Jackson was the top receiver in the country out of high school and should be the first receiver off the board in April, less for his pure receiving talents - the other projected first-rounders, like Early Doucet, James Hardy, Malcolm Kelly and Limas Sweed, are much bigger, more physical receivers with more consistent college numbers than Jackson - than for his all-purpose ability, both as a deep threat on offense, for reverses and obviously in the return game, where he had a debilitating, Devin Hester-like effect on opposing punt teams, which dared not kick in his direction; in fact, during the Bears' terrible 1-6 slide to end the regular season, Jackson returned all of three punts, for 34 yards, because they steadily sailed out of bounds (only five other punts were returned by different returners in the same span). NFL teams won't give him that much respect at first, but they will eventually. Just like Tennessee...and Oregon...and Arizona...and UCLA...
(Even if you’re not an ODB fan, you’ll want to hang with that last one till the 1:40 mark)
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Oklahoma's Smith - the third OU junior to go pro, after Kelly and linebacker Curtis Lofton - is a dangerous return man, too, having brought a punt back for a touchdown as a sophomore and handled the Sooners' regular duties there the last two years, but he's a borderline first rounder for his unusual size (6-1, 198) and cover skills, which landed him on the coaches' and media's all-Big 12 teams. Smith started 36 of 39 career games in one of the deepest secondaries in the country, which is statement enough.
• Welcome the Rooney Rule. The NFL's "Rooney Rule," entering its sixth postseason coach-swapping cycle, was enacted to proactively balance the dearth of black head coaches in an overwhelmingly black league rather than wait for a slowly evolving equality, and to good effect. Athletic directors at their annual meeting Tuesday decided a similar initiative - asking schools to include at least one minority interview in coaching searches, minus the fines for noncompliance, of course - sounded like a good idea to push more black/minority coaching hires in the NCAA, as well, which goes into 2008 with seven black head coaches and one Polynesian at 119 schools:
Like pro football's Rooney Rule, they call for schools searching for a head coach to interview "one or more" minority candidates.
Unlike the 5-year-old Rooney Rule, which subjects NFL teams to fines, the colleges' policy doesn't carry penalties. The I-A athletics directors, the NCAA and other organizations question the propriety and legality of infringing on individual schools' hiring practices.
"The best we can do," Baughman said, "is provide recommendations and so on and respect the fact that there's institutional prerogative."
The policy targets football for now. The sport, with one of the most criticized minority-hiring track records in college or pro sports, employed no black head coaches as recently as 1992. There were seven minority coaches last season, less than 6% representation in a sport in which 54% of the players are black or other minorities.
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Assuming all the athletic directors are still primarily interested in hiring qualified, winning coaches, this shouldn't come up much. I mean, it shouldn't, but we'll see.
• Terrelle Pryor Watch. The balleyhooed Pennsylvania quarterback has moved up his visit to Ann Arbor from Feb. 1, less than a week before signing day, to this Saturday, cancelling a planned visit to Penn State to accommodate the Wolverines. Brian Cook says go to the freakin' basketball game.
Out of the blue, Pryor also added LSU to the apparent Michigan-Ohio State tussle and plans to visit Baton Rouge on Jan. 25, new "mentor" Charlie Batch in tow, after an effective pitch from Gary Crowton: "Charlie spoke to them and then I spoke to coach Gary Crowton and I liked a lot of what he was saying. I wouldn't say they're as high up as the others because I am just learning about them, but I like what they're talking about in changing the offense for me." A "change" in Crowton's versatile scheme - already equipped with a shotgun spread option package - is probably better described as a "focus." Ryan Perrilloux says "WTF?"
Oregon is still tentatively hoping for a Pryor visit, but not holding its breath.
Coming and Going.
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• State law on filling job postings requires Texas to wait until the end of the day to formalize the hire, but Major Applewhite is expected to return to the alma mater as runnings back coach after interviewing and spending Tuesday in Austin. Obligatory disclaimer: the linked story is via the Birmingham News' Ian Rappaport, who was notoriously wrong about Rich Rodriguez's pending departure to Alabama in December '06. He's got pretty significant backup on this one.
Carroll, leaving coaching paradise? Don't make him
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On the flipside, Carroll's old offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, is taking time to evaluate his options after being unexpectedly fired by the Tennessee Titans Tuesday. But the L.A. Times quickly speculated he could fulfill longstanding Bruin rumors/wishes by sliding into UCLA's vacant offensive coordinator position under Rick Neuheisel, joining defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker to form what Wolf thinks would represent the best staff in America - Walker and Chow were both heavily considered for the head coaching job before it went to Neuheisel (acoustic guitar-playing white guy over two minority underlings, BCA!) - and one that would certainly have Pete Carroll's attention around town, at least. Chow confirmed to the paper that UCLA contacted his oldest son/agent Tuesday night; the paper says L.A. can offer $300,000-$400,000 for a coordinator, a so-so chunk for a veteran with Chow's track record and less than half his $1 million salary in the pros. For now, he's going to "sit back and stay home and walk the dog and think about some stuff."
More concretely, Hawaii has reportedly reached a deal with defensive coordinator Fred McMackin to replace June Jones as head coach and will announce him this morning...er, this afternoon, for the mainlanders.
Miami fired its wide receivers coach, Marquis Mosely, for reasons not articulated by the Miami Herald but plainly obvious to anyone who watched the Hurricanes' talented receivers in Mosely's two-year tenure: they could get open, but if the quarterback had time and managed to get the ball where it was supposed to be, they couldn't catch. Whether or not Mosely was working hard enough to correct the chronic dropsies, he took the axe for it.
• Oklahoma got a theatrical commitment Tuesday from touted Muskogee High teammates Jameel Owens and Stacy McGee, both four-star guys by Rivals and Scout. Much further down the road for the Sooners, for the li'l blue chippers currently refusing agents' offers to buy an extra juice box in the elementary cafeteria line: Ohio State and Oklahoma agreed to a home-and-home in 2016-17. Nice match-up, probably, if civilization still exists by then.
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As always, if you have a tip for the Hub, don't be shy: e-mail at sundaymorningqb-at-yah00, etc.