Citizen Staff Writer
A Saturday smorgasbord of sense and nonsense (an all-football edition):
There is nobody in college football I enjoy watching more than Oregon State freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
The quick cuts. The burst through the hole. The uncanny ability to twist and power and squirm in order to stretch a 2-yard play into a 6-yard pickup.
Yeah, and I like the fact he’s short.
Rodgers is listed at 5 foot 7, which makes him my favorite height-deficient Pac-10 tailback since Arizona’s 5-6 David Adams in the mid-1980s.
“Sometimes, the defense can’t find you until it’s too late . . . and then you’re gone,” Adams said of short running backs. “That’s the only advantage. It comes down to your desire and heart.”
Rodgers has all that – and talent – leading the Beavers into Arizona Stadium for a huge Pac-10 game Saturday. The Beavers can advance to their first Rose Bowl since the 1964 season by winning their last two games – at Arizona and at home against Oregon.
He won’t make the Heisman finalists or earn first-team All-America honors, but Rodgers is close enough to those honors and I wouldn’t argue if he did. Along the way, he’s showing up many big schools who figured he was too small or too slow, despite a record-setting high school career in Texas.
Adams said he hadn’t yet seen Rodgers play, but understands the motivation of smaller players.
“That was an extreme amount of pleasure to prove people wrong,” said Adams, who rushed for 2,571 career yards. “They all dismissed you . . . until you ran past them.”
Rodgers has been doing plenty of that. He has a Pac-10 best 1,233 yards and can be a workhorse. Or should that be a pony?
NFL scouts not always right
The past two NFL drafts from a UA perspective show how the pro scouts often get it all wrong.
Fellas, it’s OK to value production and character over raw athletic ability, a lack of production and questionable character.
We present to you 2007 second-round pick Chris Henry, a workout wunderkind who had all of 31 carries for Tennessee last season and none this year. A reach. A big reach.
Now we present Denver Broncos rookie Spencer Larsen, a sixth-round pick who willingly moved from linebacker to fullback and contributes on special teams.
All he did last season at Arizona was lead the Pac-10 in tackles, but his 4.9-second speed for 40 yards was a deal-breaker for many NFL teams. Their loss. He plays faster than his workout speed because of his instincts, and he can fill multiple roles because of his intelligence.
Larsen started on offense last week (playing seven snaps), started at middle linebacker because of injuries (55 snaps) and continued to work on special teams (eight snaps). He became the fourth player in the NFL modern era to start both ways.
Larsen was selected the NFL Rookie of the Week in fan voting.
All of it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.
Are you paying attention, NFL? It’s never all about the scouting combine.
Stadium expansion feasible?
The Citizen’s higher-education reporter, Renée Schafer Horton, asked UA President Robert N. Shelton on Monday about the athletic department’s impending capital project, which will include construction in the north end zone of the football stadium and improvements to McKale Center.
Q: “Even if the football stadium is self-funded, do you think with the economic downturn and the possibility of laying off people, that that would be a good political move for you?”
A: “Well, you always have to be politically sensitive, but remember, we’re asking athletics to be financially self-supporting, so if they can go out and raise money that enables them to generate more income, well, I’d say that’s following our instructions. And remember, it’s not just more seats in the stadium, it would be more offices, etc.
“I have said they need to proceed (with) planning for this and looking to how they can fund it because again, I don’t believe we should inhibit any unit – athletics, our scientists – from going out and generating more money.”
Shelton also talked about what happens if the football team finishes 6-6 in the regular season.
Will coach Mike Stoops still have a job?
“Well, his contract goes beyond this year,” Shelton said.
Seems to be an interesting non-answer answer. Stoops is signed through the 2010 season.
Tough to run on
One of the things I admire most about Oregon State coach Mike Riley is that his teams are always tough against the run.
Since returning to Corvallis in 2003, the Beavers have ranked fourth, 22nd, 17th, 29th and first nationally against the run. Arizona, starting in 2003, ranked 84, 30, 93, 42 and 47th in run defense.
This season, Oregon State ranks 22nd against the run, allowing 109.3 yards per game. UA is 59th at 138.4.
“Their defensive line, as a group, is their most impressive group,” UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said of the Beavers.
“They just play hard together, play with great technique and really hustle. They don’t do a lot of stuff defensively, but, as a result, they execute their defense well. . . .
“Every week, we have a big-play tape that we look at and see how (the opponent) gave up a lot of big plays. Their big-play tape is really short. They just don’t give up a lot of big ones. They make you earn everything.”
Ianello to Syracuse?
Former UA assistant/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the head coaching position at Syracuse, although he told reporters this week that he had not been contacted.
Ianello was at Arizona from 1994 through the 2002 season. He is in his fourth season as the recruiting coordinator and receivers coach at Notre Dame, where he is working with promising wideouts such as Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.
“My ultimate goal is to become a head coach,” he told reporters this week. “If the opportunity ever arose, I certainly would look into it, at any school I felt had a great opportunity to win.”
Ianello didn’t play college football, although several college head coaches share that trait, including the man he works for – Charlie Weis.
Some of the most innovative coaches never played college football. I’m thinking of Texas Tech’s Mike Leach and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, especially.
The envelope, please
Nobody in the AP poll has been on the Oregon State bandwagon more than I have. This week, I gave the Beavers their highest ranking, at No. 15.
I like their matchup this week against Arizona. The Beavs are super at running between the tackles, and they really get after the quarterback.
For all there is to like about Oregon State, the Beavers don’t have a quality road victory and their five-game winning streak has been fueled by beating the four worst teams in the conference, plus Cal.
Oregon State just doesn’t seem good enough to run the table in the Pac-10 after losing the season opener at Stanford. The Beavers are due to stumble.
And this is the kind of big November game that Arizona has won under coach Mike Stoops. The Wildcats are plenty capable with something resembling their best effort.
Arizona 31, Oregon State 27.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: