While most coaches are drawing up plays and arranging depth charts, Orange Coast College football coach Mike Taylor spent much of his preseason writing letters to professors on campus, urging them to admit his players into congested classes.
Taylor, who lost would-be returning receivers Buzzy Yokoyama and Bryan Keller to academic ineligibility this season, said last week he had 10 players who were still awaiting word on whether they would get enough classes to constitute the required 12-unit load.
"I wrote 155 personal letters to professors," Taylor said. "I felt like a mailman. I was up in the office stuffing envelopes into mail boxes."
With no winning seasons since 2006 and only three winning records in Taylor's previous 14 seasons at the Pirates' helm, OCC has become second class on the field. But Taylor is hoping experience at quarterback, more talent at receiver and running back and a more athletic defense will help this year's squad buck that trend.
The Pirates, who are 5-23 in conference play and 18-32 the last five seasons, open their schedule at Moorpark College on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Here's a position-by-position look at the Pirates:
•Quarterback: Sophomore Cameron Biedgoly, who threw for 1,359 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games last season, is the projected starter this season, having won a three-man battle for the job with Jon Newsom and Chad Knox.
The strong-armed Biedgoly set a school record with five touchdown passes in an overtime loss to Santa Ana last fall, when he completed 28 of 50 for 417 yards. Biedgoly connected on 97 of his 176 attempts in seven games in 2012, with five interceptions. But, arguably the least mobile of the top three here, he was sacked 18 times.
Newsom, a nimble runner, completed 90 of 169 for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions in nine games last season. He was sacked 23 times.
Knox, a bounce-back from the University of Wisconsin, has garnered praise from Taylor and second-year offensive coordinator Rudy Caamano. Knox completed nine of 13 passes for 86 yards during Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, and opens the season ahead of Newsom (10 of 13 for 128 yards and two TDs in the scrimmage) into the No. 2 position.
Taylor said the experience of Biedgoly and Newsom provide a huge advantage in triggering the no-huddle, spread-option offense more efficiently this season.
•Running backs: Larenzo Williams, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound freshman out of Nashville, Tenn., begins the season as the starter in a running-back-by-committee group that Taylor said includes Newport-Mesa standouts Tala Teaupa and Robert Murtha.
Williams rushed for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns as a high school senior in 2011 and showed his explosiveness in Saturday's scrimmage with a 52-yard run and a 25-yard reception.
Teaupa, who opens the season at No. 2 on the depth chart, led Newport-Mesa ballcarriers last season with 1,662 yards at Newport Harbor High, en route to All-CIF Southern Section Southwest Division honors. He was also named Newport-Mesa and Sunset League Offensive Player of the Year.
Murtha, a three-time All-CIF Southern Division performer at Estancia High, is the Newport-Mesa career leader in rushing yards (5,489) and touchdowns (58). He gained 1,594 rushing yards and scored 15 TDs as a senior last fall.
Other likely contributors include Johnny Hills, a 5-8, 175-pound freshman out of La Mirada High.
Freshmen Nick Lomba, from Tampa, Fla., and Zach Salvat, from Joliet, Mont., are listed as the top two, respectively, at fullback.
•Receivers: Yokoyama, once a star tailback at Newport Harbor, and Keller, ranked second and third on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, topped only by departed Tyler Duncan's 38 catches for 738 yards and seven TDs.
Yokoyama, who began the season as a running back, but was converted to receiver, had 33 catches for 465 yards and six TDs. Keller, out of Mission Viejo High, had 28 catches for 538 yards and six TDs.
They may not be missed, however, if freshmen newcomers D.J. McFadden and A.J. Holman and converted running back Graeme Fraser fulfill their potential, Taylor said.