Posted: Tuesday April 29, 2003 11:41 AM
Updated: Tuesday April 29, 2003 1:51 PM
Stewart Mandel recaps how the top Heisman candidates spent spring.
Maurice Clarett, Ohio State
Maurice Clarett Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Clarett's shoulder still hasn't returned to full strength following the stinger injury that plagued him the second half of last season, and coaches held him out of contact drills all spring. But don't expect the hype surrounding his remarkable freshman season (1,237 yards, 16 touchdowns) to dissipate anytime soon. Also, the Buckeyes worked on developing a more balanced offense this spring, one that could lessen the wear and tear on their workhorse tailback.
Philip Rivers, N.C. State
Philip Rivers Andy Lyons/Allsport
The good news is that Rivers (62.7 percent, 3,353 yards in 2002) this fall will have the most talented receiving corps in his four years as starter, including prolific returnee Jerricho Cotchery and speedy newcomers Richard Washington and Tramain Hall, not to mention 1,000-yard rusher T.A. McLendon. The bad news is that he's going on his third offensive coordinator in four years, and this one, Noel Mazzone, didn't arrive until the third-to-last day of spring practices.
Ell Roberson, K-State
Ell Roberson Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Coming off what coach Bill Snyder called his breakout year, one in which the athletic quarterback finally became a competent passer as well as an adept runner (1,032 yards, 16 TDs), Roberson went through spring as the established starter for the first time in his career. Now a fifth-year senior, he figures to be a more capable leader and play off the skills of talented tailback Darren Sproles, himself a Heisman hopeful.
Roy Williams, Texas
Roy Williams Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
If it seems like "The Legend" has been around forever ... you're right. But he didn't truly live up to his nickname until a spectacular five-game stretch (39 catches, 741 yards, 9 TDs) to close last season. Williams spent the spring forming a connection with his new starting quarterback, Chance Mock, who will bring a new running component to the position that should make it even harder for defenses to focus on Williams.
Cody Pickett, Washington
Cody Pickett Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Due to his team's mediocre season (7-6), Pickett flew under the radar last year despite shattering the Pac-10 season-record for passing yardage (4,458). That won't happen this time if Washington, as expected, vaults back into the rankings. Receiver Reggie Williams actually has more star quality, but Pickett's huge numbers make him a more viable Heisman candidate. Of course, if Washington improves its running game, Pickett may not need to throw quite as much.
Eli Manning, Ole Miss
Eli Manning Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Manning's name recognition automatically puts him on the national radar, but he's actually coming off a somewhat disappointing season (3,401 yards, 21 TDs, 15 interceptions). It was a different story at Ole Miss' spring game, however, where the senior completed 14-of-20 for 233 yards and four TDs against one pick. A deeper receiving corps helps, but the Rebels need to establish a better running game for Manning to be successful.
Steven Jackson, Ore. St.
Steven Jackson Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Another guy who had a huge year (1,690 yards, 15 TDs) in relative obscurity last season, since the Beavers weren't involved in many showcase games and Jackson, then a sophomore, was a newcomer to the scene. His role won't change much under new coach Mike Riley and should garner plenty of attention with another big year. Jackson, who added bulk this winter, has been held out of spring scrimmages. He was recently cited for using a fake I.D. at a local tavern.
Kevin Jones, Va. Tech
Kevin Jones Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Following a sophomore year spent sharing carries with Lee Suggs (which didn't stop Jones from running for 871 yards and nine TDs), the former No. 1 recruit in the country gets the Hokies' backfield all to himself this fall. The presence of a multi-threat quarterback, Bryan Randall or Marcus Vick, should allow Frank Beamer to use this No. 7 as a decoy or employ more option plays.
David Greene, Georgia
David Greene Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images
His first two seasons have been nothing but solid (5,713 yards, 39 TDs, 17 INTs), but two factors are working against him. For one, Georgia loses all five offensive line starters, running back Musa Smith and top receiver Terence Edwards. For another, Mark Richt made it clear this spring he plans to find even more playing time for No. 2 QB D.J. Shockley. Greene does still have plenty of targets, though, in speedy Fred Gibson, tight end Ben Watson and rising star Michael Johnson.
Rashaun Woods, Okla. St.
Rashaun Woods Brian Bahr/Getty Images
While the Williams (Roy, Reggie and USC's Mike) get more pub among receivers, Woods had the best season of any of them last year (107 catches, 1,695 yards, 17 TDs), including a remarkable 12-catch, 226-yard day against Oklahoma. This spring he was joined on the field by younger brother D'Juan, a freshman who may earn the second starting receiving spot. The elder Woods had seven catches for 143 yards and three TDs in the Cowboys' final spring scrimmage.