The Cougars of L.A. Southwest College are coming off of a disappointing 3-7 season a year ago. However, Head Coach Henry Washington is optimistic that they can turn it around this year, even in light of the tough Western State Conference schedule. "I think if we can keep kids healthy, because our front-liners can play with anyone, if we keep them healthy we'll be all right," said Washington.

That was a problem last year when Southwest lost two starters in the summer and two more after week one of the regular season.  Washington went on to say tongue-in-cheek, "I'm going to tell them today you can't have any injuries.  So if you think you're going to get hurt get it out of your mind." 

The Cougars' coaching staff has changed this year.  Dave Burrell takes over as the offensive coordinator and he brings a wealth of experience.  He held the same position at Santa Monica Community College where he had been for the last 18 years.  Southwest will try to spread the opposing defense and use the whole field.  The defensive staff remains intact with some new additions.  Chris Long, a former Cougars linebacker in '93-'94, will coach the linebackers.  Darrell Divinity, who played under Washington in high school, will coach the defensive line.

Coach Washington feels that the defense will be the strong point of his team.  They return all four of their starting defensive lineman and secondary personnel from last year.  On offense they are young but talented.

Here are the players raising eyebrows heading into the regular season:

Competition is wide open, but the leading candidates for the starting spot are:

Chris Phillips (6-0, 170) SO
Notes: Gardena HS. Returning part-time starter. Showed nice athleticism (31.6" vertical; 4.31 shuttle) at the SoCal Combine in May. Will graduate in December.

John Brown (5-5, 170) FR
Notes: Jefferson HS. Runs a 4.3.  4-year starter in high school.  May end up as a slash-type player playing at WR as well.

Running Back

Darrell Hester (5-5 190) FR
Notes: LA Jordan High School. Runs approximately a 4.5.  "Was just Mr. Everything at LA Jordan," said Washington.

Wide Receiver

Rex Stewart (5-11, 180) SO
Notes: Returning player. Broke his ankle in second game last year. "We expect great things out of him," said Washington.  Being heavily recruited by PAC-10

Cameron Moore (6-1, 170) SO
Notes: Returning player. Honorable-mention All-Conference as a freshman.

Tight End

Brandon Thompson (6-2, 200) SO
Notes: Returning player.  Cougars' top receiver last year. First-team All-Conference as a freshman.

Offensive Line

This is the biggest question mark.  It didn't help that the Jaguars' top OL from last year, Shaun Citizen, transferred to Compton in the offseason. "If we can improve with some of (our) freshman we think we will make a real dent.  But if not, we'll be running for our lives," said Washington of his offensive line.

OG Jesus Lepe (6-2, 320) SO
Notes: Returning player. Washington feels he could be one of the best in the country if he "steps up."

Defensive Line

DT Eric Davis (6-4, 230) SO
Notes: Returning starter. Honorable-mention All-Conference last year.

DE Ernest Davis (6-6, 190) SO
Notes: Returning starter.  Earnest and Eric are twins and brothers of former San Diego Charger, Chris Mims. Honorable-mention All-Conference last year.

DT Elijuawon Thomas (6-3, 240) SO
Notes: Returning starter.

DE Andrew Gill (6-3, 235) SO
Notes: Returning starter.


This unit will miss the presence of graduated linebackers, Daniel Urquhart (signed USC) and Chris Bohannon. Both were all-conference performers.

MLB Walter Mebane (6-0, 230) FR
Notes: Crenshaw HS. Took one year off.

Leo Nobles (6-2, 210) SO
Notes: Returning player "We think he's going to be one of the best in the country."  Heavily recruited by PAC-10. Made second-team All-Conference as a freshman in 2001.

Defensive Backs

S Robert Jordan (6-1, 190) SO
Notes: Coming back from knee injury last year.

CB Chimah Chindah (5-9, 175) SO
Notes: Coming back from broken ankle last year.

CB Justin Cooper (6-0, 195) SO
Notes: Led Conference with 8 interceptions last year.  Was first-team all-conference and first-team all-state.

CB Cedric Piper (5-6, 145) SO
Notes: Returning player

The Cougars cannot afford to have any starters fall to injury this year because Coach Washington doesn't feel that the depth is there to compensate for that.  His 21 years of experience are being put to the test in 2002.  The Cougars have the talent to compete for a bowl birth this year if they can stay healthy.

*See: Western State Conference schedule.

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