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Kicking things off: Sierra College coaches, football players getting used to each other

By: Trevor Horn / Special to the Journal
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To take a line from “What About Bob,” the next four weeks for Sierra College football is all about baby steps.
Under first-year head coach Ben Noonan and staff, some 120 players enrolled in the summer school class came together as a team for the first time on Tuesday for meetings and practice.
“We’ve got four weeks to get it done,” Noonan said. 
The players are adjusting to the new staff and vice versa.
Think of the next four weeks as a puzzle spread out over a table and the coaches need to fit them all together, quickly.
“This practice was more about our focus and attitude and what are the team rules and how do we act,” Noonan said. “As long as they are in this class, they are representing our football team whether I have coached them for one day or not.”
Despite the need to find out the hidden gems, Noonan and defensive coordinator Ed Eaton have a solid understanding who will be their leaders this fall.
The secondary for Sierra should be the strongest group with three returning contributors from 2012.
Sophomore cornerback Mike Saulter (70 tackles in 2012) leads the group with fellow sophomore Zach Starns (30 tackles, 3 interceptions) along with Rashawn DuPree.
Defensive tackle Eric McKinnon (three sacks) will lead the front seven for the Wolverines defense.
Edwin Hooper (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), a former defensive end for Rice University, should factor into the game plan along with Jason Whitfield and a handful of out-of-state players that will join the team in August.
Offensively, running back Kashad Watson will factor in as a huge piece in the offense. Watson did not play in 2012, but rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns as a backup in 2011.
“He has been an absolute stud this off-season,” Noonan said. 
The new offense will also rely heavily on specialty players and should see contributions from true freshman John Cooley, DJ Myart and Zach Suarez.
Noonan expects to start as many as nine new players on offense this season.
Cooley rushed for 1,605 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall for CIF State Bowl champion Granite Bay High School. Myart rushed for 886 yards for Inderkum in 2011 as a junior before a knee injury sidelined him during his senior season. Suarez had 604 receiving yards for Rio Americano last fall.
Sierra will take a week off in early August before going full steam into fall camp on Aug 12. The biggest goals for Noonan over the next six weeks are to get the team to jell into the new offensive system and find a way to get the roster down to around 90 players.
“We will have between 110 and 120 guys who want to come out (for the team), and we only have 90 helmets,” Noonan said. “The competition will be good.”
Sierra opens the season at Sacramento City College on Sept. 7 and the home opener is on Sept. 14 against Feather River College.