July, 27, 2005
Some years it's the Year of the Quarterback. Two years ago, it was the Year of the Wideout. Last year it was the Year of the Running Back. I think this will be the Year of the Showstopper, with more and more teams trying to develop their own Reggie Bush-type game breaker/mismatch creator. But beyond the USC star, there are a bunch of guys out there now who all by themselves are worth the price of admission, the made-for-SportsCenter guys, and that's what this week's list is about. I present this list with one caveat: These aren't necessarily their teams' MVPs, but are merely getting called out because they bring some eye-popping attribute.

1. Ted Ginn, Ohio State: Single-handedly turned a vanilla offense into a flashy, must-see attack. He averaged 15 yards per touch and scored five TDs in his last four games, leaving fans to ponder just what kind of fireworks he will create now that he is settled into the system. Even though his body type is different, Ginn has the same type of electric ability that Rocket Ismail put into Notre Dame 15 years ago.
2. Devin Hester, Miami: He's all about the burst and nobody hits top speed faster. He's probably the most explosive player in 'Canes history, supplanting former Pro Bowler Tremain Mack. This spring I talked to Hester, who said he was shooting for 10 runbacks for touchdowns in '05. Good luck. Most kickers figure to be pooching the ball to the up-backs and the punters will do their best to directional their way to the sidelines. It'd be scary to think how devastating he could be if he got 10 snaps a game on offense. Still, expect him to become a much bigger factor in UM offensive game plans.
3. Reggie Bush, USC: He's Marshall Faulk Version 2.0 and king of the Broken Field. He's also the best diversion this side of Katie Holmes. Call him anything you want, but Bush is the Trojans' X-factor. Nobody has an answer for him wherever he gets deployed on the field. One of the few running backs anywhere who can claim to average over 10 yards per touch in his college career. He's a freak thing. Usually the quickest guys, the shiftiest ones (guys like Peter Warrick, Antwan Randle El, etc.) aren't necessarily the fastest. This guy is both.
4. Vince Young, Texas: Forget for a moment about the throwing motion or the suspect TD-INT ratio, he's devastating whenever he drops back. He's like a more elusive version of Matt Jones. "God, if we had him, we'd just throw him screens and play jump-ball with him and he'd be another Randy Moss," says one rival coach. Of all the stats you will hear about Young, I think the best one is that he led five second-half comebacks last season. That shows character and grit.
5. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis: His coach at Memphis says Williams is the fastest player in the country. When I asked Williams if that's what he thought a few hours after Tiger offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner made that comment, the Memphis star deferred, going with Hester as his pick when pressed if there was a race, in pads, between Bush, Ginn, Williams and Hester. That's Williams' humility talking. He can play with anybody, and if he wore burnt orange or Cornhusker red, he'd probably be the Heisman front-runner right now. He's a packed 220-pounder who could make a run at 3,000 all-purpose yards.
6. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech: On Monday, I asked coach Chan Gailey, a guy who spent 16 seasons in the NFL, if he could compare the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Johnson to any receiver he's ever been around, college or pro. "I've never had anybody like him, anywhere," Gailey said. "That big and that fast with that hand-eye coordination. He is going to gain knowledge in reading coverages, and he is going to become a better route runner. The great thing about him is that he doesn't think he's arrived -- he will continue to work hard." My only comparison right now? A bigger, faster Larry Fitzgerald.
7. Ernie Sims, FSU: His rep as a ferocious tackler is legendary around Tallahassee, and it's growing beyond. The way he explodes through people and flies around the field, he plays like a shorter version of former Steelers tackling machine Greg Lloyd.
8. Steve Breaston, Michigan: Just ask Texas how dynamic Breaston is. He put up over 300 all-purpose yards on the Longhorns in the Rose Bowl. Imagine what a weapon he should be this fall now that he's not dealing with nagging injuries or playing second fiddle to Braylon Edwards.
9. Greg Blue, Georgia: Pound-for-pound the best hitter in the game. Blue was overshadowed by former Georgia safety Thomas Davis, but rival opponents know all about him, especially their receivers. He's just got a knack for striking, and he's bringing something on every hit.
10. Eddie Royal, Va. Tech: People need to start talking about this guy. He's elusive, has phenomenal balance and is much tougher than his size would indicate. Expect his 28-catch total to double this fall.
Just Missed the Cut: Lawrence Maroney, Minn.; Jesse Mahelona, Tenn.: Darrell Hackney, UAB; Marshawn Lynch, Cal; Drew Stanton, Michigan State; Patrick Willis, Miss.; Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M; Matt Shelton, Notre Dame; Clint Session, Pittsburgh.


Good story out of Seattle on Washington Huskies quarterback Isaiah Stanback, a dazzling talent who might just make enough plays to lead U-Dub out of the Pac-10 cellar. (By the way, any story that mentions former NBA star Slick Watts automatically gets deemed "good."
The carnival that is the annual SEC media gathering kicks off Wednesday. Even though it doesn't have some of the Springeresque overtones of last season, because as Memphis writer Ron Higgins says, "the coast is clear" for UT's Phil Fulmer now. Still, expect plenty of buzz because of the heavyweights scheduled to speak in Day 1 of the three-day event: Fulmer, Urban Meyer and the OBC (Ol' Ball Coach) Steve Spurrier himself. (Ed Orgeron also is speaking today. It should make for a nice contrast between him and the OBC.)

Standoff With My Movers (Day 28) Contest

Sadly, no one has answered correctly yet about Monday's line, and quite frankly, I'm disappointed. If you guys pull another oh-fur, I'll unveil the answer and put up a different one Thursday, but I must say there is some good stuff in this prize package. Honest. And thanks to ESPN Mag hockey guru Lindsay Berra, niece of Dale and granddaughter of Carmen. Lindsay graciously donated to the cause. Also, a minor nod should go out to magazine editor D.L. Cummings, who unwittingly donated to the cause.
(As for the contest, if you don't know the rules or how this game is played or why the game is being played, scroll down a bit to learn how you can win free ESPN stuff.)

Today's Line: OKLAHOMA +4 moving company