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Thursday, May 16, 2013
Vista Murrieta begins life without Su'a

By Erik McKinney

The Vista Murrieta (Calif.) football team is likely to face the same two questions over and over this spring, as the media peppers the Broncos with concerns regarding how they will bounce back from a heartbreaking 30-28 loss to Corona (Calif.) Centennial in last year's championship game, as well as who will fill the void left by USC class of 2013 signee Su'a Cravens.

The Broncos are hitting the first issue head on, as the back of every shirt during Monday's first day of spring practice was adorned with the score -- 28-30 -- of their only loss last season. The second will require some time to figure out, although a number of 2014 and 2015 prospects appear ready to step into the spotlight.

"Life without Su'a," head coach Coley Candaele said. "Obviously we're not going to replace him, but his motivation and inspiration to teach other kids how to play the game has affected our team."

Those two aforementioned questions also seem to have placed a rather sizeable chip on the shoulders of a number of Vista Murrieta players. While Cravens generated much of the publicity, he wasn't solely responsible for all of the production on either side of the ball. Hybrid defender Curtis Bolton led the team with 10.5 sacks last season, and Tyler Cook finished second, with 7.5. The two will form one of the more dynamic and disruptive duos at outside linebacker and defensive end this fall.

"I don't know what we have and how things are going to come together," Candaele said. "I know we have kids returning in Cook and Buzzy (Bolton). They have experience and know what it takes to win, and they know what happened last year. So those things are good to build a foundation, but you don't build a team around two guys. We need everyone to get on board with the enthusiasm and passion to never let that happen again."

Bolton and Cook already have several big offers from around the country. Bolton holds six, including Miami, Oklahoma and Washington, while Cook has 14, including Arizona, Boise State, Miami and Vanderbilt. But they'll have plenty of help on defense, in linebacker Greg Hoyd -- a Washington State commit -- as well as safety Randy Beggs, who has played quarterback, receiver and safety, and holds offers from Penn and Yale.

"It's just about how the pieces come together," Candaele said. "And it's our jobs as coaches to find the kids, because we're loaded at linebacker, and we might have to move those kids around to get our best 22 guys on the field."

Perhaps the most unsettled position for the Broncos is at quarterback, where Centennial transfer Risaiah Basurto likely will get an extended look this spring, although there are five potential signal-callers in the mix. The one constant for whoever wins the job will be tailback Kishawn Holmes, who rushed for 1,109 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

On the outside, 2015 wide receiver Colin Baker returns after catching 23 passes for 436 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore. Fellow 2015 recruit Jamie Nunley is back as well, though his 6-foot-3 frame could enable him to move to tight end this season after grabbing 24 passes for 361 yards last year.

Candaele said he believes the Broncos are blessed with their most athletic group of wide receivers since he's been there. But that isn't surprising, as there is depth everywhere at Vista Murrieta.

"We'll start getting an identity in terms of what the team is going to be like," Candaele said after the first spring practice. "Nobody is looking over their shoulder saying, 'I wish we had ...' They're looking around knowing that if they don't step up, somebody is going to take their spot. I expect the competition level to be at the highest it's been, because our depth is going to be the highest it's been.

"We might not have the elite, elite guy, like Su'a. But I think our depth and supporting cast are all hungry and want to contribute in some way."