Bakersfield College football coach Jeff Chudy is making it simple when the subject of sanctions against his program comes up:
He won't talk about it.
The opening phase of the Renegades' 2013 season began Thursday with the team's first official practice. Niney-eight players took the field late in the afternoon.
There are the usual questions about who will play which positions typical when practice seasons start.
But this year, other issues loom.
Because of alleged violations of California Community College Athletic Association rules dealing with special privileges for football players, BC lost all wins from the 2011 and 2012 seasons and had its 2012 state championship stripped.
Two years' probation and a postseason ban for this season directly affect this year's squad. BC is appealing the sanctions and that process continues.
"There's no uncertainty," Chudy said of his program. "We've got a game Sept. 7 against Santa Ana and I think all of us are extremely focused on getting better."
Chudy emphasized he is not going to talk about the sanctions and turmoil at this time.
"There will be a place and a time for everything and now is not the time to talk about that stuff," he said.
Two returning players say they are focused on this season and not the sanctions.
"We're ignoring it," said sophomore safety Chris Hannible. "Our goal is getting better every day. We don't talk about it too much."
"We don't worry about that stuff," said sophomore middle linebacker Grant Campbell. "It's out of our reach. We're focusing on football."
BC posted an 11-2 record last season with the first state football title in the program's history.
Several key players completed their community college eligibility, and BC has 22 practices to find replacements before the opener at Santa Ana.
Quarterback is one of the biggest holes to fill. Brian Burrell, now at Fresno State, will be a tough act to follow after a strong 2012 season. Six players are battling to replace him, Chudy said.
"I'd rate Brian Burrell as the most efficient, most productive quarterback that we've had," Chudy said. "He was able to extend plays. He had intangible stuff, the ability to keep plays alive because he was athletic.
"And the other thing: His competitive spirit was absolutely unbelievable and he made guys around him a lot better. He's going to be a hard guy to replace."
Working on defense
Defensively, Chudy said workouts have illustrated an athletic group.
Defensive lineman Clint Carter and middle linebacker Campbell are primed for big seasons, he said. Other sophomore defenders who have impressed are linebacker Brodie Scott and defensive backs Hannible and Joey Stuart.
"These are guys who lead by example and are extremely consistent," Chudy said. "They've been here at workouts all summer. They've done everything we've asked them to do. They'll have great seasons, there's no doubt about that."
Improved kicking game
The kicking game looks to be improved, Chudy said. Short kickoffs and inconsistent punting were problems throughout last season.
"We've got talented guys with strong legs," Chudy said. "The issues we struggled with last year had nothing to do with mistakes. We just didn't have guys with super strong legs.
"We had trouble covering kicks on kickoffs. We feel really good with the kicking game now."
Chudy said he was hesitant to highlight any freshmen until they have completed several practices. But he confirmed that Independence High graduate Preston Hodges, who will be a running back, has been impressive.
"He's very talented and a very good player," Chudy said. "There are a lot of things he can do. We're excited what we've seen so far. But he has a lot of work to do. He never had to work on blitz pickup. He was an unbelievable athlete at Independence High School. He's got a great attitude."
Campbell said he's been impressed with the talent BC has compiled for this season.
"We've got a lot of good players out here," said Campbell, a Garces graduate. "All these guys, even the new faces, I'm surprised with the talent we've got."
Chudy would not identify the players with eligibility remaining from last year's squad that have left the Renegades' program, citing confidentiality rules if eligibility or injury was the reason for the departures. "We've got the guys that we've got," he said. But four notable freshmen from last season were not at practice and their numbers from last year have been assigned to other players. They are wide receivers Marquise Johnson and Chaz Adams, running back Curtis McGregor and offensive lineman Christian Soto.