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Modesto, 1 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Delta, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Foothill, 1 p.m.*
Oct. 26 vs. CCSF, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 2 at Butte, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 9 vs De Anza, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 16 vs. Santa Rosa, 1 p.m.*
* League game