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Original Issue

Inside College Football

Signing Daze
The nation's top defensive player, D.J. Williams, couldn't
decide where to go

Coaches are usually immune to the annual strains of recruiting
hyperbole. They can, however, be carriers. Consider the case of
D.J. Williams, a tailback-linebacker for De La Salle High in
Concord, Calif., and Parade magazine's national high school
player of the year. One college coach compares Williams to Tampa
Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks; another likens him to
New York Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead.

Williams is versatile, too. Not only does he play like Brooks,
but he can act like Garbo. On Feb. 2, the first day that high
school seniors could sign national letters of intent, the 6'2",
225-pound Williams just wanted to be alone.

After telling De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur and Miami coach
Butch Davis last week that he would sign with the Hurricanes,
Williams flinched. His "buyer's remorse," as Ladouceur described
it, surprised even Williams's mother, Sherri Gonzales. On the
eve of signing day she had given a statement to Student Sports
magazine explaining why her son had chosen Miami. Williams's
hesitation left Florida State and Cal, his other two finalists,
with slim hope for a sudden about-face.

Here's why: Williams made 133 tackles, 37 for losses, last
season for De La Salle. On the side, Williams rushed for 1,974
yards and 30 touchdowns, although he will concentrate on defense
in college. Ladouceur, a man not given to gushing, says, "I've
been the head coach for 21 years. I hadn't seen an athlete of
his caliber, let alone coached one."

On signing day, sprawled on a couch in Ladouceur's office, the
17-year-old pleaded for solitude so he could make his decision.
"I have to sit and think this out," Williams said. His Parade
trophy sat on a cardboard box. Over the course of an hour
Williams never acknowledged the trophy's presence, a refreshing
dose of humility in a time of gargantuan egos. "My coach is
supposedly the best high school coach ever," Williams said,
glancing at Ladouceur, who is 236-14-1 at De La Salle. "If he
doesn't walk around with a chip on his shoulder, no way I can
walk around telling people how good I am. If you have talent,
they'll see it."

Williams grew up a Florida State fan. Once recruiting began,
however, the Seminoles lost their biggest advantage. Coach Bobby
Bowden's ability to charm mamas into sending their blue-chip
babies to Tallahassee has made him a living-room legend, but
D.J. and his mother decided against home visits and insisted
that recruiters meet them at De La Salle. "I feel a recruiter's
goal is to come in and be your friend so that it's hard to say
no," says D.J. "This makes it more of a business thing and less
of a personal thing."

Williams became aware of the Hurricanes during his childhood in
Pinole, Calif., the hometown of Gino Torretta, who won the 1992
Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at Miami. Williams began to take
the Hurricanes seriously last fall after watching them play the
Seminoles evenly for three quarters before losing 31-21. "When
they played the best in the nation, they played different," he
says. "You could see the intensity of the game."

Williams is drawn to the emotion of the Florida State-Miami
rivalry and wants to play on a defense with aggressive
linebackers, which both teams have. "On offense you think, You
can't stop me," Williams says. "I like the thought of being
unstoppable. But you can feel like that on defense, too."
Williams expects to announce his choice this week, and there was
no reason to believe he would stray from his preference for the
Hurricanes. For a few days, however, all he wanted was to be

N.C. State's Big Catch
Chow Tells BYU, Ciao

Chuck Amato had less than a month to recruit after he was named
North Carolina State's new coach, but the former Florida State
assistant signed one blue-chipper last week: 53-year-old Norm
Chow. The architect of the Brigham Young passing game, who
developed quarterbacks Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Ty Detmer,
will leave Provo after 22 seasons to become the Wolfpack's
offensive coordinator.

"I called him to run some names by him," says Amato. "Norm says,
'I thought you were calling for me.' I said, 'Well, I would've,
but there's no way you'd come here.' Norm says, 'Let's talk,'
and I dropped the telephone."

Chow had been LaVell Edwards's right-hand man for many years,
and a decade ago he says he was promised the top job when
Edwards retired. "There's a new administration, and I wouldn't
try to hold anyone to that," says Chow, who is leaving, in part,
because he knows it's unlikely that he would succeed his
68-year-old boss, whom he thinks might retire after next season.

Chow took some heat from Cougars fans late last season when the
BYU offense fell silent. The team's 21-3 loss to Marshall in the
Motor City Bowl marked only the third game since Chow became
offensive coordinator in 1985 that the Cougars didn't score a
touchdown. The criticism, he says, was not a factor in his
decision to leave. "It's just time," he says.

Extra Points
No Groundswell For the Pac-10

After the Pac-10's worst season in years, you might think the
best recruits in California would opt for the conference so
they'd have a better chance to play sooner, but the results are
inconclusive. Of the 30 players named to the Cal-Hi Sports
All-State team, half signed with Pac-10 teams. Seven
first-teamers left the West Coast, however, including tailback
Albert Hollis of Sacramento (Georgia), and two signed with
California schools outside of the Pac-10. Six undecided
first-teamers will determine the league's final grade....
Michigan, which has fared well out West in recent years, signed
tight end Tyler Ecker of El Dorado Hills, Calif., but struck out
with several other top California recruits. The Wolverines also
failed in their bid to sign Kwame Harris of Newark, Del.,
considered the best offensive lineman in the nation. Harris, who
chose Stanford, teased Cardinal coach Tyrone Willingham on his
home visit, pretending that he didn't favor Stanford. Harris's
mother, Cordel, foiled the gag. While Kwame strung Willingham
along, she walked into the living room wearing a sweatshirt that
said stanford mom.... Wisconsin, after two consecutive Rose Bowl
appearances, signed more players from California (six) than from
Wisconsin (five). That reinforces what Badgers coach Barry
Alvarez said when he took the job 10 years ago: "Our heart and
soul will come from Wisconsin, but our hands and feet will come
from somewhere else."

COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN Williams was a two-way star at De La Salle, but he'll be a linebacker at Miami--or Florida State or Cal.

The SEC Rules

Recruiting gurus differed as to whether Florida or Tennessee
signed the year's best class, but with Alabama also rated
highly, the SEC dominated. Florida's top signees included
quarterback Brock Berlin, who has already enrolled and will take
part in spring practice, and offensive lineman Max Starks, the
son of Ross Browner, the 1976 Outland Trophy winner from Notre

MAX EMFINGER (National Blue Chips)

1. Tennessee
2. Florida
3. Florida State
4. Texas
5. Alabama
6. Penn State
7. Ohio State
8. Auburn
9. Mississippi State
10. Miami

BOBBY BURTON (Recruiting Adviser)
1. Florida
2. Tennessee
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Texas
6. Alabama
7. Florida State
8. Michigan State
9. Nebraska
10. Arizona State

Allen Wallace (SuperPrep)
1. Florida
2. Texas
3. Florida State
4. Penn State
5. Tennessee
6. Alabama
7. Ohio State
8. USC
9. Miami
10. Michigan State