Fall practice is underway! Reports are rolling in from a weekend of sizing up, questioning and, above all, sunny-eyed optimism. A few of the highlights from the first glorious, sweltering days on the practice field...
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• Kansas: Mark Mangino reports to KU camp at 425 pounds, but said he wasn't worried about entering the season above his usual coaching weight of 380. "Give me a little time in the heat, and by game time, I'll be 385, tops," a profusely sweating Mangino gasped from his golf cart beneath a roaring air vent in Anschutz Pavilion. "If I didn't have a little hamstring nick, I'd be running more."
Incoming recruits are tasked with carrying Mark Mangino to the Kansas locker room following every preseason practice. It's the, uh, burden of being a freshman.
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• Southern Cal: Players reporting to USC's camp are met by a "human tunnel" consisting of cheering, bikin-clad well-wishers, Song Girls, blinged-out rappers and reality show hangers-on, then treated to a demonstration of traditional Kumeyaay Indian theater, dance and folk tales by assistant coaches and discover not more than one ounce of premium northern lights in their lockers, accompanied by a gift certificate for 25 percent off hemp-based goods at the TransFair USA co-op booth of an upcoming eco-fashion festival and a pamphlet urging them to boycott Starbucks for the coffee giant's persistent use of milk from cows injected with genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST. Rivals Top 100 cornerback/receiver Ronald Johnson describes the scene as "totally full of love" as he shares a side of locally-grown organic almond squash with Vidal Hazelton. "I'm already digging the team's sense of togetherness."
• LSU: Not to be outdone by his new Western rival, Les Miles greets returning lettermen with frosty beverages from the Tigers' new, state-of-the-art Cofrimell Triple Slush Daiquiri dispenser. "Our old daiquiri machine was getting a little long in the teeth," Miles says, refering to the 12-liter Cornelius Single Bowl installed in every public building by order of the Louisiana legislature in 1988, though he does stress actual on-field consumption would be curbed from past seasons. "But who can sit through a position meeting without a tall one?"
• Nebraska: Sam Keller is expected to miss two to three weeks after attempting to lift the addendum to the fifth volume of Bill Callahan's A Life in the West Coast: The Trips Right Bunko Sets. "Always lift with your legs," Keller laughs, adding he expects to be fine for the Huskers' opener with Nevada.
• Florida State: Quarterback controversy rages on at FSU, where Xavier Lee leaps to field a high snap from the shotgun, pump fakes, steps up into the pocket to escape onrushing ends, spins away from a blitzing linebacker, jukes a fourth rusher while simultaneously powering through the arm tackle of a fifth, escapes into the flat with a frothing Mickey Andrews in pursuit on a suped-up moped (Chuck Amato is in the sidecar) and heaves a pass out of bounds that collapses an entire section of the brick facade surrounding the Doak Campbell sideline from the practice field as six defenders pound him into the turf, and Drew Weatherford calmly underthrows a six-yard slant route.
Chizik's "intensity" wins quick converts at ISU.
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• Iowa State: Freshmen reporting to ISU arrived to find the Bergstrom Indoor Facility converted into a small volcano, into which first-year coach Gene Chizik, seeking to set the tone for the intensity of his tenure, sacrificed virgin Alex Sandvig over the incoming wide receiver's protestations that he had made it to "third base" following last winter's 56th Annual West Des Moines Basket-Weaving Festival. "Valley High bitches are tough nuts to crack," agreed skeptical classmates, who left duly inspired for helmet fittings.
• Georgia: Projected offensive starters Knowshon Moreno and Scott Haverkamp are cited by Athens police for underage drinking en route to drills following a short water break. Those guys are everywhere.
• Illinois: The Illini get appreciably better and better.