The central idea for this week's College Football Preview began
to take shape last spring when associate editor B.J. Schecter and
special contributor John Ed Bradley, LSU's starting center in
1979 and Academic All-SEC that same year, met for lunch in New
Orleans. Over po'boys Schecter posited that offensive linemen are
the smartest players in the game, and Bradley, no dummy, agreed.
In fact, Bradley said he'd like to write about that. Schecter
relayed the idea to college football senior editor Mark Mravic,
who was already planning a preview that had a strong X's and O's
Along with assistant photo editor Don Delliquanti and art
director Craig Gartner, Mravic then set about pulling together
the elements in this week's 56-page preview package, which
includes rankings of the 117 Division I-A teams and scouting
reports on the Top 25. To find noteworthy scholar-athletes,
Mravic and Schecter examined the Academic All-America list and
sought suggestions from sports information directors. Ohio State
senior quarterback Craig Krenzel, a molecular genetics major, was
a no-brainer. "It helps when you have the smartest player in the
country on the defending national champs," says Mravic, who
claims he was the third-smartest player on his intramural flag
football team at the University of Chicago.
Dispatched to write the Krenzel piece (page 68) was senior writer
Tim Layden, back on the college football beat after three years
covering a variety of subjects, including horse racing and the
Olympics. Layden came away from the interview reeling. "It's rare
that I've had an athlete talk down to me about something other
than his chosen sport," he says. "But in the genetics lab Craig
was trying to explain cell mutations, and he said, 'I'm just
going to keep this simple, O.K.?' and I said, 'Fine by me.'"
Writer-reporter Kelley King didn't have to get quite as technical
researching her story on Miami senior middle linebacker Jonathan
Vilma (page 78), but she was equally impressed with the finance
major's acumen. "Vilma spoke with as much enthusiasm about his
upper-level management courses as he did about his most memorable
games," says King.
The final part of the package--the intelligence of offensive
linemen (page 84)--comes from Bradley, who drew upon his own
experiences as a player and also talked with former Iowa linemen
Will Lack and Andrew Lightfoot, both aspiring M.D.'s, says he
enjoyed working on this piece, which provided him with what he
claims is a novel (perhaps unprecedented) experience for a
sportswriter. He says, "This was the first story I've ever worked
on in which everybody called me back."
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON PLAYMAKER Mravic drew up the X's and O's for our college preview.
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY Layden
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER King