Football looking ahead to next season

When you rack up conference championships and accolades like the Santa Monica College football team has done the past three seasons, that's when they come calling.

Coming off their third straight Pacific Conference championship, and having several players take home All-conference and All-defensive honors, many four-year football programs have taken interest in the Corsairs.

"We've had 20 players get scholarships from our team last year," said SMC Head Coach Gifford Lindheim. "Half of the SEC [Southeastern Conference] has been here during spring ball, 10 of the 12 Pac-12 schools, we're now a nationally recruited school."

The Corsairs have already begun spring training in preparation for the 2014 season and with many players leaving for four-year programs, strengthening the team with new recruits is an important task.

Adding to that, community college athletes are only allowed two years of eligibility so the team would naturally be looking for replacements this time of year.

Although it can be a challenge to incorporate new players to an already established system, Lindheim is confident that their incoming players will make an impact.

"We are always looking for the best players in the area, and the best people," said Lindheim. "I am always looking to fulfill the potential this group has and I think it is going to be a talented group. The sky will be the limit."

Making up a large portion of the recruiting class will be players on the defensive end of the field. While the emphasis was on the offensive side during last spring's recruiting period, this spring turned to the defense.

Defense was one of the most crucial aspects of the Corsairs success last season, and it will need to continue to be strong if they want to make their dream of a fourth conference title a reality.

"Although we graduated and transferred a lot of players, we feel that we have on tap one of the best recruiting classes on defense that we've ever had," said Lindheim. "It's too premature because it can still move around, but I think when it's all said and done, this class can rival any out there."

One of the Corsairs prized recruits on the offensive side of the ball, is offensive lineman Steven Tarr from Taft High School.

Tarr has already drawn interest from several Division 1 football programs including Louisiana State University, the University of Missouri, and the University of Oklahoma, all of whom have been on hand to watch him this spring.

"You're talking about a top 20 recruit. We're excited about him. He's a 6-foot-5-inch athletic guy, he's very strong," said Lindheim.

In addition to Tarr, Lindheim is looking to returning players such as defensive back Jayshawn Lowe to help bolster the defense, as well as status updates from defensive back Tyler Hasty and linebacker Daveed Carter.

Both Hasty and Carter are exploring possible four-year options.

"They are receiving Division 1 attention and if they end up getting offered then they'll leave," said Lindheim. "However if they don't get the offers that they want, they'll come back for another season. That's still going to play itself out."

While much attention has been given to the defense, Lindheim has made sure not to let the offense fall by the wayside.

Returning to the Corsairs is last season standout running back, Melvin Davis. Davis led the Pacific Conference in rushing touchdowns last season.

"You don't find many 6-foot-2-inch, 235 pound guys who can run and catch," said Lindheim. "We're excited to see him really get loose this year, he's in great shape too."

Similar to the start of last season, Lindheim is also looking at strong competition at quarterback. Freshman Steven Hamm won the job out of training camp last year, before missing the majority of the season with an MCL strain.

Despite receiving several Division 1-AA and Division 2 offers, Hamm decided to return to SMC for his sophomore year. Hamm will compete once again for the starting quarterback position along with College of the Canyons transfer, Jake Dashnaw, and Long Beach City College transfer, Christian Smith.

"With those guys, it's going to be a pretty legitimate competition," said Lindheim. "As it is with every position on our team. I don't think there's one position where we can't say that there's some heavy competition."

Although heavy expectations certainly come with the territory after such a long string of dominance, Lindheim is making sure the team stays levelheaded and is focused only on the season at hand.

"They don't give us any extra points for what we did last year," said Lindheim. "We've got to recreate the energy, find good people, and we've got to do it again."