Among the new players are three highly regarded receivers who figure to immediately contend for significant playing time. The new pass-catchers are Charon Arnold from El Camino CC, Chad Heydorff from Glendale CC and Derek Swafford from Ventura CC.
Also enrolled this spring is prolific quarterback Eric Holtfreter from Los Angeles Valley CC.
Arnold and Heydorff may be the prized catches of the group as they offer contrasting styles which should complement each other well. There is the possibility that both could land spots in Cal's starting line-up next fall.
Arnold was recruited by schools all over the country, including USC and Louisville, before choosing Cal. A speedster with great hands, he brings with him 4.4 speed in the 40 and a penchant for the big play. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch and hauled in nine touchdowns last fall in helping El Camino to an 8-3 record. Arnold finished the season with 41 catches for 751 yards.
Heydorff, from Glendale CC, led the entire state with 86 catches for 1,616 yards (an average of 18.8 yards per reception). He also had 17 touchdown catches, which ranked second among all California JC receivers. A first team All-America receiver, Heydorff has a reputation of being able to make the touch catch in traffic.
"We're really excited about both Charon and Chad," said head coach Tom Holmoe. "They have two different styles but we believe both can become impact receivers for us this season. Based on pure talent, Arnold could become our big play man in the passing game. Chad is Mr. Dependable and it's hard to argue with his productivity."
A sleeper is Derek Swafford from Ventura CC. After signing a pro contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and spending the last four seasons in their minor league system, Swafford returned to the sport of football last fall at Ventura CC. His talents were on limited display on a 9-2 Ventura team that averaged 247 yards a game rushing , but only threw the ball sparingly while averaging just 120 yards a game through the air. He played only the first five games of the season, catching five passes for 230 yards (an average of 46 yards per catch) and one touchdown.
Despite his limited action last year,, the Cal coaches note his exploits at Ventura High School, where he graduated in 1993, which saw him draw offers from the likes of Northwestern, UCLA and Nebraska. He eventually signed a letter-of-intent with Northwestern before deciding to go the pro baseball route. He has an extra benefit of having three years of eligibility remaining at Cal, as he will be a sophomore in 2000.
"Derek is a player who will bring athleticism and maturity to the wide receiver position, two things we sorely missed last season," said Holmoe. "He's an unknown because he hasn't been a fulltime player for several years. However, he has a tremendous upside and he'll have an opportunity to show what he can do."
Cal is also thin at the quarterback position as starter Kyle Boller is rehabilitating a shoulder injury and back-up Samuel Clemons has transferred to Western Illinois, a Division I-AA school. While the coaches expect Boller back in time for spring drills, there will be an opportunity for Eric Holtfreter to get a lot of work.
Holtfreter threw for 4,376 yards and 34 touchdowns over the last two seasons at L.A. Valley Jc. He hit 179-of-325 passes (55.1%) and 24 touchdowns last season. His 2,667 passing yards last fall was the fourth highest total among California JC quarterbacks in 1999.
Holmoe also announced he expects to have a replacement on his coaching staff for the departure of wide receiver and special teams coach Dan Ferrigno by the first week of February. "I talked with about a half-dozen candidates and I am planning to have them meet with our staff in the next few weeks and then we'll make a decision," said Holmoe. "I am very pleased with the pool of candidates. We're going to get a very good coach on our staff."