April 30, 2008

Primetime may headline Hall of Fame class

Advancing age typically is viewed from polar opposite perspectives kind of like Rich Rodriguez is in Ann Arbor as opposed to Morgantown.

The 21st birthday is celebrated for the freedom that comes with it. The 25th is welcomed for that break on auto insurance. But those past 40 often are viewed with disdain.

Still, wisdom is said to come with age. As I approach the mid-century mark, I have had the opportunity to see some of the greatest college football players ever. Indeed, more than 70 percent of the nominees on this year's College Football Hall of Fame ballot not only played during my lifetime, but also when I was old enough for them to make an impression on me.

Of course, being truly wise would require learning college football history - so those who played before I watched could be considered. I've done that, too. That's why my Hall of Fame ballot would include a nod toward Baton Rouge.

There were 75 player nominees on the ballot, and voters were asked to pick 11. Here would be my 11:

Tim Brown, Notre Dame, WR: Whether you like Notre Dame or not, you have to respect its glorious history. And with that in mind, consider Brown left South Bend with 19 school records. That's good enough for me. That he was a two-time All-American and won the Heisman in 1987 only reinforces his status.

Billy Cannon, LSU, RB: Forget for a moment the issues he had later in life. What Cannon accomplished as a player at LSU definitely makes him deserving of the Hall of Fame. He led the Tigers to a national championship in 1958 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1959. His game-winning 89-yard punt return, in which he broke seven tackles, in a 7-3 victory over Ole Miss on Halloween night in 1959 remains the most memorable play in LSU history.

Sam "Bam" Cunningham, USC, FB: Statistics and honors are great and go a long way toward building a case for Hall of Fame inclusion. Cunningham had that and more. Cunningham scored 23 touchdowns in his career and set a Rose Bowl record with four touchdowns in 1973. But he's probably best remembered for his 135-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 42-21 victory over Alabama in 1970 a performance that inspired the legendary quote by then-Alabama assistant Jerry Claiborne: "Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes that night than Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished in 20 years."

Eric Dickerson, SMU, RB: By the time Dickerson left SMU, he had set records that still stand for single-season rushing yardage (1,617) and career rushing yards (4,450), as well as tying Doak Walker with 48 career touchdowns. Imagine what he might have accomplished had he not shared carries with Craig James in the "Pony Express" backfield. Dickerson was a two-time All-American, led the Mustangs to a No. 2 final ranking in 1982 and finished third in the Heisman voting that year.

Woodrow Lowe, Alabama, LB: He joins Hall of Fame member Cornelius Bennett as Alabama's only three-time first-team All-America selection. That distinction makes him Hall-worthy, considering all the great players who played for Bear Bryant. Lowe played on four SEC championship teams, a national-championship team, holds the school single-season record with 134 tackles and posted the third-most career tackles in Alabama history.

Wilber Marshall, Florida, LB: Voted Florida's defensive player of the century, Marshall was a three-time first-team All-SEC selection and a two-time All-America. He still holds a school record for career tackles for loss with 58.

Randall McDaniel, Arizona State, G: A two-time first team All-America, McDaniel was named the Pac-10's top offensive lineman in 1987 and was a key figure in the Sun Devils' first-ever Rose Bowl appearance.

Deion Sanders, Florida State, CB: Unless you were born within the last 10 years, you know all about Sanders. Some 10-year-olds might, too. A two-time All-American and the Jim Thorpe Award recipient, Sanders had 17 interceptions in his career and led the nation in punt returns in 1988. He still holds seven school records for interceptions and punt returns.

Ron Simmons, Florida State, NG: The Florida State media guide still refers to Simmons as the most dominating defensive lineman in school history. In fact, he was Florida State's first defensive All-American, earning that acclaim twice. He finished ninth in the 1979 Heisman voting after recording 81 tackles, including 17 for loss. He still ranks second on Florida State's career tackles list.

More Hall of Fame Selections
National college editor Mike Huguenin
Eleven players: LSU RB Billy Cannon, SMU RB Eric Dickerson, Alabama LB Woodrow Lowe, Michigan State OT Tony Mandarich, Florida LB Wilber Marshall, Arizona State G Randall McDaniel, Florida State CB Deion Sanders, Oklahoma LB Rod Shoate, Florida State NT Ron Simmons, North Carolina LB Lawrence Taylor, Georgia S Scott Woerner.
Two coaches: Lou Holtz and John Robinson.
National college writer Steve Megargee
Eleven players: Notre Dame WR Tim Brown, LSU RB Billy Cannon, USC RB Sam Cunningham, SMU RB Eric Dickerson, Northwestern LB Pat Fitzgerald, Syracuse QB Don McPherson, Temple RB Paul Palmer, Florida State CB Deion Sanders, Florida State NG Ron Simmons, Penn State RB Curt Warner and Nebraska DE Grant Wistrom.
Two coaches: Lou Holtz and John Robinson.

Chris Spielman, Ohio State, LB: Officially listed among Ohio State's "legends," Spielman is the Buckeyes' career leader in solo tackles with 283. He also holds the Ohio State record for most tackles in a single game, and his 546 tackles are the third-most in school history. Spielman was a two-time All-American, a three-time All-Big Ten selection and the 1987 Lombardi Award recipient.

Grant Wistrom, Nebraska, DE: The defensive leader on three national championship teams, Wistrom was a two-time first-team All-American and was recipient of the 1997 Lombardi Award. He twice was named Big 12 defensive player of the year. He was also a third-team All-America as a sophomore. Wistrom holds the school record with 58.5 tackles for loss and ranks second with 26.5 sacks. He had his No. 98 retired.

There were eight coaching nominees on the ballot, and voters were asked to pick two. Here are my two:

Lou Holtz: Yes, he can be incredibly annoying and his act of building up cream-puff opponents as nearly unbeatable while disparaging his teams (until voting for the final poll) got old fast, but give credit where credit is due. Holtz ranks eighth all-time with 249 career victories, and he's the only coach in NCAA history to lead six programs to bowl games and four programs to final top-20 rankings. He coached Notre Dame to the 1988 national championship.

John Robinson: Under Robinson, USC won a share of the national championship in 1978 and three Pac-10 titles. His 89.0 winning percentage in bowls (8-1 record) is the highest among coaches with at least five appearances.

TRIVIA QUESTION

Name the three SEC running backs to rush for at least 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. (Answer at the end of the column.)

QUICK HITTERS

After the Boston College spring game, coach Jeff Jagodzinski said the Eagles will use more rollouts this season to take advantage of the mobility of new starting quarterback Chris Crane.

Quarterback Taylor Bennett announced he was transferring from Georgia Tech to Louisiana Tech, where he will be eligible this season.

There was quite a prize at "steak" for Kansas State's spring game. And that's no typo. By virtue of their 3-0 victory last week, members of the White team were awarded steak as a post-game meal. Members of the losing purple team had bologna.

Although a consulting firm recommended that Baylor replace the interlocking "BU" logo with "Baylor" on its helmets, university president John Lilley reacted to objections from alumni and has opted against making a change.

Jamie McCoy, who signed with Texas A&M four years ago to play quarterback, has increased his weight to 240 pounds and moved to tight end. It's his third position in four years. Last season, he played wide receiver.

No additional damage was found in Penn State linebacker Sean Lee's injured right knee during surgery Monday. Lee, who tore the ACL in his knee April 11, will miss the 2008 season. He will redshirt and return in 2009.

Washington center Juan Garcia, who broke his foot in a scrimmage last week, will put off surgery to see if the injury will heal by itself. He'll have his cast removed and will be re-evaluated in late May to determine whether he'll have to have surgery that likely would end his career.

Ole Miss safety Jamarca Sanford was named the 19th recipient of the school's annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award. Sanford will wear a No. 38 patch on his jersey in honor of Mullins, who was paralyzed while making a tackle against Vanderbilt in 1989. Mullins died in 1991.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Georgia's Herschel Walker (1980-82), LSU's Kevin Faulk (1996-98) and Arkansas' Darren McFadden (2005-07) are the SEC backs who have had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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