Eyebrows were arched last year when Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer successfully recruited Peyton Manning and Branndon Stewart, both rated among the top five incoming quarterbacks in the nation. What ensued was an autumn-long controversy that subsided only when Stewart transferred to Texas A&M in January. Now if Manning goes down, so does the Vols' season. "Nobody is talking about a controversy this year," says Fulmer. "But you'd still rather have both of them rather than only one of them."
Toss Those Flags
The NCAA decision to allow players more leeway for end zone prayer was, well, an answered prayer. But the new anticelebration rule has several bugs that need to be worked out. After Florida wide receiver Chris Doering pulled in a 40-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of the Gators' 45-21 win over Houston two weeks ago, a Cougar defensive player fell on the back of Doering's legs in the end zone. Doering, who was still standing, kicked up his knees to shake off the defender, which prompted an official to flag him for...high-stepping. That same day, in Washington State's 9-6 loss to Pittsburgh, Cougar defensive lineman Dwayne Sanders was flagged when he casually removed his helmet as he neared the sideline after Pitt had scored.
The anticelebration rule states that any player who removes his helmet on the field will be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Nonetheless, since the NCAA is now allowing referees to decide whether an act like Doering's violates the new rule, it should also allow officials to decide when doffing one's helmet is simply an innocuous act, as clearly was the case with Sanders. Says Washington State coach Mike Price, "He certainly wasn't celebrating the fact that Pitt had scored a touchdown."
On the football field, Utah defensive back Jeff Kirkman has never been accused of playing matador defense. Since Kirkman arrived at Utah in 1991, his intrepid, bone-rattling style has caused him to miss 16 of 48 games with an array of injuries, including torn cartilage in his right knee, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, a bruised right shoulder and a broken left ankle. "I know only one way to play the game," he says.
Off the field, however, the 6'2", 222-pound Kirkman has played the role of artful dodger quite skillfully. For the last three years, he has spent his summers as a part-time rodeo clown. Surprisingly, he has never suffered more than a minor bruise in the rodeo arena. "I just try to stay out of the way," he says. "I'm not going to approach it the way I approach football. Trust me, when you have 1,200 to 2,000 pounds of pissed-off bull charging at you, you're not thinking goal line stand."
Because of his injuries on the football field, Kirkman did not tell the Utes' coaching staff of his off-season job until this past summer. In early July defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham asked Kirkman if he would be participating in a workout with some of his teammates. "Uh, no," Kirkman answered sheepishly, "I've got to go fight bulls tonight." After Whittingham asked Kirkman to run that by him again, the coach paused and said, "Well, don't get hurt."
Line of the Week
Clemson, 58 rushes, 321 yards Since Florida State dismantled Duke 70-26 on Sept. 2, Seminole coach Bobby Bowden has had to defend himself against critics who charged him with running up the score. Bowden's response has proved to be Florida State's strongest defense so far this season.