The College of San Mateo football team lost 32 players from last year's team to four-year universities -- including a whopping 14 Football Bowl Subdivision signees, the largest number in school history -- proving once again the Bulldogs are one of the premier junior college programs in the nation.
Although CSM took care of business off the field, it fell short of expectations on it. The Bulldogs finished 7-4 overall and 2-3 in the ultra-competitive NorCal Conference, losing those three conference games by a combined 14 points. The narrow defeats came over three consecutive weeks, costing CSM any chance of a NorCal title and potential berth in the state championship game.
To that end, fifth-year Bulldogs coach Bret Pollack knew some things had to change for the program to continually improve. In the offseason, Pollack decided to delegate his myriad responsibilities so that he would only have to worry about coaching the offensive line and play-calling tasks on game day. In addition, Pollack put more accountability on the entire program, including himself.
"I like our preparation and some of the changes we made in the offseason," he said. "Last year, we felt like we were missing just the little details [that often decide a close game]."
The changes seemed to work out in the Bulldogs' season opener Saturday, as CSM ran for 317 yards in a 41-27 victory against Laney College.
As usual, CSM has a loaded roster for 2013. The Bulldogs have plenty of experience returning on the offensive line and in the secondary, and they will be buoyed by an influx of talented freshmen, grayshirt freshmen and transfers. With a 108-player roster, CSM has depth like few programs in the country.
Dominick Jackson, a 6-foot-7, 306-pound right guard who will play at Alabama next year, is one of four returning players -- every starter's spot is open for competition on a weekly basis, so there's no such thing as a returning starter at CSM -- on the offensive line. Other key returnees on the line include right tackle Hanitelli Lousi, center Viliami Fukofuka and left guard Semisi Mataele.
Combine the returning linemen with returning running back George Naufahu, who ran for three touchdowns in the opener, and the Bulldogs should once again boast a power rushing attack that defenses will be hard-pressed to stop. Naufahu, who averaged a hefty 7.7 yards per carry last season, leads a CSM rushing attack that averaged 271 yards per game in 2012.
Slotbacks play a vital role in the CSM offense, so expect Galileo product Quincy Nelson to have another solid if not spectacular season. Nelson was the team's second-leading rusher last season, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Casey Wichman played in the opener, running for 52 yards and throwing for 84 yards, after competing with Willy Fonua and Justin Burgess for the starting job.
Defensively, the Bulldogs appear to be stacked in the secondary, as they return safety Sam Atoe and cornerbacks Joe Turner and B.J. Hayes. Other key returners on defense include tackle Rika Levy and linebacker Michael Spivey. Former El Camino High School standout Trevor Kelly, who played at Sacramento State last season, transferred to CSM and should have a huge impact on the defensive line.