Hot Reads

College football 2007

August 26, 2007|By SUN REPORTERS FROM INTERNET, MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPER REPORTS

MR. EXCITEMENT

Five players who can take the ball to the house from anywhere on the field

DeSEAN JACKSON, CALIFORNIA

The junior wide receiver should benefit mightily from the new kickoff rule moving the ball back five yards. With a solid quarterback in Nate Longshore, Jackson could have 12- 15 touches a game receiving, returning and running.

PERCY HARVIN, FLORIDA

Will line up at receiver, running back and some times even take direct snaps for the Gators. If quarterback Tim Tebow can throw (last season he mostly ran the ball when substituting for Chris Leak), Harvin should double, perhaps triple, his five touchdowns from last year.

EARLY DOUCET, LSU

Early will get the ball often for the Tigers. As a wide receiver, Doucet can fly, and he will be used in the return game. As a junior last season, he had 59 catches and eight touchdowns.

MIKEY HENDERSON, GEORGIA

Generously listed at 5 feet 10 and 156 pounds on the team's roster, Henderson led the Southeastern Conference in punt returns with an average of 14.7 yards and two touchdowns. After spring practice, he was named the team's best all-around offensive player, which means he's finally catching on as a receiver, making him even more dangerous.

JUICE WILLIAMS, ILLINOIS

The only quarterback to make this list, he can do it all. He was the first quarterback in Illinois history to throw two touchdown passes of more than 65 yards in one game, and he rushed for nearly 600 yards during the season. By the way, he's just a sophomore.

STORIES TO WATCH

KICKING OFF LIKE THE PROS

Five yards doesn't seem like a big deal, but moving kickoffs back from the 35-yard line to the 30-yard line has a number of college coaches stressing about their kicking games. You will see a lot more marquee players returning kicks. You'll see starters covering kicks instead of backups or first-year players.

An NCAA rules committee recommended the change in the offseason as a way to speed up the game and to add excitement for the fans.

And although it might result in more touchdown returns, coaches worry that it will also increase injuries because there will be more violent collisions during returns.

URBAN LEGEND?

Billy Donovan won back-toback basketball national titles at Florida. Can Urban Meyer do the same? It will be much more difficult for the football coach, who returns just nine starters, while Donovan almost had his entire team back.

But national college football rankings predict another good year, as the Gators are ranked third by Sports Illustrated, eighth by ESPN The Magazine, fifth by The Sporting News, third in the USA Todaypreseason coaches' poll and sixth in the Associated Press preseason poll.

Meyer, who is 22-4 during the past two seasons at Florida and 61-12 overall as a head coach, has his own Web site, and the adoration of Gator Nation. Another national championship and they might rename The Swamp after him. Now all he needs to do is lighten up a little. Seriously, the guy makes cardboard seem interesting by comparison.

HE'S BAAACK

OK, so he's not a very good liar, but he?s a very good college football coach. At least that's what Alabama fans hope when Nick Saban leads the Crimson Tide onto the field for the first time.

After his ugly sepaation from the Miami Dolphins - two weeks before accepting the Alabama job, he said, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach" - he was welcomed like a rock star to Birmingham. And 94,000 people showed up at the Crimson Tide's spring game. As a college coach, Saban has gone 91-42-1 (.642) with one national championship in 11 seasons, having also led LSU, Michigan State and Toledo. He takes over for Mike Shula, who went 26-23 (.531) in four seasons as head coach of the Crimson Tide.

NEW FACES IN NEW PLACES

Saban isn't the only former NFL coach turning up on a college campus. Former Cleveland Browns head coach Butch Davis will try to resurrect the football program at North Carolina while former San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks head coach Dennis Erickson has turned up at Arizona State after a year at Idaho. Other notable hires:

Former Boston College coach Tom O'Brien takes over at North Carolina State, and former Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio replaces John L. Smith at Michigan State.

ROAD TO NEW ORLEANS

The Bowl Championship Series title game will be played Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Superdome. It will be televised on Fox.

LSU is in the top three of just about every preseason poll, and many are picking an LSU-USC championship game.

COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

LLOYD CARR, MICHIGAN If Michigan doesn't win the Big Ten title and play in the national championship game, the Wolverine faithful will be howling for his head. It could be over sooner than that if Michigan can't beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won five of the past six meetings. At this point, ghouls dressed in scarlet and gray sweater vests must seriously haunt Carr's restless dreams.

BOBBY BOWDEN, FLORIDA STATE

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