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January 5, 2002
Here's our final group of notes from this year's CaliFlorida Bowl III in Torrance, Calif.
Impact Player: Who came away with the hardest hits during the game? My vote goes to Lincoln's (Fla.) DB Greg Threat. Threat did a great job of coming on the run and delivering helmet-jarring blows.
Speed Thrills: Probably the most enjoyable part of the CaliFlorida Bowl was watching Devin Hester fly all over the field. On special teams, defense and offense, Hester made statements and drew immediate attention. He has quick get-ups and a gear that very few others can reach.
In the Right Place at the Right Time: Los Angeles Manual Arts WR James Finley ended up with the top stats at wide receiver and showed an ability to get downfield and open quickly. Sure he scored once off a trick play, but a touchdown is a touchdown and James had five catches for over 100 yards including another touchdown.
Little Backs that Could: With Florida's Tre Smith, Tremaine McCullom and Travis Glasford and California's Hershel Dennis, Robby Dubois (and Marcus O'Keith all listed at 5-foot-11 or under, the CaliFlorida backfields still packed a ton of punch. Dennis and Dubois seemed to do the most with their carries, but Smith broke away for a couple solid runs and McCollum and Glasford both showed good feet and quickness.
A Special Player: Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison DB Marcus McCutcheon had a couple returns that may have gone the distance against teams not as gifted in the speed category. On top of his special teams play, McCutcheon put in the best performance for a corner on the California side. Several times, McCutcheon was in on pass deflections and running stride for stride with the speedy Sunshine State wideouts.
He's Got What? Personality: Besides being a dominant presence on the defensive line, Wilmington (Calif.) Banning DL Fred Matua's running mouth was a team and media favorite.
All Work and No play Makes Terrell a Dull DB: Miami (Fla.) Edison DB Terrell Walden talked the talk and walked the walk. A talkative and energetic young man, Walden was a favorite among coaches and players for his lighthearted antics, but don't let his easygoing nature fool you. On the field, Walden was all business and showed why he needs to be considered one of the top cover men in the country.
There's Someone Hiding in That Horse: With Gavin Dickey (pictured), Pat Watkins and Greg Threat stealing the headlines, it should be noted that their fellow Lincoln Trojan players didn't hide and turned in solid performances. James Jackson scored twice at fullback, DB Larry Williams was solid in coverage and delivered one of the hardest hits in the game while WR James White scored twice and played as well as one could have possibly done in an all-star game. No wonder the Trojans won the Florida 4A championship!
Why Was this Kid a Late Entry?: Myself and others were very pleased a spot opened up on the California roster for Thousand Oaks (Calif.) WR Dave Anderson. A teammate of QB Ben Olson, Anderson may have lost some of the spotlight to his nationally recognized partner. However, Anderson put to rest any doubts of his ability with several key catches and showing an ability to find the open space in a secondary that had very little.
Luke, I am Your Father: With his trade mark visor shield inside his helmet, the nation's top tight end, Marcedes Lewis looked Darth Vader on the sideline. However, once he stepped on the field, Lewis was more like Chewbacca in pads. Always looking for someone to hit and rarely trying to run around anyone when he had the ball, this big man looks to punish anyone who gets in his way.
Almost Miller Time: Fresno (Calif.) Edison DB Aaron Miller showed great technique and good speed. With his solid coverage, Miller had a couple chances at interceptions but couldn't haul in the ball.
Too Tall to Be: Miami (Fla.) American Senior DT John Wood was drawing comparisons to Tampa Bay Buccaneer Warren Sapp because of his explosive first step and ability to run down running backs and quarterbacks from the defensive tackle position.
Two of a Kind: While brother Tremaine performed well at running back, Miami Southridge DB Jermaine McCollum may have moved up on a couple coaches lists with his performance in the secondary. With Walden and Threat starting, Florida lost nothing noticeable when McCollum came in to replace them. Seems these McCollum brothers want to stick together and are pushing themselves as a packaged deal on the next level.
Silent but Deadly: Despite a lack of stats, Glades Central LB William Beckford was certainly a concern for the California squad. Beckford did the dirty work battling double teams and taking on blocks to allow his fellow teammates to make tackles.
You Can Never Have Enough Coverage: Sure I've mentioned about 20 other defensive backs, but I'd be mistaken if I didn't mention Pacific Palisade (Calif.) DB Justin Clayton. Clayton is a 6-foot, 200 pound cover man with good feet and quickness. Would I take him in a foot race against Florida WR Ryan Moore, no. But, there are not many Ryan Moore's out there and Clayton could more than handle your typical college receiver and may turn out to be a better safety.
Dennis the Menace: Poly RB Hershel Dennis turned in a stellar performance, hitting the holes hard and never letting down. I would have like to have seen Dennis run behind a better offensive line, or at least one that had spent more than a couple days together.
Not Your Father's Mr. Rogers: Miami (Fla.) Norland DL Baraka Atkins showed a great football sense to go along with a good combination of size and speed. In on a couple sacks and stuffing screen plays, Brown could be heard yelling, "We didn't come out here to be nice!" after stops by the Florida defense.
Ball Magnet: Santonio Holmes seemed to find a way to get his hands on the ball easily and often ... A sure sign of a receiver who's going to do good things on the next level. Although I'm not sure how he's going to explain being thrown out of bounds by Poly Safety Darnell Bing to his buddies back in Florida ... On what looked like a touchdown for Holmes on a reverse, Bing closed quickly like a cheetah pouncing a gazelle.
Every Time you Throw the Ball Down Field, Bing Bing!: If Holmes was an offensive magnet, then Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety Darnell Bing was his counterpart. Bing was all over the field and showed that he's as fast as advertised. Probably the meanest player on the field, Bing didn't back down from anyone. Bing has a star quality about him and he loves being a primetime player.
Sometimes Dreams Do NOT Come True: With Florida safety Pat Watkins (pictured) and California tight end Marcedes Lewis on the pre-game rosters, I was hoping for a meeting between these too giants. I mean, who wouldn't like to see the collision created by 6-foot-6 Lewis going across the middle for a pass with 6-3 Watkins coming up to break it up. Unfortunately, Watkins was ill all week and did not play.