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Newcomers To Watch (cont.)

Posted: Thursday August 25, 2005 11:45AM; Updated: Thursday August 25, 2005 1:20PM

By Cory McCartney, SI.com

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DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson (above) should become an instant weapon in Cal's offense, which also features talented tailback Marshawn Lynch.
Brad Mangin/SI

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DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal
5-11, 170 pounds
High school: Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

Jackson, the Army All-American Bowl MVP, could have ended up on a baseball field instead of in Cal's receiving corps.

A speedy leadoff hitter who batted over .400, "D-Jax" went unpicked in June's MLB amateur draft, partly because teams weren't willing to pay enough money to make him give up football. That bodes well for the Golden Bears, who get a gamebreaker with 4.43 speed who averaged 17.9 yards a catch his senior season.

Jackson is joined by juco transfer Lavelle Hawkins (5-11, 175), a teammate of Ayoob's at San Francisco CC. A part of LSU's 2004 recruiting class, Hawkins left the team after he didn't play in the season opener. The Tigers wouldn't grant his release from his letter of intent, and Hawkins had to complete a two-year degree before he could attend a four-year school this season.

Fred Rouse, WR, Florida State
6-4, 195 pounds
High school: Lincoln, Tallahassee, Fla.

Bobby Bowden finally has another gamebreaker with the speed and bravado of Terrell Buckley, Deion Sanders and Peter Warrick.

And all it took to land Rouse, one of the nation's most sought-after wide receiving recruits, was for offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden to assure him he'd be a factor.

"He sat down and drew up 15 ways that he could get me the ball," Rouse told the Lakeland Ledger. "What they've been lacking is a playmaker. They haven't had one since Warrick was there. Hopefully, we can change that."

Now the bravado, at least, is back in Tallahassee.

Rouse, who has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40, can beat defenders deep, up the middle or take a short pass to the house. He had 608 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a senior, averaging 20.1 yards a catch, and should give ACC defenses headaches in '05.

Kevin Grady, RB, Michigan
5-10, 230 pounds
High school: East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Do the Wolverines really need another running back? They already have one of the most complete young backs in the nation (Mike Hart) and have depth with backup sophomore Max Martin. But landing a record-setting, homegrown prep can't hurt.

Grady holds Michigan high school records for career yards (8,431) points (924), touchdowns (151), rushing attempts (1,154) and consecutive games over 100 yards (24). He even graduated early to practice with the Wolverines before the Rose Bowl. In his first practice, he tore off an 80-yard run on his first play from scrimmage.

"He has shown a real maturity for a kid that age," coach Lloyd Carr said in The Capital Times of Madison, Wisc. "I fully expect him to play an important role with our team. The tailback position is probably as strong as anytime since I've been at Michigan."

Good news for the Wolverines, bad news for everyone else.

Roy Miller, DT, Texas
6-3, 300 pounds
High school: Killeen (Texas) Shoemaker

Miller, a good friend of former Sooners defensive tackle Tommie Harris, made a verbal commitment to attend Oklahoma last June, only to change his mind and join the archrival Longhorns.

"I feel a little bad," Miller told the San Antonio Express-News after announcing his intentions during the Army All-American Bowl in January. "But [Harris] always told me to go where my heart says is best for me."

What's good for Roy's heart will also be good for the 'Horns. Miller will add even more depth to Texas' great front four of Larry Dibbles, Rodrique Wright, Brian Robison and Tim Crowder.

Miller also brings a rare mix of power and speed for a big man. He benches 440 pounds, squats 670, has a 28-inch vertical and runs the 40 in 4.97.

Demonte Bolden, DE, Tennessee
6-5, 300 pounds
Prep school: Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, Va.

Bolden came out of Chattanooga's Tyner High School in 2004 as the No. 1-ranked prep player in Tennessee, but failed to earn a qualifying ACT score, landing him at Hargrave Military Academy.

Now he's finally with the Volunteers, and the former Parade All-American has solidified a spot in their defensive tackle rotation with Jesse Mahelona, Justin Harrell and Turk McBride after recording five tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and two hurries in the spring game. And he made an immediate impression on Mahelona.

"Demonte's going to be an awesome player," he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "You can tell. He has a motor out there. He's making plays and he's playing out of control, basically. Once he gets the scheme of things and plays under control, he'll definitely be a contributor to this team."

Rashad Jennings, RB, Pittsburgh
6-2, 239 pounds
High school: Lynchburg Christian Academy, Forest, Va.

Pitt's rushing attack was ranked 105th in the nation last year, but with this Eddie George-like bruiser, the Panthers won't be averaging 97.75 yards a game on the ground this season.

Originally part of the Panthers' 2004 recruiting class, Jennings was academically ineligible to enroll at Pitt after graduating high school. He regained his eligibility after taking summer classes, but by that time, preseason camp had already started. Jennings took '04 off, trimming his fullback-sized, 265-pound frame to a lean, powerful 239.

Now he's making up for lost time. After running for 118 yards on 19 carries in the Blue-Gold scrimmage, Jennings appears poised to start in the Panthers' Sept. 3 opener against Notre Dame at Heinz Field.

"He's definitely a power back," Dave Wannstedt said of Jennings in the Pittsburgh Tribune. "He's a tough guy who holds onto the ball."