THE TOP 10 LIST
Nebraska coach Tom Osborne has always dismissed the accuracy of
high school football recruiting services. However, even he must
acknowledge that they were right on the money last winter
regarding tailback Ahman Green. After Osborne suspended Lawrence
Phillips for six games early this season for having assaulted a
former girlfriend, Green, who's now a Cornhusker freshman,
emerged as one of the most dangerous runners in the country.
Here's a look at how the top 10 incoming freshmen, as rated by
BlueChip Illustrated, have fared this fall.
1) Dan Kendra, QB, Florida State: Redshirted. Will battle
redshirt sophomore Thad Busby for the starting job in the spring.
2) Kevin Faulk, TB, LSU: With 852 yards and a 4.9-yard average,
he has been the best freshman back in nation after Green.
3) Green, TB, Nebraska: Has rushed for 1,042 yards. Says one Big
Eight coach, "I believe Tom when he says he had Phillips's best
interests at heart when he reinstated him. With Green around, he
certainly didn't need Phillips to improve his team."
4) Randy Moss, WR, Florida State: Redshirted. Will join fleet
group of Seminole receivers next fall.
5) Matt Stinchcomb, OT, Georgia: Has seen considerable action as
backup on a deep Bulldog line.
6) Brock Huard, QB, Washington: Redshirted. Brother of current
Husky quarterback Damon will vie for starting job in spring with
backup Shane Fortney.
7) R.W. McQuarters, CB-WR, Oklahoma State: Three-way threat for
Cowboys--cornerback (57 tackles, three interceptions), wide
receiver (six catches, 106 yards) and expected to be the backup
point guard for the basketball team.
8) Daylon McCutcheon, CB, USC: The son of former NFL running
back Lawrence McCutcheon has seen a lot of playing time at
cornerback (48 tackles, two interceptions).
9) Kory Minor, LB, Notre Dame: Has been one of the Irish's top
defensive players since becoming a first-stringer in the second
week of the season. Finished regular season with 48 tackles and
six sacks, second on team.
10) Brandon Short, LB, Penn State: Played one game on special
teams before breaking left foot in practice. Nittany Lions will
seek medical redshirt.
Don't expect Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell to meet the
same fate as his predecessor, Charlie Ward, who in 1993 won the
Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to the national
championship but then went undrafted by the NFL. Kanell is
projected to be a second-round pick next April, but some scouts
say the best NFL quarterback prospect to come through
Tallahassee in recent years is Jon Stark, Kanell's former backup.
Stark left Florida State last December for Trinity College, an
NAIA school with an enrollment of 1,000 in the Chicago suburb of
Deerfield. "He's better than Kanell," says one AFC scout of
Stark. "He just doesn't get the exposure. But don't call him a
sleeper. Most NFL people know who this kid is."
Stark spent two seasons on the Seminole bench, behind Ward and
then Kanell, throwing only 66 passes during that time. "I liked
Florida State," says Stark, who has thrown for 3,142 yards and
21 touchdowns for Trinity this fall. "But I needed a place where
I could showcase myself. There are a lot of backups out there
like me who just need a chance."
Indeed, Florida junior Eric Kresser and USC senior Kyle
Wachholtz, both of whom have spent long stretches backing up
Danny Wuerffel and Brad Otton, respectively, are projected by
scouts as better NFL prospects. Kresser, though, doesn't plan to
follow Stark's lead by transferring, even though he will likely
remain Wuerffel's backup next fall.
$8 MILLION MAN
He woke up last Saturday morning feeling as cool as the other
side of his pillow. Notre Dame quarterback Thomas Krug flipped
on the TV, and there he was, in a taped interview on ESPN,
trying to convince his interviewer that he felt little pressure
going into the Irish's game that evening against Air Force.
Several hours later Ron Powlus, the injured first-string junior
signal-caller who has had his share of high-pressure Saturdays,
turned to Krug on the team bus and said, "You know, you should
probably start thinking about the game now." Replied Krug with a
laugh, "Yeah, I probably should."
The match was hyped as the $8 million game, one which would
either send the Irish to an alliance bowl game or home for the
holidays for the first time since 1986. By extension Krug became
known as the $8 million man. As it turned out, he played a near
mistake-free game, and Notre Dame's 44-14 defeat of Air Force
lifted the Irish into probably the Sugar or the Orange Bowl, or
possibly even the Fiesta Bowl.
After having struggled against the option all season, Notre
Dame's newly aggressive defense limited the Falcons' vaunted
wishbone to 286 yards. Even more impressive was the Irish's
ground attack, which rolled for 410 yards. By comparison Krug's
numbers--8 for 13, for 96 yards and an interception--were modest.
But for the first time in a long while, such puny numbers from a
Notre Dame quarterback were hardly noticed.
George Jones is running. He lowers his head, does this nutty
juke in front of a green Jeep Wrangler that has come to a stop
at the corner of Montezuma Road and 55th Street in San Diego and
high-steps it onto a sidewalk on the other side of the street.
"Been doing this my entire life," says Jones, laughing. "It's
not my style, though, the dancing and spinning. My style is
angry." He pauses to consider the statement and adds, "Yes, I'm
an angry runner."
Jones is a junior tailback at San Diego State. Last Saturday, in
a 49-10 win over Hawaii, he ran for 164 yards and broke the
Aztecs' single-season rushing mark of 1,630 yards set by
Marshall Faulk in 1992. He played the last three weeks despite a
broken jaw. "Oh, the jaw doesn't hurt that much," says Jones,
who has rushed for 1,755 yards and 23 touchdowns this fall and
has one game remaining, against Colorado State this Saturday. "I
know what hurt is, and this isn't it."
Growing up in Greenville, S.C., Jones was what social agencies
commonly refer to as a community child, a parentless youth who
escaped the agencies' notice and slept wherever he could find a
place. Occasionally, he stayed with his grandmother. Most of the
time he stayed with neighborhood acquaintances. Of his parents,
Jones says only, "I don't talk about them. Not to interviewers,
not to friends, not to myself if I can help it."
When he was a teenager, Jones went to work at a fish restaurant.
After his shift ended at midnight, he would jog the two miles
back to his neighborhood, dodging imaginary tacklers in the
dimly lit streets. "For those couple of miles, I was happy, just
really happy dancing around and pretending," he says. "When I
got home, though, that's when the hurt set in."
Soon afterward he started spending most nights in the suburban
Greenville home of Monnie and Jackie Broome, whose son Nathan
had befriended George in peewee ball. Throughout high school the
Broomes were surrogate parents to Jones, though they've never
become his legal guardians. Monnie and Jackie helped Jones
enroll at Bakersfield (Calif.) Junior College in 1993, where he
spent two years before enrolling at San Diego State.
Initially, he had been reluctant to go to California. Jones, who
had worked in a textile plant that summer, approached Monnie the
day before he left for Bakersfield. "I'm not sure I want to go,"
Jones told him. "I think I'll just stay home and keep working in
the plant." Replied Monnie, "Staying is not an option."
In retrospect, Jones says, "Going to California was the best
thing for me. It's opened my eyes to the world." And it's opened
the world's eyes to Jones.
WELL, NOT REALLY
When UNLV coach Jeff Horton was second-guessed recently by a
couple of local newspaper columnists, he fell back on that tired
defense of a cornered coach. He slammed the wags, saying they
didn't understand because they had never played the game. It has
since come to light that while Horton played football, he was
not quite the gridiron stalwart that his bio in the UNLV media
guide makes him out to be.
In the guide Horton is described as being a three-year letterman
as a wide receiver at Arkansas. Hogwash, says the Arkansas
sports information department, which maintains that Horton was
merely a walk-on and never played a down.
Confronted with the evidence, Horton came clean: "I never
lettered. I walked on and was on the jayvee most of the time.
What little action I saw was very limited. I tore up my knee in
practice. O.K., we'll take out the part in the media guide about
being a letter winner."
Michigan's decision to lift the interim status of coach Lloyd
Carr defused a potentially sticky situation. "I wasn't coming
back if Lloyd wasn't coming back," says Wolverine linebacker
Jarrett Irons. "I didn't want to start over with a new coach,
and five or six guys had made the same decision." Had Carr been
let go, a potential list of replacements would have undoubtedly
included Northwestern coach Gary Barnett. Although Barnett has
pledged to stay in Evanston after this year, one source close to
him told SI, "Gary loves Northwestern. But Michigan? That's the
one job he would've thought long and hard about before saying
no." ... Vince Dooley's long-expected sacking of Georgia coach
Ray Goff last Friday made Goff a sympathetic figure to some
Bulldog fans. Despite a 5-5 record this fall, Georgia, which has
been hit hard by injuries and has had to use three quarterbacks
and seven tailbacks, is significantly better than it was last
year, when the Dawgs finished 6-4-1.... Kentucky's near upset of
Tennessee should bolster the Wildcats' efforts to secure local
wunderkind quarterback Tim Couch (SI, Nov. 20), who attended the
COLOR PHOTO: PHIL SEARS Kendra, the No. 1 schoolboy recruit last year, is now a Florida State redshirt. [Dan Kendra]
COLOR PHOTO: E. ANDERSON/SDSU Jones rushed past Faulk and into the Aztecs' record book. [George Jones]
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Wake Forest senior quarterback Rusty LaRue completed 50 of 67
passes for an ACC-record 545 yards and three TDs in a 52-23 loss
to North Carolina State.
Virginia Tech junior defensive end Cornell Brown had 12 tackles
and two fourth-quarter sacks to help lead the Hokies to a 36-29
come-from-behind win over Virginia.
With former Georgia passer Eric Zeier's promising start with the
Cleveland Browns and the likelihood that Tennessee sophomore
Peyton Manning will be a first-round pick some day, the SEC's
poor record for producing NFL quarterbacks has looked more
encouraging recently. In 1994 only three former SEC passers were
active in the NFL. The addition of Zeier and another rookie, Jay
Barker of New England, ups the SEC total to five, which, as this
chart shows, still lags behind the totals of five other
CONFERENCE QBS IN NFL
Big East 11
Big Ten 10