After slow start, Manus catching up in a hurry

Morgan State receiver sparks passing game

College Football

November 08, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Little more than two months ago, Tommie Manus was barely a footnote in Morgan State's preseason football plans.

A late arrival to the team after completing his junior college studies in summer school, Manus wasn't even listed as a backup at wide receiver. He was bringing great size and skills to the position, but he had a lot of information to digest while adjusting to the Bears' multiple pro offense.

In Manus' first two games, he accumulated all of two receptions for 20 yards.

Now, he has developed into "Tommie the Man" in Morgan's passing game, climbing to third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in catches and fifth in receiving yards.

Two weeks ago, he broke out with a six-catch, 127-yard afternoon in a wild victory at Delaware State, and last weekend, when Morgan romped over Savannah State, 45-14, Manus tied Mike Holston's 23-year-old school record with 12 receptions, including a Morgan-record nine in the first half.

"Until Delaware State, I was just coming along slowly," said Manus, who was recruited by the likes of Texas A&M and Texas Christian out of Spruce High School in Dallas, but was a non-qualifier academically.

"Then, I got comfortable with the offense. I knew where to go and what to do. You have to know what everybody else does in this offense -- what guard is pulling and so forth. There's a lot to it. But I knew I had this in me the whole time."

A shoulder injury to the incumbent go-to receiver, Kelvin Dickens, gave Manus more time.

Known as "Taco" to his teammates because of his Texas roots, Manus has become the playmaker coach Donald Hill-Eley was searching for earlier in the season when the Bears struggled offensively against the MEAC's elite teams.

"Early on, we had a bad case of the drops," said Hill-Eley. "Opponents were using that to take away our running game. We needed someone who could replace Visanthe [Shiancoe, tight end] and T.J. [Stallings, running back]. He stepped up and helped us. Now we're getting a little respect and other teams are taking some [defensive] people out of the box."

Manus has plenty to offer. He is nearly 6 feet 6 and weighs 220 pounds (down from 230 at the start of the season), giving him considerable leverage against defenders four to eight inches shorter and 20 to 50 pounds lighter.

He ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash in junior college and said he thinks he could have gone faster had he been in track shape. He has good, strong hands and is athletic, having been an all-district choice in high school basketball.

Is the NFL watching?

"He has all the attributes of a big-time receiver," said Hill-Eley. "We were surprised when he called us after visiting."

Manus chose Morgan out of Fort Scott (Kan.) College because "they stuck with me after graduating late. And I had four high school classmates here," said Manus. "Plus, I knew they were going to throw [he left his first junior college because the team ran an option offense] and needed a receiver after Visanthe left."

A catch by Manus that was ruled a no-catch has been probably the biggest play in the Bears' season. With a 15-10 lead against Hampton and under five minutes remaining, Manus caught a pass in the end zone, with television replays showing clearly he had both feet in bounds, which is one more than needed in the college rules.

The officials ruled he was out of bounds and Morgan had to settle for a field goal and an eight-point lead. Hampton came back to tie in regulation and won in overtime, virtually knocking the Bears out of MEAC title contention.

"That play has haunted us the rest of the season," said Hill-Eley.

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