Big Men On Campus

They're not necessarily the largest, the fastest or the best in the country at their positions, but each of these nine collegians will play a huge role in his team's success this season. Their value is measured in a variety of ways--athleticism, strength, determination and a love for the action on Saturday afternoons-- and for good reasons they are all ...
August 20, 2006

WISCONSIN

Joe Thomas

OFFENSIVETACKLE

HE MAY not boastsculpted guns or washboard abs, but the 6'8", 313-pound Thomas has the kindof frame that draws long stares from NFL scouts. "To see him up close, youwouldn't think he weighs that much," says Badgers coach Bret Bielema,noting that Thomas's body fat was recently measured at 18.2%, darn good for anoffensive lineman. "We had a scout here in the spring who said Joe wouldhave tested out as the best body at the scouting combine." An excellentathlete who qualified for the NCAA championships in the shot put as a Wisconsinsophomore (he has since given up the sport to focus on football), Thomas has anenviable combination of strength, agility and speed (a 4.85 time in the 40).He's so versatile that his coaches, in a pinch for healthy pass rushers lastJanuary, also played him at defensive end in the Badgers' Capital One Bowl winover Auburn. Thomas tore the ACL in his right knee in that game, an injury thatrequired off-season surgery, but he says he'll be at full strength for thestart of his senior year. "For me," he says, "everythingathletically has come pretty easily."

COLORADO

Mason Crosby

KICKER

Crosby has onething to say to all his detractors: It's not the altitude. The thin air ofBoulder is not the reason he can regularly split the uprights from 50 to 60yards--even 75 in practice. His secret? An abnormally long backswing, a violentturn of the hips before impact and a right leg made powerful from playingsoccer for 13 years. Crosby's career-best field goal is a 60-yarder, and overthe last three seasons with the Buffaloes he made 10 of 15 attempts from 50yards and beyond. By the way, of the five field goals the 6'2" 215-poundermade from that range last year, four came on the road. New coach Dan Hawkinshas been so impressed that he plans to give Crosby a shot at making a 70-yarderin a game this season, which would break the Division I-A record of 67."Bring it on," Crosby says. "I've been waiting for thischance."

FLORIDA

Brandon Siler

LINEBACKER

The only knock onSiler--and it's a reach--is that he wasn't the team's leading tackler in eitherof his first two seasons, when he averaged 70 1/2 tackles per year. This seasonthe 6'2", 235-pound junior will be roaming behind one of the top defensivelines in the SEC, if not the nation, and should far exceed that number. And ashis seven fumble recoveries in '05 attest, Siler has always had a knack formaking the big play. Coach Urban Meyer describes him as "good, reallygood" but resists burdening him with the "great" label. If he playsto his potential, Siler may leave his coach no choice.

SOUTHCAROLINA

Sidney Rice

WIDE RECEIVER

A tattoo on hisleft arm reads BLESSED. And why not? The Gamecocks' sophomore receiver stands6'4", has soft hands and arms so long he can grab the bottom of abasketball net standing flat-footed. Rice is a master at positioning his bodyso he can rise over the defensive back, making him a nightmare to defend in thered zone. As a freshman he had 70 catches for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns. Nostranger to big-play wideouts, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says,"As far as his ability to catch the ball, I think he's as good as anyreceiver I've been fortunate to coach."

CLEMSON

Gaines Adams

DEFENSIVE END

As a student atCambridge Academy (enrollment 180) in Greenwood, S.C., Adams had to playeight-man football, which, not surprisingly, didn't bring him a singlemajor-college scholarship. But while spending a postgraduate year at Fork Union(Va.) Military Academy, he caught the eye of Clemson coach Tommy Bowden withhis dominant play. As a junior last season, his first as a starter for theTigers, the 6'5", 265-pound Adams was sixth in the ACC in sacks (8 1/2) andwas projected as a first-round NFL draft pick. But Adams, who has the quickfirst step of a safety, opted to return to Death Valley and anchor a defensethat ranked 11th in the nation in points allowed (17.6) and has seven startersreturning.

WEST VIRGINIA

Dan Mozes

CENTER

Mozes haspancaked many an opponent, but he has yet to help one off the ground. And hedoesn't plan to. It's that nastiness--and a don't-stop-until-the-whistle-blowsmentality--that has turned this overlooked Washington (Pa.) High recruit (hisonly other scholarship offers came from Hofstra and Wake Forest) into one ofthe nation's top centers. "Sometimes you have to play a little dirty to beable to have success," says the 6'4", 290-pound Mozes. "You have toplay mean. You want the guy across from you to say, 'He's light in the butt,but he brings it.'"

NORTHERNILLINOIS

Garrett Wolfe

RUNNING BACK

Could it get anyworse than being a ninth-string tailback who's only 5'7" and 172 pounds? Asa freshman in 2002, that's the hole Wolfe had to climb out of, but four yearslater he has developed into one of the nation's most electrifying runners.Wolfe enters the fall as the active leader in Division I-A career rushing with3,236 yards, plus 34 touchdowns--not bad for a guy who has played in only 20games. He opened last season with a 148-yard performance against Michigan andcapped it with a MAC championship-game-record 270 rushing yards against Akron.First up in '06: a date with No. 1 Ohio State at the Horseshoe.

SOUTHERN CAL

Rey Maualuga

LINEBACKER

The 6'3",250-pound Maualuga is coming hard, and it would be wise to get out of his way.His target, at the moment, isn't a ballcarrier, though that will come soonenough. Maualuga is aiming for the Trojans' starting middle linebacker spot.Oscar Lua, a senior, was solid there last year, but Maualuga, a sophomore, is aspecial player. He's a ferocious hitter who was such a force on special teamsand in part-time duty on defense that he was named to the freshman All-Americateam. As long as Maualuga can control his aggressiveness--he was charged withmisdemeanor battery after allegedly punching a man at a party last year and isundergoing anger-management counseling--the Trojans will have to find a way toget this budding star on the field.

TEXAS

MichaelGriffin

STRONG SAFETY

Aggressive.Vicious. Those words, Griffin says, have been inaccurately used to describe pitbulls. He should know. He breeds them. But aggressive and vicious are accuratedescriptions of this 6-foot, 205-pound senior attack dog. With cornerbackspeed, a lack of concern for the welfare of his body and a flair for thedramatic, Griffin "will just knock you out," coach Mack Brown says.Last year against Texas A&M, Griffin had 23 tackles and a blocked punt (oneof six in his career). And in the Rose Bowl against USC, he had amomentum-turning interception in the end zone that helped the Longhorns win thenational title. His former roommate, Michael Huff, won the Thorpe Award lastseason as the nation's best defensive back. Griffin just might keep that trophyin Austin another year.

Big Men ONCAMPUS

From Air Force toWyoming, one for each of the 119 Division I-A schools

THE LIST

AIR FORCE --GILBERTO PEREZ DE

AKRON -- LUKEGETSY QB

ALABAMA --KENNETH DARBY RB

ALA.-BIRMINGHAM-- LARRY MCSWAIN DE

ARIZONA --ANTOINE CASON CB

ARIZONA STATE --RUDY BURGESS WR

ARKANSAS --DARREN MCFADDEN RB

ARKANSAS STATE --TYRELL JOHNSON DB

ARMY -- CALEBCAMPBELL SS

AUBURN -- KENNYIRONS RB

BALL STATE --CHRIS MILLER P

BAYLOR -- DANIELSEPULVEDA P

BOISE STATE --KOREY HALL LB

BOSTON COLLEGE --BRIAN TOAL LB

BOWLING GREEN --KORY LICHTENSTEIGER C

BRIGHAM YOUNG --JOHN BECK QB

BUFFALO -- DREWWILLY QB

CAL -- MARSHAWNLYNCH RB

CENTRAL FLORIDA-- KEVIN SMITH RB

CENTRAL MICHIGAN-- DAN BAZUIN DE

CINCINNATI --BRENT CELEK TE

CLEMSON -- CHANSISTUCKEY WR

COLORADO -- MARKFENTON C

COLORADO STATE --JESSE NADING DE

CONNECTICUT --TERRY CAULLEY RB

DUKE -- JOHNTALLEY CB

EAST CAROLINA --MARCUS HANDS DE

EASTERN MICHIGAN-- KEVIN HOWE DE

FLA.INTERNATIONAL -- KEYONVIS BOUIE LB

FLORIDA -- CHRISLEAK QB

FLORIDA ATLANTIC-- JERVONTE JACKSON DT

FLORIDA STATE --ANDRE FLUELLEN DT

FRESNO STATE --MARCUS MCCAULEY CB

GEORGIA --QUENTIN MOSES DE

GEORGIA TECH --CALVIN JOHNSON WR

HAWAII -- COLTBRENNAN QB

HOUSTON -- KEVINKOLB QB

IDAHO -- MIKEBARROW K-P

ILLINOIS -- AKIMMILLINGTON T

INDIANA -- BLAKEPOWERS QB

IOWA -- DREW TATEQB

IOWA STATE --TODD BLYTHE WR

KANSAS -- AQIBTALIB CB

KANSAS STATE --JORDY NELSON WR

KENT STATE --DANNY MUIR DE

KENTUCKY --RAFAEL LITTLE RB

LA.-LAFAYETTE --JERRY BABB QB

LA.-MONROE --CHAZ WILLIAMS CB

LOUISIANA TECH --ERIC NEWMAN WR

LOUISVILLE --MICHAEL BUSH RB

LSU -- LARONLANDRY FS

MARSHALL -- AHMADBRADSHAW RB

MARYLAND -- JOSHWILSON CB

MEMPHIS -- WESLEYSMITH FS

MIAMI -- GREGOLSEN TE

MIAMI (OHIO) --RYNE ROBINSON WR

MICHIGAN --LAMARR WOODLEY DE

MICHIGAN STATE --DREW STANTON QB

MIDDLE TENNESSEE-- GERMAYLE FRANKLIN T

MINNESOTA -- MATTSPAETH TE

MISSISSIPPI --PATRICK WILLIS LB

MISSISSIPPI STATE-- QUINTON CULBERSON LB

MISSOURI -- BRIANSMITH DE

NAVY -- ROBCALDWELL LB

N.C. STATE --MARCUS STONE QB

NEBRASKA -- ADAMCARRIKER DE

NEVADA -- JOEGARCIA CB

NEVADA--LAS VEGAS-- BEAU BELL LB

NEW MEXICO --ROBERT TURNER T

NEW MEXICO STATE-- CHASE HOLBROOK QB

NORTH CAROLINA --RONNIE MCGILL RB

NORTHERN ILLINOIS-- GARRETT WOLFE RB

NORTH TEXAS --PHILLIP GRAVES LB

NORTHWESTERN --TYRELL SUTTON RB

NOTRE DAME --BRADY QUINN QB

OHIO -- MATTMUNCY LB

OHIO STATE --TROY SMITH QB

OKLAHOMA --ADRIAN PETERSON RB

OKLAHOMA STATE --COREY HILLIARD T

OREGON -- PATRICKCHUNG ROVER

OREGON STATE --YVENSON BERNARD RB

PENN STATE --LEVI BROWN T

PITTSBURGH --H.B. BLADES LB

PURDUE -- DORIENBRYANT WR

RICE -- ANDRAYDOWNS FS

RUTGERS -- BRIANLEONARD FB

SAN DIEGO STATE-- ANTWAN APPLEWHITE DE

SAN JOSE STATE --MATT CASTELO LB

SMU JOE --STURDIVANT SS

SOUTH CAROLINA --SIDNEY RICE WR

SOUTHERN CAL --DWAYNE JARRETT WR

SOUTHERN MISS --GEORGE BATISTE G

SOUTH FLORIDA --STEPHEN NICHOLAS LB

STANFORD -- TRENTEDWARDS QB

SYRACUSE --KELVIN SMITH LB

TCU -- HERBTAYLOR T

TEMPLE -- ELLIOTSEIFERT T

TENNESSEE --JUSTIN HARRELL DT

TEXAS -- JUSTINBLALOCK T

TEXAS A&M --JUSTIN WARREN LB

TEXAS TECH --JOEL FILANI WR

TOLEDO -- CHRISHOPKINS TE

TROY -- LEODISMCKELVIN DB

TULANE -- LESTERRICARD QB

TULSA -- NICKBUNTING LB

UCLA -- BEN OLSONQB

UTAH -- ERICWEDDLE SS

UTAH STATE --JAKE HUTTON LB

UTEP -- JORDANPALMER QB

VANDERBILT --EARL BENNETT WR

VIRGINIA -- CHRISLONG DE

VIRGINIA TECH --VINCE HALL LB

WAKE FOREST --MICAH ANDREWS RB

WASHINGTON --DASHON GOLDSON CB

WASHINGTON STATE-- MKRISTO BRUCE DE

WESTERN MICHIGAN-- LOUIS DELMAS SS

WEST VIRGINIA --STEVE SLATON RB

WISCONSIN -- JOETHOMAS T

WYOMING -- JOHNWENDLING FS

NINE PHOTOSPortfolio by Peter Read Miller THREE PHOTOSRANDY LITZINGER/ICON SMI; JOSH MERWIN; OLE MISS ATHLETICS NINE PHOTOSHELMETS THROUGHOUT PREVIEW COURTESY OF CAL SPORTS INFORMATION; DAVE KLOTZ/LOUISVILLE; IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS; NEVADA MEDIA SERVICES; ONLINESPORTS.COM; OREGON MEDIA SERVICES; SCOREHERE.COM; SCOTT WALSTROM/NIU MEDIA SERVICES; SIDELINEMVP.COM; USF ATHLETICS

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