PROSPECT & TEAM PREVIEW: Glendale College (Calif.)

Glendale College will know whether they can hang with the big-boys by September 21. They scrimmage on September 7 against what should be an outstanding Cerritos squad and then travel to Pasadena to play a team many have picked to win the Mission Conference. Ouch. Don't think that Head Coach John Cicuto is worrying about the early challenges, however. He's more focused on plugging a few big holes left by graduations.

Cicuto's squad ended last season in the US Bank Beach Bowl with a win over Fullerton College and a 7-4 record. "That was one of our better years last year, but we had sophomores on the offensive line and the quarterback was a sophomore," Cicuto pointed out.

At least some of the credit for Glendale's recent success can be attributed to the addition of John Rome to the staff. The former Citrus head man returned to Glendale last year to take on offensive coordinator and weight program management duties. His return as a full-time coach stopped what had been a revolving door of coaches since 1994-95, which is when Rome left for Citrus.

The coaching staff will go to work with 4 returning starters on offense and 5 on defense plus an outstanding punter.

On the offensive side of the ball, Cicuto is optimistic about his skill position guys but cites inexperience on the line as a concern.

A transfer from Pasadena City College, J.D. Ziska (6-3, 180; Arcadia HS), is expected to win the starting quarterback spot. Last year, he backed up Nathan Chandler (Iowa signee) at PCC and saw plenty of action. "Ziska has a solid arm, good feet, and is a committed quarterback. He hasn't missed a practice since his arrival in January," said Cicuto. It should be interesting to see how he does in week two versus his old team.

The running back spot is in good hands with returning starter, Kartrell Clayton (6-0, 210; Miramar HS in Flor.), who played from the fifth game on in 2001. Although not a burner (4.65) he is good for 30 to 40 carries a game if called upon and gets the hard yards. His long was 65 yards last season versus Citrus.

A potential sleeper at running back could be Tyrone Burrell, a 6-2, 260-pounder who played at LA Valley College two season ago. He enjoyed a very productive high school career but was derailed by academics. Burrell has got untracked in the classroom, however, and coaches are excited by his potential.

Perhaps the deepest position on the team is wide receiver, which is stocked with three experiences sophomores and a good redshirt-sophomore transfer from Citrus. "This may be the best wide receiver group I've had in a long time," said Cicuto.

Ziska's go-to guy will probably be David Catchings (5-11 1/2, 190), who is a guy that lives up to his name. He hauled in approximately 20 balls last season as a starter and should be more dangerous with added weight and speed. And coming over from Citrus is Dell Magee (6-1, 190), a rangy wideout with good speed.

At tight end Cicuto thinks he has a potential All-American in Oscar Giangrasso (6-3, 260; John Burroughs HS). "He's the real deal and is getting letters from everywhere. The four-years loved him in the spring. His size is legit and he's got about 7% body fat," said Cicuto. A non-qualifier out of high school who sat out a season, Giangrasso was a part-time student in 2001. He's ready to hit the gridiron now and will graduate in December. USC and UCLA are just two of the schools showing interest.

There's no question that Cicuto's biggest concern is the offensive line where freshmen will rule the day. The leader of this unit will be left tackle Joseph Comaianni (6-3, 275), a player returning from a broken foot suffered in the second game last season. He may move to offensive guard depending the play of others during fall camp.

The strength on defense should be in the backfield and on the defensive line where several starters return.

Although the defensive line lost All-Conference performer Zach Acker, the cupboard is not completely bare--especially on the ends. One name to remember is Shawn Southern (6-3, 235; Glendora HS), who alternated as a starter in 2001. "He's a real thin hipped kid. Super aggressive and super strong in the weight room," said Cicuto adding that Southern runs a 4.7 forty. Two other ends to keep an eye on are Carlos Coronado and Chris Lovejoy (6-4 1/2, 215). The latter looked very good at the SoCal Combine last spring where he ran a 4.77 forty, posted a 30 inch vertical, and blazed a 4.12 shuttle. Lovejoy has made the 'watch lists' of many four-year colleges already.

Keep an eye on safety Rainest Crawford (6-0, 190; Crenshaw HS), a player with 4.7 speed that played a lot in 2001. He'll roam the defensive backfield with cornback Todd Lawson (Crenshaw HS). "Lawson put on 22 pounds in the offseason. He's really matured," said Cicuto of his cover corner.

Not to be forgotten is punter Jonathan Overturf (6-3, 185; John Burroughs HS). He was the starting punter in the last four games of 2001 and has a major college leg according to Cicuto. Overturf will also contribute as a wide receiver.

It will be quite an accomplishment if Glendale repeats last year's 7-win season. After the opener at Pasadena the schedule includes road games against Bakersfield, Moorpark, and Ventura. The young guys will have to mature in a hurry if there's to be a second consecutive bowl game.

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