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Phil Taylor's Sidelines

Oct. 06, 2003
Oct. 06, 2003

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Oct. 6, 2003

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Phil Taylor's Sidelines

CHANGE THE RULE

This is an article from the Oct. 6, 2003 issue Original Layout

Suspended Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett is hardly a
sympathetic plaintiff, having jeopardized his college career with
his own dishonesty, but the hope here is that he wins his lawsuit
to gain early entry into the NFL. Clarett should be allowed in if
only because the league's rationale for keeping him out is
flawed.

The NFL insists that the main reason it bars players from
entering the draft until three years after they graduate from
high school is because their still-maturing bodies aren't ready
to absorb the pounding they will take in the pros. Either the NFL
is being disingenuous or commissioner Paul Tagliabue hasn't taken
a good look at a big-time college football game recently.

Clarett, a 19-year-old sophomore who is listed at 6 feet, 230
pounds, outweighs four of the NFL's five leading rushers, and
he's only one pound lighter than league leader Jamal Lewis of the
Ravens. He's no more at risk against NFL competition than he was
against some of the Buckeyes' opponents. The Miami defensive line
he faced in the Fiesta Bowl last season--the Hurricanes' four
starters ranged from 264 to 297 pounds--is comparable with the
one he would have seen against the Miami Dolphins (255 to 325
pounds) this year.

But the NFL's argument is mostly a smoke screen. The league might
be concerned with the health of prospective young players, but it
is undoubtedly more concerned with the health of the system that
has made college football a free minor league for the pros.
Maintaining the status quo isn't a good enough reason to deny
young players like Clarett.

HEISMAN WATCH

The names may change each year, but the Heisman Trophy race never
really does. This year's leading candidates can all be plugged
into the usual familiar categories.

The favorite: Chris Perry, RB, Michigan. He's a senior running
back from a national championship contender, meaning he'll get
plenty of chances to shine on television.

The athletic wideout: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh. The most
gifted candidate, but he may not have gaudy enough stats to beat
out the QBs and the RBs.

The chic pick: Philip Rivers, QB, N.C. State. A player from a
nontraditional power whom pundits cite to prove they don't just
watch high-profile teams. Chic picks usually fade late.

The longshot: Kevin Jones, RB, Virginia Tech. He puts up
impressive numbers, but lacks the exposure and the preseason buzz
necessary to win.

SHREDDING THE REBELS

Granted, it's not easy to stop Texas Tech senior quarterback B.J.
Symons, who passed for 661 yards--the third-highest passing total
in Division 1-A history--and six TDs in a 49-45 win over
Mississippi. But it's hard to believe the Ole Miss defense could
offer so little resistance after studying the game tape of
Symons's 586-yard passing performance against N.C. State the
previous week.

With nothing to fear from Texas Tech's ground game--the Red
Raiders ran only 17 times and passed 64--the Rebels might have
been expected to use every healthy defensive back they had, or to
blitz on every down or to try some other drastic method to limit
Texas Tech's passing game. Instead they allowed Symons to pick
them apart just as they had watched him do to the Wolfpack.

EXTRA POINTS

Arizona finally did the inevitable and fired coach John Mackovic
on Sunday. He had long ago lost the support of the boosters, some
of whom have been calling for his dismissal for more than a year,
and he barely quelled a player mutiny last year during Arizona's
dismal 4-8 season. With the Wildcats off to a 1-4 start, the only
question to be asked about Mackovic's firing is: What took so
long?... Coach most in need of a chill pill: South Florida's Jim
Leavitt, who tried to motivate his team at halftime--after what
he felt was a lackluster first half against Army--by head-butting
one of his helmeted players, leaving himself with a gash on his
forehead. South Florida was leading 13-0 at the time and won
28-0.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT SEALE/TSN/ICON SMI (CLARETT) ClarettCOLOR PHOTO: CRAIG JONES/GETTY IMAGES (RIVERS) RiversCOLOR PHOTO: SEAN MEYERS/ICON SMI (SYMONS) Symons