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SIDELINES
Gene Menez
February 16, 2004
CO-CHAMPS COLLIDE AT THE TOP
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February 16, 2004

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CO-CHAMPS COLLIDE AT THE TOP

Here are SI's top five recruiting classes for 2004.

1. USC
Early commitment from OL Jeff Byers of Colorado paved the way for coast-to-coast haul that included LB Keith Rivers of Florida and WR Dwayne Jarrett of New Jersey.

2. LSU
Quickly turning into Wideout U with addition of speedsters Xavier Carter of Florida and Early Doucet of Louisiana.

3. FLORIDA STATE
Prized in-state QBs Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford will provide competition for incumbent Chris Rix.

4. MIAMI
Addressed TB shortage by reeling in four, including local star Bobby Washington.

5. MICHIGAN
RBs Max Martin and Mike Hart will have chance to play right away.

LINEBACKER IN LIMBO
Linebacker Willie Williams regaled Miami Herald leaders with a recruiting diary in which he recounted dining in style at Florida State ("four lobster tails, two steaks and a Shrimp Scampi") and riding in Miami coach Larry Coker's Escalade ("Dang, coach got some taste.") Apparently Williams, who signed with Miami, left a few things out. On Monday he was charged with misdemeanor battery stemming from an incident in which he hugged a woman against her will during his Jan. 30 recruiting visit to Florida. (Two other charges are pending.) That put him in violation of the probation he was serving for his role in a 2002 burglary, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Williams's lawyer, Paul Lazarus, characterized the hug as "pretty innocuous" and wondered "if maybe the University of Florida is miffed [about his not signing with the Gators]." Miami officials, who were unaware of Williams's record, said they'd "review the information and come to an appropriate conclusion" regarding his status.

TURMOIL IN BOULDER
When coach Gary Barnett arrived at Colorado in 1998, a year after a Boulder teenager alleged she'd been raped at a party for Buffaloes football recruits (no criminal charges were filed), he pledged to clean up a program that had committed 51 NCAA recruiting violations under predecessor Rick Neuheisel. Now Barnett, who instituted a curfew for visiting prospects and issued a recruiting handbook outlining the dangers of alcohol and sex, is faced with a scandal on his own watch. Three women have sued the university, claiming they were raped at an on-campus party in December 2001 that was attended by football players and recruits. At the heart of their allegations is the assertion that the school fosters a culture in which alcohol and sex are used to attract prospective football players, a claim Barnett has vehemently denied. Last week the school appointed an independent investigative panel to look into Colorado's recruiting practices.

A CARDINAL QUANDARY
Louisville's top signee, quarterback Brian Brohm, says coach Bobby Petrino told him he'd compete next season for the starting quarterback job. So where does that leave Michael Bush? Kentucky's Mr. Football in 2002, the 6'3", 240-pound Bush signed with the Cardinals in '03 with an explicit desire to play QB; he saw spot duty there as a freshman and was also used at tailback and wideout. "It'd be great if we could be on the field at the same time," Brohm says. "I'd love to hand off or throw to him." Last month Petrino met with Bush to convince him that he's better suited to running back. Said Petrino on signing day, "I believe he'll be one of the best tailbacks ever to play college football."

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