An air of uncertainty followed Monte Vista High graduate Matt Tuckness into his senior football season at Occidental College-Los Angeles.
Tuckness, a standout receiver, suffered a partially torn hamstring in summer camp. Moreover, Occidental's players were anxious to learn more about their brand new coach, Bill Redell.
A Southern California football legend, Redell, 71, was hired in May to replace Dave Widolff, who'd been fired for recruiting violations after coaching the Tigers for 30 years.
Now that's a dramatic event for a program, but Tuckness handled everything with his usual aplomb.
After sitting out the season opener because of the injury and playing sparingly in week two, Tuckness has amassed 20 receptions over the past two games for the Tigers (1-3, 1-1 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).
He is No. 2 on the team with 24 receptions and first in points scored with 18. Last week Tuckness, a team captain, had eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-21 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, after he had 12 receptions against Redlands. He says he's 100 percent today, but the injury tested his resolve.
"I have a lot of goals for myself and high expectations for myself and the team, and not being able to play was frustrating," said Tuckness, who is 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. "It's hard to lose and be on the sideline. It was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do in my entire life."
Redell has no complaints about Tuckness, the player or the person.
"He's outstanding," Redell said. "He has good speed, quickness, great hands. He's an outstanding Division III receiver and probably better. If he had the opportunity to go play Division I, I think he could play Division I college football. We'll have to see if he goes beyond Occidental."
Redell added, "I've been doing this for a long time. I've had some great players, so I think he's a great player."
Because Redell was hired so late, after spring workouts, it was a confusing summer for the players.
"Yeah, it was a tough transition," Tuckness said. "We were all real worried about who the new coach was going to be and the changes that were going to be made.
"It's pretty rare for a coach to be fired after spring training, so we were kind of in a little bit of limbo in the summer, but coach Redell is great. He kept a lot of the things the same, brought his own mentality to the program, and he's going to do a lot of great things for the future."
Tuckness brings a lot to the field as well. He has scored 17 touchdowns in his last 12 games dating back to last year. He led the SCIAC in touchdown receptions in 2011, and was named a first-team all-SCIAC wide receiver.
He also remains a Mustang at heart. Tuckness is a former high school teammate of current Stanford players, quarterback Brett Nottingham and tight end Zach Ertz, his longtime friend.
Tuckness, who might pursue a professional football career in Europe or the Arena Football League, believes playing at Monte Vista gave him an edge in college.
"With coach (Craig) Bergman and coach (Chris) Babcock, those guys ... it's almost like a college itself," Tuckness said. "I didn't really see much of a difference at Occidental that I saw at Monte Vista. The work ethic's the same, the preparation's the same. ... It was very easy for me when I went to college."
TV TIME: Tri-Valley Community TV (TVCTV) is back with high school football coverage. Friday games will be aired on TV30 the next day, Saturday, at 7 p.m. Calling the action will be Ian Bartholomew, George "Dr. B" Baljevich, Tim Sbranti and ex-San Francisco 49er Guy McIntyre, with field reporting by Anna Kagarakis.
Here is the game schedule: Oct. 12: Alhambra at Dublin; Oct. 19: Granada at Amador Valley; Oct. 26: Foothill at Livermore; Nov. 2: Livermore at Granada.
Contact Matt Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @schwab_Matt.