Aspiring actor Cedric Cobbs will get star billing at Arkansas
When Arkansas coach Houston Nutt talks about sophomore tailback
Cedric Cobbs, who will be the cornerstone of the Razorbacks'
offense this fall, he begins by using neutered coach-words like
potential and unselfish. But soon he invokes the names of Barry
Sanders and Thurman Thomas, two All-Americas who played for
Oklahoma State during Nutt's days as a Cowboys assistant in the
late 1980s. Then Nutt says, almost in a whisper, "I sat in a
room watching film of Cedric with Joe Ferguson, who thinks
Cedric's exactly like O.J." As in Simpson, who took handoffs
from Ferguson, now the Arkansas quarterbacks coach, for five
years when they played for the Buffalo Bills.
Though he has heard all this before, Cobbs is still flattered,
but he wants other roles in life. In fact, he wishes he'd had a
role in Life, the 1999 comedy starring Martin Lawrence and Eddie
Murphy, which Cobbs estimates he has seen 20 times. "I'm working
on a drama major," he explains. "Martin Lawrence and Eddie
Murphy are my role models."
Hollywood will have to wait, though, because Cobbs has a chance
this fall to be the biggest porcine star since Babe. Cobbs
rushed for 668 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman last
season, splitting time with senior Chrys Chukwuma. Nutt brought
Cobbs along slowly, and his patience paid off late in the
season. Cobbs rushed for 107 yards in Arkansas's 28-24 upset of
No. 3 Tennessee on Nov. 13. In the Hogs' 27-6 Cotton Bowl rout
of Texas, he scored on a 37-yard run and a 30-yard catch.
The 6'1", 218-pound Cobbs is fast enough to outrun defenders,
and his stiff-arm will stop traffic. Though he says he hadn't
had more than 30 sessions in the weight room in his life before
coming to Fayetteville, he benches 360 pounds and squats 835.
"Our goal for running backs is 600 pounds," says Razorbacks
strength and conditioning coach Don Decker. "I've been doing
this 10 years, and I've never been around a guy like Cedric, who
has absolutely no physical limitations." Decker says that when
Arkansas players want to know how they stack up in the weight
room against teammates, they say, "Excluding Cedric...what did
everybody else do?"
On an offense that brings back an experienced line and little
else, Cobbs will get 25 to 30 touches a game and should compete
with Ole Miss junior Joe Gunn, Ole Miss senior Deuce McAllister
and Tennessee senior Travis Henry for the SEC rushing title.
Cobbs's goal for next season is to be close to the 5.8 yards per
carry he averaged last year. "I set high standards," Cobbs says.
"If you don't have standards, no telling what will happen."
GATORS SANS HANDS AND CAL'S CATCH
Gaping holes at wide receiver widened last week at Florida when
John Capel withdrew from school so that he could focus on making
the U.S. Olympic track team. In two seasons with the Gators,
Capel, who had the fastest 200-meter time (19.87) in America
last year, never transformed his speed into an on-field
weapon--he made nine catches last season for 84 yards, and had
no catches the year before. Still, his departure leaves Florida
with only four receivers, who made 69 catches in 1999....
Most teams looking to settle on a starting quarterback put off
the decision as to who will be the main man until August. That
wasn't the case at Georgia Tech, where in spring practice junior
George Godsey beat out redshirt freshman Andy Hall as the
replacement for All-America Joe Hamilton. Offensive coordinator
Ralph Friedgen says Godsey's edge in experience was a deciding
factor, given that Tech is losing six offensive starters.
Friedgen says Godsey still needs to improve his downfield
accuracy during summer workouts if he wants to keep Hall on the
bench this season....
Pittsburgh senior quarterback John Turman progressed so much in
his decision-making during spring practice that Panthers coaches
considered naming him the team's most improved player. However,
junior David Priestley, who had right shoulder surgery, will be
a slight favorite to win the starting job when he returns to
action in August. Priestley, who lost then regained the starting
job from Turman last season, averaged 357.7 passing yards during
three of his four starts before suffering a season-ending injury
against Miami on Nov. 6....
Cal has hired former Stanford All-America Ken Margerum as
receivers coach, continuing a crossover tradition in the Bay
Area. Bill Walsh, John Ralston, Mike White and current Bears
coach Tom Holmoe all have been head or assistant coaches at both
COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY Cobbs averaged 5.8 yards per carry last year as a bit player for the Razorbacks.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO
COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT HALLERAN/ALLSPORT
Peppers Not Shaken by Double Duty
North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers knew he would have
to miss the first couple of weeks of spring practice because he
was filling in as the backup power forward on the Tar Heels'
basketball team. But North Carolina's unexpected run to the
Final Four after a subpar regular season forced the 6'6" Peppers
to change his plans. By the time basketball was over, the
football team had only three practices left, and Peppers didn't
suit up. Football coach Carl Torbush isn't too concerned; he
believes Peppers, who will be a redshirt sophomore next fall,
gained more from playing in the Final Four than he would have
from spring ball. Peppers agrees. "Leadership," he says. "It
will help me there. Oh, and we went through a lot of adversity,
and we kept working. I'm going to try to carry that to the
football field--never get down when something gets bad."
Something gained, but something lost: Peppers weighs 265 pounds,
down 13 from the end of football season. After taking three
weeks off to rest, he will return to the weight room this week
to bulk up.
Peppers says life in the paint has similarities to life on the
line of scrimmage, where he started all 11 games last fall and
made 50 tackles, a team-leading 10 of them for a loss. In both
sports, he says, "I'm trying to stay low and not give any
Offenses run the majority of their plays to the right, which, it
seems, is also the way many college coaches lean politically. SI
ran the names of 60I-A coaches through a Votenet.com search
engine that tracks donations to 2000 presidential candidates as
reported to the Federal Election Commission. We found only six
coaches who voted with their checkbooks, and each of them backed
a Republican. Pity poor Lou Holtz, who just can't shake his
COACH SCHOOL AMOUNT CANDIDATE
Lou Holtz South Carolina $2,000* Dan Quayle
Holtz South Carolina $1,000 John McCain
Bobby Bowden Florida State $1,000 George W. Bush
Dennis Franchione TCU $1,000 George W. Bush
Mike DuBose Alabama $650[**] George W. Bush
R.C. Slocum Texas A&M $500 George W. Bush
Ron McBride Utah $500 Orrin Hatch
*Includes wife's gift
[**]Went to PAC that in turn gave money to Bush