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College Football
Kelley King
April 22, 2002
Spring FeverThe reigning Big Ten champion, Illinois, is itching to discover a new quarterback
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April 22, 2002

College Football

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CATEGORY

PLAYER, SCHOOL

CLASS IN '02

WHAT HE DID IN 2001

Rushing

Chance Kretschmer, Nevada

So.

Redshirt freshman led the nation with 157.4 yards per game

Scoring

Dwone Hicks, Middle Tenn. St.

Sr.

Tailback was second in the country with 148 points

Receptions

Kevin Curtis, Utah State

Sr.

Only player to average nine catches a game

Receiving yards

Kevin Curtis, Utah State

Sr.

Wideout was No. 3 in the nation with 139.1 yards per game

All-purpose yards

Rernard Rerrian, Fresno State

Sr.

Wideout averaged 199.3 yards, second-best in nation

Kick returns

Chris Massey, Oklahoma State

Sr.

Led the nation with 34.8yards on 15attempts. Had one TD

Punt returns

Luke Powell, Stanford

Sr.

Brought back 19 boots for second-best 16.0 yards per return

Kicking

Todd Sievers, Miami

Sr.

Made a nation-high 1.91 field goals a game, hitting 21 of 26 attempts

Punting

Steve Mullins, Utah State

Sr.

Booted the ball 50 times for fourth-best 44.82-yard average

Interceptions

Nathan Vasher, Texas

Jr.

Finished fifth a year ago with .58 per game (seven total)

Spring Fever
The reigning Big Ten champion, Illinois, is itching to discover a new quarterback

Minutes before his defending Big Ten champs burst onto the muddy turf for their first spring practice, Illinois coach Ron Turner corralled his five young quarterbacks in his office and stared each of them in the eye. Then Turner said something he hasn't needed to say in the last four years: "I'm looking for someone to step up and be a leader."

It matters little that Illinois has one of the nation's slickest receiving duos in Brandon Lloyd and Walter Young, and a defense as well-rounded as any in the league. To make a run in next fall's ultracompetitive Big Ten race, the Illini need someone who can operate Turner's fast-moving, pro-style offense as smoothly as four-year starter Kurt Kittner, who last season guided Illinois to its first outright conference title since 1983.

Heading into the Illini's spring game on Saturday, juniors Jon Beutjer and Dustin Ward have separated themselves from the pack. While Ward better understands the offense, Turner says that Beutjer, a transfer from Iowa who completed 61.6% of his throws for 841 yards for the Hawkeyes in 2000, is the more promising athlete. "They both need more reps," says Turner. "Not flash, just consistency."

Beutjer's shaky but improving grasp of the Illini offense is the only factor preventing him from clinching the starting job. What isn't in question is his desire to reestablish himself after throwing a state-record 60 touchdown passes at Illinois's Wheaton-Warrenville South High in 1998. He was redshirted his first year at Iowa and threw 125 passes as a backup to Scott Mullen the following season. He expected to start for the Hawkeyes in 2001 but suffered two setbacks. First, he was knocked unconscious in a parking lot last July by his roommate and teammate, Sam Aiello, over a cable bill. No charges were filed, but Beutjer felt the coaching staff let Aiello, Iowa's starting center, off too easy by requiring only that he apologize. Beutjer decided to move on shortly afterward when he lost the quarterback battle with senior Kyle McCann. "We joke with Jon that he should have come here in the first place," says Lloyd. "He can be an explosive player for us."

Determined to take command of the first team, Beutjer reviews Turner's prodigious playbook before bed each night. Last week he was joined in the film room by Kittner, who was between pre-draft workouts. For two hours he tutored his likely successor on everything from making reads to calling audibles. "No one can replace Kurt," says Beutjer, "but I know I can win games for Illinois."

Impact Transfers
Fargas and Suggs Try Again

Like Jon Beutjer of Illinois, senior tailback Justin Fargas, who transferred to Southern Cal from Michigan last year, and junior quarterback A.J. Suggs, who came to Georgia Tech from Tennessee, couldn't wait for spring ball to begin. Both were high school All-Americas who showed promise in college before running into roadblocks. Now Fargas and Suggs are eager to make the most of their second chances, and both could figure prominently in their new teams' plans this fall.

"The more I get adjusted to this program, the more I realize I should have been here a long time ago," says Fargas. "Don't get me wrong, I had a good experience at Michigan, but I should have followed my gut and come to USC in the first place."

While growing up in Encino, Calif., Fargas dreamed of playing for Southern Cal and orally committed to the Trojans before his senior year at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks. Then USC fired coach John Robinson after the 1997 season, and Fargas signed with Michigan. He rushed for 277 yards as a backup and averaged a team-high 19.8 yards per kickoff return before breaking his right leg in the 10th game of the '98 season. He ended up missing the '99 season after undergoing three operations on the leg, began the following season as tailback Anthony Thomas's backup and then became a backup safety after four games. He decided to transfer the following spring to be closer to family and to try his hand at tailback again. This fall Far-gas, a 6'1", 210-pound power back who runs a 4.26 in the 40, will be a welcome addition for USC, which averaged 877 rushing yards per game last season, 109th in the nation.

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