April 3, 2008

Buchanan: Who needs to bounce back in '08?

Effective rebounders are vital to success in March and April. They're a key element for winning in September, October and November, too.

The term "rebounding" is most associated with basketball, but several football teams will be hoping important players rebound with good seasons in 2008.

Nagging injuries, new schemes, position changes and different team chemistry are among a variety of factors that can contribute to an established player having a substandard season.

When a proven performer doesn't play well, in many cases the entire team is affected. Therefore, getting those players back on track often is paramount to a team having a good season.

So in keeping with the spirit of the NCAA Tournament, here's a list of 10 football players who need to rebound with good seasons in 2008.

Kansas State DE Ian Campbell: An All-Big 12 performer after posting 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in 2006, he moved to outside linebacker in 2007 and his production dropped drastically. He had just 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, and his overall tackles declined from 67 to 45. Kansas State ranked 100th nationally in pass defense last season, so the Wildcats definitely need Campbell to return to form.

North Carolina State G Curtis Crouch: A starter in 2006, Crouch last season lost his starting job to former walk-on Meares Green. Crouch has worked much more diligently this offseason and lost 15 to 20 pounds from his 6-foot-5, 335-pound frame in hopes of returning to the starting lineup for his senior season. The Wolfpack need an upgrade on the line after ranking 111th in rushing offense and 99th in total offense.

LSU DE Tyson Jackson: An All-SEC selection after posting 8.5 sacks as a sophomore, he slumped to 3.5 sacks in '07. The Tigers will have three new starters in the secondary this fall, and nothing helps inexperienced (or experienced, for that matter) defensive backs more than a powerful pass rush. Should Jackson produce as he did in 2006, he'll likely contend for All-American recognition. It also would provide a big boost to LSU's hopes for repeating as national champion.

Miami TB Javarris James: James the nephew of NFL star Edgerrin James had a stellar freshman season in 2006, rushing for 802 yards (with a 4.6 yard-per-carry average) and catching 17 passes for another 200 yards. But in '07, he clearly took a step back. James averaged 3.7 yards per carry while rushing for 582 yards. He had just one 100-yard game, and his receiving yardage was cut in half.

California QB Nate Longshore: Longshore, who will be a senior this fall, passed for 500 fewer yards and eight fewer touchdowns than he did in 2006, when the Bears finished 10-3. While he duplicated the 13 interceptions he threw the previous year, 11 of those came in a six-game stretch in which Cal went 1-5. If he doesn't bounce back, he could be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Kevin Riley, who is the popular choice among fans in Berkeley.

Texas QB Colt McCoy: While McCoy raised his yardage output from 2006, his touchdowns dropped from 29 to 22 and his interceptions jumped from seven to 18. The Longhorns desperately need McCoy back in 2006 form against a stronger schedule and without tailback Jamaal Charles in '08.

Vanderbilt QB Chris Nickson: Nickson showed up on some preseason All-SEC teams in '07. Unfortunately, he didn't come close to duplicating his '06 showing, when he passed for 2,085 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hampered by injuries, Nickson passed for just 763 yards and six touchdowns and eventually lost his starting job. If he can play at the level he showed in '06, the Commodores might make a run at bowl eligibility in 2008.

Nebraska DE Barry Turner: One of the biggest reasons Nebraska had its worst defensive showing ever in 2007 was because the Huskers couldn't muster an effective pass rush. Turner, who had six sacks as a part-time player in '06, was supposed provide that pass rush in '07. But he seemed slower after adding 20 pounds and managed only three sacks despite having an expanded role. He needs to regain his status as a dominant pass rusher.

Minnesota DE William VanDeSteeg: Hampered by a wrist injury in 2007, VanDeSteeg never played to the level that made him an All-Big Ten selection in '06, when he posted 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Those numbers dwindled to one sack and eight stops behind the line of scrimmage in 2007. Minnesota had the worst defense in Division I-A last season. Getting VanDeSteeg back on his game would help the defense get better.

Alabama QB John Parker Wilson: Although Wilson raised his yardage and touchdown numbers from '06 to '07, he did not play as well even though the Crimson Tide had an improved running game. Wilson was particularly ineffective in the final third of the regular season, when he completed just 48 percent of his attempts (63-of-131) and averaged 178.5 passing yards per game with four touchdowns and six interceptions in that span. Alabama anticipates being significantly improved in '08, but that depends a great deal on Wilson.

Trivia question

Only two coaches had a winning record against legendary Ole Miss coach John Vaught. Who were they? (Answer at the end of the column.)

Time to put the foot down?

LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who this spring is serving his third suspension in less than a year, reportedly was involved in an incident at a Baton Rouge, La., bar last weekend.

The Daily Reveille, LSU's student newspaper, reported that Perrilloux entered a restaurant bar a half-hour after closing, attempted to order drinks, then cursed and used racial slurs when denied service. The newspapers reported that a server at the restaurant said coach Les Miles phoned in an apology.

If the report is accurate, Miles could make a huge statement by washing his hands of Perrilloux and dismissing him from the team.

That would show the Tigers and the community that no matter who you are or your standing on the team, there is a standard of behavior that must be adhered to and significant consequences if it is not.

LSU fans may disagree that Miles should take a hard line for fear that losing Perrilloux would cost the Tigers any chance to defend their national championship. But there is no guarantee that LSU will win another championship even if Perrilloux is at quarterback.

The Tigers are almost guaranteed another successful season in 2008 because of their defense, running backs, receivers and offensive line. The best time to start an inexperienced quarterback is when your team is loaded everywhere else.

Quarterback demands maturity and the ability to make good choices. Perrilloux apparently has issues with both.

Miles already has a national championship. He's going to have a good team. He can take a stand and show that in his program, being a good quarterback isn't a license for boorish behavior.

Besides, if LSU doesn't win another championship in 2008, Perrilloux ultimately may be blamed. Miles, on the other hand, would draw praise for putting ethics and values ahead of the pursuit of more glory.

A labor of love

Tennessee and UCLA have agreed to reschedule their game and open their seasons with a nationally televised game on Labor Day. The game, which will be played in the Rose Bowl, will be played Sept. 1 and televised by ESPN.

That will be the only college game nationally televised in primetime that day, which will provide tremendous exposure for both programs.

Tennessee rescheduled its original season-opening game against UAB to Sept. 13 in Knoxville. UCLA moves its original season-opening game against Fresno State to Sept 27.

Harvin hurting

Florida will complete its spring practice without star receiver Percy Harvin, who may need surgery on his problematic right heel. The injury first was treated as tendinitis, but now is thought to be bone-related.

Florida coach Urban Meyer said an MRI "showed that it's a significant injury.''

Even if he needs surgery, Harvin is expected back at full speed for two-a-days in August.

Transfer eligible at Texas Tech

Chris Perry, a defensive tackle who redshirted as a freshman last season at Miami, has been granted a waiver by the NCAA and will be immediately eligible to play at Texas Tech this fall.

NCAA rules usually call for transfers from one Division I-A school to another to sit out a season. But in a waiver, Texas Tech cited personal reasons for Perry's transfer, and the NCAA granted immediate eligibility.

Perry, a native of Keller, Texas, was a three-star prospect when he signed in 2007. He figures to be in the Red Raiders' tackle rotation right away.

Quick hitters

  • Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin threw out the ceremonial first pitches before the St. Louis Cardinals' baseball season opener. Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel was scheduled to throw out the first pitch, but his return from a trip to Florida was delayed. Therefore, Daniel and Maclin came on in relief.

  • Nebraska junior free safety Rickey Thenarse returned to practice this week after missing Friday's session because of the shooting death of his brother in Los Angeles. Thenarse lost another brother to a shooting just a few months ago.

  • Needing a replacement for Eric Foster at defensive tackle, Rutgers is experimenting with Jamaal Westerman there. Westerman is a two-year starter at defensive end and led the Knights in sacks last season. Rutgers has good depth at end, but is thin at tackle after sophomore Justin Francis was arrested on robbery and weapons charges and suspended from the team.

  • New Syracuse offensive coordinator Mitch Browning has set a goal of cutting in half the 54 sacks the Orange allowed last season. To do that, he has mandated that his offensive linemen lose weight. He has set the optimum weight at 305 pounds, which will require some linemen to lose as much as 30 to 35 pounds.

  • Alabama's John Parker Wilson solidified his role as the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback in a weekend scrimmage, but not because he played particularly well. Wilson was 15 of 36 for 151 yards and an interception, but backup Greg McElroy threw four interceptions.

    "There's still a lot of guys feeling their way offensively. I don't know that we're playing as fast as we need to play," coach Nick Saban said.

  • Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has indefinitely suspended linebacker Freddie Fairchild, who faces misdemeanor charges of suspicion of third-degree battery and false imprisonment for allegedly beating a woman.

  • Georgia defensive tackle Jeff Owens dislocated a shoulder last week and will miss the rest of spring practice. He is expected back when practice starts in August. In addition, senior wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi could miss this weekend's G-Day game with a sprained neck.

  • Mississippi State dismissed offensive lineman Michael Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Wesley after they were arrested last week. Brown was charged with possession of a firearm. Wesley was charged with aggravated assault.

    Trivia answer

    Alabama coach Bear Bryant was 4-3 against Vaught, and Tennessee's Robert Neyland was 3-2.

    MORE: BCS Spring Breakdowns | Practice previews for every team | More college football

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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