It's hard to name a community college in the nation with more physically gifted football players than Compton College in southern California. Head coach Cornell Ward and his staff have done a phenomenal job of recruiting and they're using the talent to put Ws in the Win column. The Tartars posted a 6-4 record last season and are considered one of the favorites to win the Western State Conference Pacific Division in 2002.

Last year they lost the title to College of the Canyons and failed to earn a bowl berth. They certainly hope to turn the tables in their favor this year in what should be a tough-as-nails conference.

Coach Ward has seven returning starters on offense, including four offensive linemen, and five guys coming back on defense. He's also got a couple of new coaches to work with heading into the new season. Reuben Ale, who was at LA Southwest last year after a stint at East LA, will be the new Defensive Coordinator. He will bring a new look to the defense and is known for being a great recruiter. And coming over from Santa Monica College to coach the offensive line is Kendrick Knox.

Compton's wide open offense needs a reliable triggerman if it is to hit on all cylinders. The leading candidate to start at quarterback is freshman Brandon Brooks (5-11, 175), who went 39-1 the last three seasons at Long Beach Poly. Brooks will be challenged by another freshman, Arthur Giddings (6-2, 185), from Manual Arts High School. Brooks is a guy who knows what it takes to win and the coaches are impressed with his natural leadership abilities. Those qualities combined with his December enrollment give Brooks the early edge in camp.

Whoever wins the quarterback job will spend quite a lot of time handing off or pitching to tailback Alvin Marshall (5-11, 185). Yes, this is the same Alvin Marshall who tore up the Mission Conference as a freshman at El Camino College last season. The former Locke High School star and Nebraska commit surprised a lot of people in the offseason with his decision to transfer to Compton. All signs point to him picking up where he left off last year and challenging for All-Conference honors as both a running back and kick returner. Marshall is quick as a cat, has soft hands, and tremendous vision. Four-year schools including USC, Washington State, Oklahoma, the Florida schools, and many others will try to sign Marshall, who may be able to graduate in December.

Sharing time in the backfield will be sophomore Cedric Bowen (5-10, 170). According to one Compton coach, he is as fast as Marshall and will get plenty of carries. Bowen rushed for over 1,000 yards during his senior year at Paramount High School.

It's hard to pinpoint any particular weakness on this Compton team, but if there is one it might be at wide receiver where freshmen will rule the day.

Sophomore Cedric Dawley (6-2, 190) will be the go-to guy. The Lynnwood High School graduate used his speed and height to bring in over 35 catches last year and scored 6 TDs. Dawley will be joined by freshmen Jason Cooper (6-1, 175; Dominguez HS) and diminutive John Brown (5-8, 170; Jefferson HS), both of whom are ex-high school quarterbacks. A number of other freshmen, including James Wilson (6-0, 175; Long Beach Wilson HS), will challenge for time as well. There is no tight end of note.

The Tartars' offensive line is loaded with returning starters and should be a real strength. Anthony Casey (6-5, 305; Long Beach Wilson HS) is a returning All-Conference player and leader on the line. According to his coach, Casey has already been offered by USC and is getting attention from Oregon, Utah State, UNLV, Nevada, and many others.

The guard spots will be held down by sophomores Arthur Smart (6-5, 310; Compton Centennial HS) and Steve Arnett (6-4, 295; Locke HS). Both of these guys are getting early looks from San Diego State, Colorado State, Utah State, and others.

Darwin Laidley (6-6, 290; Inglewood HS), who is a cousin of Dawley, and freshman Kyle Stephenson (6-7, 330; Kennedy HS) will be two guys vying for time at tackle. The latter is one of Compton's top freshman recruits. Neither of those guys will win the starting left tackle position, however, as it belongs to Shawn Citizen (6-5, 315) who transferred from LA Southwest College. Last year, Citizen made honorable-mention All-Conference. Four-year schools such as Colorado, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Oregon are among the many hoping to get his attention.

Several other incoming freshman could see duty on the line as well, including Clay Salima (6-5, 290; Long Beach Jordan HS) and Marcus James (6-4, 285; Louisiana).

On paper there's as much or more talent on defense as on offense although only five starters from last season return. It's very possible that the Tartars' linebacking corps is the nation's best overall.

Sophomore Earnest Branch (6-5, 255; Lakeland, FL) will occupy one defensive end spot. The coaches say that he's got great burst and a tremendous frame and wingspan. The fact that Branch is looking to a December graduation date has schools like Colorado, Kansas State, and Kansas very interested.

Plugging the inside will be defensive tackles Saafetai Seti (6-3, 300) and John Talamoa (6-1, 290; Paramount HS). The latter plays with a low center of gravity and possesses nice quickness for a big man. Seti will draw consistent double teams.

Cleaning up behind the D-line will be a tremendously gifted linebacking corps, which got even stronger with a recent new addition.

All eyes will be on sophomore Marvin Simmons (6-2, 220; Long Beach Poly HS) who two years ago was perhaps the nation's most sought after high school linebacker. Compton will play him inside and outside -- wherever. According to one Compton coach, Simmons can bench press 435 and did 36 reps at 225 pounds. Nearly every major four-year school in the country coveted Simmons for his speed (4.5 range), strength, and range. In the end he chose USC, but failed to qualify. Last year Simmons was briefly enrolled at Orange Coast College where he did not play due to injury. (Bio from OCC site)

Another of California's top community college linebackers is John Andrews (6-2, 230). A first-team All-Conference performer in 2001, Andrews is certainly more of an established star at this level than Simmons. He brings a lot of speed (4.5-ish) to the insider linebacker position. LSU has already offered this native of Atlanta, Georgia who is set to graduate in December.

The linebacking corps just got a little richer with the recent addition of USC bounceback, Austin Jackson (6-4, 250; Serra HS; bio). He's in school at Compton and is expected to make a contribution on the football field this fall.

Also, keep an eye on returning sophomore Bo Moi Moi (6-2, 255; Leuzinger HS) and incoming freshman Rashad Westbrook (6-5, 245; Locke HS). Moi Moi is very versatile and can line up as an end or at insider linebacker while Westbrook is being counted on to earn reps as a starter.

Leading the defensive backfield is cornerback Robert Maddox (6-0, 185; Verbum Dei HS), who transferred from Santa Monica College. A Washington Huskies signee out of high school, Maddox possesses good cover skills and has a knack for making big plays. Oregon State is very interested as is Washington State and others.

Others to keep an eye on are cornerback/safety Dominic Carter (6-1, 190; Compton HS), SS/LB Matt Douglas (6-4, 215; Mayfair HS), and perhaps safety Surrell Davis (6-2, 195; Compton HS). The latter is a big-time athlete who comes to Compton from College of San Mateo in northern California. Douglas was a starter last season next to Harvey Whitten (Oregon St. signee) and is getting early looks from Michigan State, Texas A&M, Kansas, and Western Michigan.

Punting duties will be in the capable hands of Edgar Reynoso (6-3, 230; Lynnwood HS). He was on last year's All-Conference team after averaging in the neighborhood of 45.0 yards per punt.


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