Aspiring actor Cedric Cobbs will get star billing at Arkansas this fall
When Arkansas coach Houston Nutt talks about sophomore tailback Cedric Cobbs, who will be the cornerstone of the Razorbacks' offense this fall, he begins by using neutered coach-words like potential and unselfish. But soon he invokes the names of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas, two All-Americas who played for Oklahoma State during Nutt's days as a Cowboys assistant in the late 1980s. Then Nutt says, almost in a whisper, "I sat in a room watching film of Cedric with Joe Ferguson, who thinks Cedric's exactly like O.J." As in Simpson, who took hand-offs from Ferguson, now the Arkansas quarterbacks coach, for five years when they played for the Buffalo Bills.
Though he has heard all this before, Cobbs is still flattered, but he wants other roles in life. In fact, he wishes he'd had a role in Life, the 1999 comedy starring Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy, which Cobbs estimates he has seen 20 times. "I'm working on a drama major," he explains. " Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy are my role models."
Hollywood will have to wait, though, because Cobbs has a chance this fall to be the biggest porcine star since Babe. Cobbs rushed for 668 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman last season, splitting time with senior Chrys Chukwuma. Nutt brought Cobbs along slowly, and his patience paid off late in the season. Cobbs rushed for 107 yards in Arkansas's 28-24 upset of No. 3 Tennessee on Nov. 13. In the Hogs' 27-6 Cotton Bowl rout of Texas, he scored on a 37-yard run and a 30-yard catch.
The 6'1", 218-pound Cobbs is fast enough to outrun defenders, and his stiff-arm will stop traffic. Though he says he hadn't had more than 30 sessions in the weight room in his life before coming to Fayetteville, he benches 360 pounds and squats 835. "Our goal for running backs is 600 pounds," says Razorbacks strength and conditioning coach Don Decker. "I've been doing this 10 years, and I've never been around a guy like Cedric, who has absolutely no physical limitations." Decker says that when Arkansas players want to know how they stack up in the weight room against teammates, they say, "Excluding Cedric... what did everybody else do?"
On an offense that brings back an experienced line and little else, Cobbs will get 25 to 30 touches a game and should compete with Ole Miss junior Joe Gunn, Ole Miss senior Deuce McAllister and Tennessee senior Travis Henry for the SEC rushing title. Cobbs's goal for next season is to be close to the 5.8 yards per carry he averaged last year. "I set high standards," Cobbs says. "If you don't have standards, no telling what will happen."
Gators Sans Hands and Cal's Catch
Gaping holes at wide receiver widened last week at Florida when John Capel withdrew from school so that he could focus on making the U.S. Olympic track team. In two seasons with the Gators, Capel, who had the fastest 200-meter time (19.87) in America last year, never transformed his speed into an on-field weapon—he made nine catches last season for 84 yards, and had no catches the year before. Still, his departure leaves Florida with only four receivers, who made 69 catches in 1999....
Most teams looking to settle on a starting quarterback put off the decision as to who will be the main man until August. That wasn't the case at Georgia Tech, where in spring practice junior George Godsey beat out redshirt freshman Andy Hall as the replacement for All-America Joe Hamilton. Offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen says Godsey's edge in experience was a deciding factor, given that Tech is losing six offensive starters. Friedgen says Godsey still needs to improve his downfield accuracy during summer workouts if he wants to keep Hall on the bench this season....
Pittsburgh senior quarterback John Turman progressed so much in his decision-making during spring practice that Panthers coaches considered naming him the team's most improved player. However, junior David Priestley, who had right shoulder surgery, will be a slight favorite to win the starting job when he returns to action in August. Priestley, who lost then regained the starting job from Turman last season, averaged 357.7 passing yards during three of his four starts before suffering a season-ending injury against Miami on Nov. 6....