SI polled NFL player-personnel wizards as to the five colleges that best prepare players for the pros. The consensus: USC, Pitt, Penn State, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Their breakdown: quarterbacks, BYU; running backs, USC; wide receivers, Tennessee; offensive linemen, USC; tight ends, USC; defensive linemen, Oklahoma; linebackers, Penn State; and defensive backs, San Diego State.
One of the more surprising comments came from Dick Steinberg of the Patriots: "[When it comes to defensive linemen] USC and Notre Dame [are tops], although Notre Dame players have not generally been as productive. It seems like pro ball is a letdown for them after Notre Dame, where they are put on such a pedestal. I think so many of them get their degrees and have other options available that they aren't as intense about pro football as some other guys."
Wrong guesses. Class of '84: defensive end Ron Faurot, the Jets' No. 1 pick, who had been projected to be the next Mark Gastineau. Said Jets coach Joe Walton as he waived Faurot last week, "Ronnie needs to be more aggressive. Maybe he's a year away...." The goof was costly: Faurot signed a four-year contract worth about $1.9 million—of which he received $920,312.50.
Class of '85: Tony Degrate, the Texas All-America defensive lineman and winner of last season's Lombardi Award, who was cut last week by the Packers after having been dumped by Cincinnati in training camp. Says Degrate, "I went there lackadaisical. I more or less was going through the motions." One general manager says Degrate can't run. Drafted in the fifth round by the Bengals, Degrate was placed on waivers on Aug. 2 I. Green Bay signed Degrate Oct. 1, and he practiced four days. He kept jumping offsides, and was cut again.
Steve Young, the former quarterback of the USFL's moribund L.A. Express franchise, has been in the NFL only six weeks, with Tampa Bay. But he has already noticed a difference between the two leagues: "Now we don't have to chip in to pay the bus driver to get us to the airport."
When the Rams acquired tight end Tony Hunter from Buffalo last July, veteran Mike Barber started griping about the team's conservative offensive game plan and his own unmet pass-catching goals. By Oct. 7, coach John Robinson had had enough.
"Hey, things aren't working, I want out," said Barber, who led all NFC tight ends in receptions in '83 but had caught only one 29-yard pass in five games this season. "I guess I caught him at a bad time, because John said, 'O.K. You're out. I'll trade you or waive you.' ...His response kinda took me off guard."
The next day Barber went to the Rams' offices to try to make amends. Boom. Robinson traded Barber to Denver for (ouch) a 12th-round draft pick.
Says Barber, "I'm the loser in this because the Rams are a great organization. I would have loved to stay there."
What's it like being temporary help in the NFL? Ask Giants kicker Jess Atkinson, a free agent from Maryland who has worked four games (at about $3,500 per) in place of the injured Ali Haji-Sheikh. "I'm living in a basement," says Atkinson, 23. "Just across the tracks in Rutherford, New Jersey. Every morning, I hear the New Jersey Transit commuter. It's as good as an alarm clock.
"I'm a vagabond. All I own is four pair of overworn jeans, a couple of shirts and a brand-new Sony color TV. I eat almost every meal at the Meadowlands Diner. That's where I make most of my phone calls, too."
The highlight of his stay with the Giants came Sunday when he scored a TD on a fake field goal in New York's game against Cincinnati. The Giants lost 35-30, but the TD should be good for a call or two. As for his wardrobe, the Giants fined him $500 because he didn't wear a jacket and tie on a trip.
Cowboys coach Tom Landry suggested last week that his team, especially the defensive backs, be more circumspect. Dextor Clinkscale and Dennis Thurman had run off at the mouth before the Giants game Oct. 6, calling the Giants a "fake" and quarterback Phil Simms a "myth." So when asked for his opinion of Pittsburgh quarterback Mark Malone, the Cowboys' opponent on Sunday, Thurman said, "He's the best in the NFL, no doubt."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Tony Dorsett rushed for 113 yards, caught four passes for 82 yards and scored two TDs—and became the sixth man in NFL history to gain 10,000 yards rushing—as Dallas beat Pittsburgh 27-13.
DEFENSE: Rams cornerback LeRoy Irvin intercepted two Steve DeBerg passes—one of which he returned 34 yards with 5:58 remaining for the winning touchdown—as L.A. beat Tampa Bay 31-27.
Here's an accuracy rating of active NFL kickers:
M. Bahr, Cleve.