FOOTBALL: Spring practices underway

Palomar wide receiver Javier Gamboa runs through drills during the spring Kinesology course on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 on the football field. Brian Korec/Telescope

Early spring practice for the football team has started with over 100 students putting in extra work before the preparation for the start of the season starts in earnest.

Head Coach Joe Early said “it’s really early” in the process and no major decisions have been made.

The spring practices are used mainly to start getting the basics down as well as an evaluation tool.

“Not everybody in this class is going to be invited to summer (practices),” Early said.

The big question is at the quarterback position; both of last year’s quarterbacks, David Fisher and D.J. Zapata, are no longer on the team, with Fisher playing for Kent St. and Zapata playing baseball at Palomar.

Fisher played in all 11 games and threw for 2,539 yards, 27 touchdowns and ran for 403 yards and seven touchdowns.

Potential replacements that are currently in camp are UNLV transfer Joe Portaro, Miles Godfrey, a greyshirt from last year, and Ryan Lamb.

No matter the player under center, the offensive line that will be supporting him is pretty much set, with four of the five guys returning from last year’s team.

“That’s huge,” Early said. “The offensive line is where it all starts.”

As for the plans in terms of offense and defense, they are “still up in the air” and will be influenced by the starting personnel.

The departures of wide receivers Nigel Westbrooks, Nevada-Reno, and Alex Wheat, Utah State, who combined for 1,500 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns, have created openings for a new receiver to step in.

Other positions with openings are tight end, safeties and linebackers.

In terms of players filling positions, it is going to be very fluid until later in summer practices when the roster gets pared down.

“It changes all the time. We have some guys in here, but we have a lot of guys that we have recruited that won’t be here till June,” Early said. “We will have a better gauge on that once we get all of our recruits in here.”

There is potential for Dillon Baxter to join the Comets. The once highly touted running back out of Mission Bay, who has been released from a football scholarship at both USC and SDSU, is once again looking for a place to play.

His options are limited and he is potentially going the community college route. According to Early, after it was announced that Baxter was released from SDSU, Baxter contacted Palomar staff.

“I got a text that he contacted us; I didn’t talk to him personally,” Early said. “If he shows up, he shows up. I’ve heard he is down at Grossmont, but who knows.”

However because Baxter was allegedly released from his previous schools for off-the-field issues, according to the U-T San Diego, it could be a major issue for potential teams. His talent might mask his issues, but if he has turned things around he could be the talent a team needs to make it deep into the playoffs.

“We will always talk to anybody, but we also have expectations, and this isn’t to say he doesn’t,” Early said. “We are always looking for character guys and guys that aren’t afraid to compete on and off the field and in the classroom. This is the ultimate team sport ,and you have got to have pieces to fit into the team.”

“We will entertain it, but it doesn’t mean we will go with it.”


Author: Matthew Slagle

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