Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois
Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Terry Caulley, UConn
Ken Darby, Alabama
Michael Hart, Michigan
A Cut Above
back Garrett Wolfe is cruising toward the rushing title, and he's doing it
against programs big and small
IT WASN'T as if
every marquee program in the country took a pass on Garrett Wolfe, the Northern
Illinois senior tailback who leads the nation in rushing. It was every marquee
program but one.
him a scholarship in 2002. Considering, however, that it still makes Wolfe
profoundly homesick to drive the 60-odd miles from his native Chicago to
DeKalb, Ill., going to Gainesville was out of the question. "I wouldn't
have been comfortable in Florida," he says. "I need to feel
Having rushed for
an outrageous 236.2 yards per game this season—the country's second-leading
ground-gainer, Ray Rice of Rutgers, is 75 yards a game back—Wolfe, it is fair
to say, has found his comfort zone. He certainly seemed right at home in a
40--28 win at Ball State last Saturday, when he carried 31 times for a
school-record 353 yards and scored on runs of 51, 48 and 53 yards.
Before you chalk
up his garish output to lightweight opponents, recall that in the Huskies'
opener Wolfe ran amok against top-ranked Ohio State, piling up 171 yards
rushing and another 114 receiving in a 35--12 loss. Last season he gashed
Michigan for 148 yards on 17 carries. As Ohio University coach Frank Solich
puts it, "He isn't just running up and down the field against air."
Wolfe had a
couple of strikes against him as a senior at Chicago's Holy Cross High: He was
an indifferent student, and he stood 5'7". After spending his first season
in DeKalb red shirting and getting his act together in the classroom, he had to
sit out a second season because, as coach Joe Novak says, "we misadvised
him," and he ended up an hour short of being eligible.
By the time the
2004 season rolled around, Wolfe had shown so much in practice that, Novak
says, "I told anyone who would listen, 'We've got to get this kid the ball
10 or 12 touches a game.'" You think?
Wolfe, then the
second-string tailback, filleted Bowling Green for 204 yards rushing in the
second half of NIU's fourth game of the season. Seven games later he carried 43
times for 325 yards against Eastern Michigan. While 43 carries was high, even
for the workaholic Wolfe, he has averaged 26.4 rushes per game over the last
two seasons. How does the 177-pounder absorb that many hits and show up for
meetings on Sunday in one piece?
reports that Wolfe is spinning out of more tackles this season, it's not as if
the senior is auditioning for Dancing With the Stars. "You don't see him
hopping around, trying to juke people," says senior left tackle Doug Free.
That said, "He's got a knack for avoiding big collisions. Nobody ever gets
a square shot at him." Well, not usually. Last year Wolfe averaged 175.6
yards on the ground, second-best in the country, but missed three games with a