July 21, 2008

Best of class of 2005 star-crossed

If everything had gone right for Jerrell Powe and Callahan Bright, they'd be readying for their first NFL camps about now.

Bright, from Rosemont, Pa., and Powe, from Waynesboro, Miss., were part of a wondrous defensive tackle group as high school seniors in 2004. Both were among the top 25 players overall in the nation, with unlimited futures. Bright signed with Florida State and Powe with Ole Miss in February 2005.

Neither has played a down of college football, but that may be getting ready to change.

Powe, now 21, has had academic issues, but he should hear any day now as to whether he will be eligible for the Rebels this fall. Last week, new Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said "it looks good" that Powe will be cleared to play after he had passed 24 credit hours this year.

After he was denied eligibility in 2005, Powe attended Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military, but still didn't become eligible. He sued the NCAA in 2006, but that suit eventually was dropped. In 2007, he was declared a partial qualifier, and because of a recent NCAA rules change, it now is left to the SEC office to decide whether he will be eligible to play.

If he is eligible, there still is a concern about how football-ready he will be. Nutt last week told reporters that while Powe was "a biscuit short of 385 pounds" last fall, he's now around 340. But he hasn't played in a real game since '05, at Hargrave.

As for Bright, also now 21, he is expected to start this fall at Shaw University, a Division II school in Raleigh, N.C. As with Powe, he was academically ineligible out of high school and also briefly attended Hargrave. After leaving Hargrave, he worked for a time as a garbage man in the Philadelphia area, then was arrested last summer on a marijuana charge.

He enrolled at Shaw last fall and spent the season getting in shape on the scout team. Like Powe, he will be a freshman when he steps on the field this season.

Bright and Powe were among 28 five-star prospects that year, and it's fair to say the group has been star-crossed. Consider:

DE Melvin Alaeze, the fourth-ranked player in the class, currently is in prison for eight years after pleading guilty to a first-degree assault charge.

WR Fred Rouse, the sixth-ranked player in the class, was kicked off the team at Florida State and later left UTEP. There have been reports that he will try to play for hometown Florida A&M, a Division I-AA program, this fall; other reports have him headed to Division I-AA Jacksonville State.

RB Jason Gwaltney, the 15th-ranked player in the class, was a backup at West Virginia in 2005 before leaving. He reportedly is enrolled in a junior college in his home state of New York and may try to walk-on at WVU this fall.

QB Ryan Perrilloux, the 16th-ranked player in the class, was kicked off the team at LSU after repeated rules violations and has enrolled at Jacksonville State.

LB Tray Blackmon, the 17th-ranked player in the class, has been suspended a few times at Auburn and has played in just 15 games in two seasons. But he is expected to start for the Tigers this season.

FS Demetrice Morley, the 21st-ranked player in the class, played at Tennessee as a freshman and a sophomore before flunking out of school. He spent the past year in junior college rebuilding his academics and is expected to start for the Vols this season.

In addition, players ranked first (Penn State WR Derrick Williams), second (USC WR Patrick Turner), seventh (USC QB Mark Sanchez), ninth (Miami OT Reggie Youngblood), 22nd (Michigan RB Kevin Grady), 25th (Florida State RB Antone Smith), 26th (Oklahoma LB Ryan Reynolds) and 27th (Iowa OL Dan Doering) haven't lived up to their high school hype well, at least not yet.

Meanwhile, a five-star prospect from the 2007 recruiting class was WR Dwight Jones, of Burlington, N.C. He signed with North Carolina, but he, too, failed to make the cut academically and also attended Hargrave. He again missed the academic cut this year and now appears to have his sights set on a Division II school, perhaps Fayetteville (N.C.) State or UNC Pembroke. He also could end up at Shaw where he'd be a teammate of Bright's.


Some Las Vegas casinos already are releasing the lines on some early-season games. Among the most notable: USC by 4.5 over Ohio State on Sept. 13, Georgia by 6 over Arizona State on Sept. 20 and Ohio State by 16 over Michigan on Nov. 22. The early lines are to "perk the interest and get people rolling on football," Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Real close to 90 percent of play at the beginning is from wiseguys (professional bettors)."

Follow the bouncing recruit. Clemson signed junior college DE Jarrett Crittenton but released him from his letter-of-intent when officials determined he wasn't going to meet the school's admission requirements. Then, Crittenton a 6-foot-6, 275-pounder from North Dakota State College of Science who was considered one of the nation's top 30 JC players announced in May that he was headed to Memphis. Last week, Crittenton said he was going to attend Middle Tennessee State, which desperately needs a pass-rushing end.

New Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swabrick isn't a playoff proponent. "I think it's a bit of the tail wagging the dog," he told Irishillustrated.com , a Rivals.com site. "I think there are broader issues related to the BCS and college football. Frankly, I think too much attention is paid to that. I think the bowl system works well."

There's another trophy game in college football. Starting this season, the LSU-Ole Miss rivalry will be known as the "Magnolia Bowl," and the winning team will get possession of a trophy in the shape of what else? a magnolia blossom. The magnolia is the state flower for Louisiana and Mississippi. A trophy in the shape of a magnolia blossom sure isn't as manly as, say, a trophy shaped like an axe (Paul Bunyan's Axe, played for by Minnesota and Wisconsin), a trophy shaped like a boot (the Bronzed Boot, played for by Colorado State and Wyoming) or a trophy shaped like a pig (Floyd of Rosedale, played for by Iowa and Minnesota).

Former Clemson starting MLB Cortney Vincent, who was booted off the team in May for off-field problems, has resurfaced at Division II Tarleton State, in Stephenville, Texas. Vincent's loss means Clemson will have three new starting linebackers this season.


It was announced last week that the Spectrum, a Philadelphia arena that was an NCAA tournament host three times, will be torn down next summer to make way for what developers are calling an entertainment complex. Each of the three NCAA events at the Spectrum is historic. The arena hosted two Final Fours, in 1976 and 1981, and Indiana won both. In '76, IU finished off the last perfect season in Division I history by beating Michigan in the final; it was the first final with two teams from the same conference. In '81, Isiah Thomas-led IU beat North Carolina in a final played a few hours after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Finally, in the last NCAA tourney game played in the arena, Duke beat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional final, thanks to Christian Laettner's miraculous turnaround jumper at the buzzer. The Blue Devils went on to win their second consecutive national title.

Texas Southern, which competes as a I-AA football member and in Division I in other sports, was placed on four years' probation by the NCAA last week for transgressions in its softball and men's and women's tennis programs. The tennis programs have been disbanded and aren't likely to return. The softball program will be banned from postseason play in 2009 and had to forfeit some games after the NCAA found that an ineligible player was allowed to play in nine games, including a few games where the athlete competed under the name of an injured teammate.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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