Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bowl your brains out

This year's guide zeros in on quarterbacks

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It wasn't too long ago a Notre Dame vs. Miami matchup in college football would have gridiron fans across North America clearing their schedule to take in a battle of two perennial U.S. heavyweights.

Yes, during a stretch from 1971-90 the Irish and Hurricanes met 19 times and those rage-filled contests elicited all types of hype, including the unofficial 'Catholics vs. Convicts' tag that captured the hate-on between the two schools and their rabid followers.

But now, however, the Irish and the Canes -- both 7-5 this season and hardly threats to the national championship -- have been reduced to playing in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. And although it's the second-oldest game on the schedule to the Rose Bowl, it is light years away from the marquee matchups the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls provide and far, far removed from the BCS national championship game on Jan. 10 that features two unbeatens in Auburn and Oregon.

That said, the Sun Bowl may be of special interest to football fans in these parts because Miami's starting quarterback -- sophomore Jacory Harris -- is on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' negotiation list, meaning they currently hold his Canadian Football League rights.

We bring this up today as part of our 11th CFL Fans' Guide to the Bowls, a holiday feature that was derailed last year at this time amid the regime change in Bomberland, but is being dusted off again.

Essentially, what we'll do here is provide a peek at some of the QB prospects down south who are on the radar screen of CFL teams here and are worth watching in the 35 bowl games that will run over the holiday season from Dec. 18 to the title game on Jan. 10.

In years past we asked fans to keep an eye on many prospects including Yvenson Bernard, Zac Taylor and Bryan Randall, all of whom wore Bomber colours at one point and today we'll include a list of the QBs from other CFL teams as well.

First things first -- and because he is unofficially the only Bomber QB prospect still playing over the next month -- we'll take a quick look at Harris, the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who is just wrapping up his junior campaign.

A long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate when the 2010 season began, Harris' year has been one pockmarked by injury and mistakes. He suffered a concussion, missed four games and still threw 12 interceptions as the Canes struggled to their 7-5 mark, a record that recently cost head coach Randy Shannon his job. That said, Harris is only 20 years old and has shown enough flashes for Bomber management to be intrigued by his upside -- including throwing for 3,000 yards and more than 300 yards in three of the last six games of 2009 en route to being named a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Quarterback Award. In 2008 he was the first freshman to start at QB for Miami since Bernie Kosar in 1983.

The dude's also got some personality, apparently. Here's his answer back in 2009 when asked by the Miami Herald's Dan LeBatard on his radio program in 2009 if he felt any pressure to win a Heisman during his time in Miami:

"No, it's not pressure at all. I expect that. I expect it because you're supposed to expect great things. You're supposed to expect the best, so... I'm gonna get on stage with a pink suit on... The pink suit, the pimp cup, and all. With diamonds and stuff all the way around it."

Don't know if he could adapt to the Canadian game, but if he can play the quote game like that he'll be welcomed here by the media with open arms.

Interestingly, it was after his super '09 season that some college football experts began hyping Harris as a possible first overall pick in the 2011 or 2012 draft. The fact that his stock has dropped, though, actually helps the Bombers and increases his chances of now passing through a draft and possibly heading north to Canada after the usual run at trying to land work as an NFL free agent.

Hey, Bomber diehards can at least dream about Harris, especially while Buck Pierce and Steven Jyles recover from injury and as questions swirl around the ability of Joey Elliott and Alex Brink to develop into stars.

If nothing else, it makes a game as nondescript as the Sun Bowl -- 1 p.m. kickoff on New Year's Eve -- worth watching as fans get ready to welcome 2011.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

FUTURE CFL STARS?

A look at some of the quarterbacks on CFL negotiation lists playing in bowl games:

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

-- NATE COSTA, Oregon -- Was the backup QB to starter Darron Thomas but a knee injury last month appears to have ended his career; BCS National Championship game, Jan. 10

-- DOMINIQUE DAVIS, East Carolina -- Threw for 36 TDs, ran for nine more for the Pirates; Military Bowl, Dec. 29.

-- JERROD JOHNSON, Texas A&M -- The Aggies' No. 1 QB, so-so numbers; Cotton Bowl, Jan. 7.

-- TAYLOR POTTS, Texas Tech -- Big dude -- 6-5, 222 -- who threw for 34 TDs this year as a senior; TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 1.

-- TREVOR VITTATOE, UTEP -- The Miners'w starter; New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 18.

-- T.J. YATES, North Carolina -- Another big one at 6-4, 220; the Tar Heels starter; Music City Bowl, Dec. 30.

-- MARTEVIOUS YOUNG, Southern Miss -- Threw just 23 passes this year as the back-up to Austin Davis; Beef 'O' Brady Bowl, Dec. 21.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

-- DARRON THOMAS, Oregon -- Ducks starter has his team in national championship game; BCS National Championship, Jan. 10

-- CAM NEWTON, Auburn -- Heisman Trophy winner. He's 6-6, 250 and is a long shot ever to play in the CFL; BCS National Championship game, Jan. 10

-- TAYLOR MARTINEZ, Nebraska -- Solid season for the freshman pivot; Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30.

KYLE PADRON, SMU -- Starter for the Mustangs; Armed Forces Bowl, Dec. 30.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

-- B.J. DANIELS, South Florida -- Icky numbers -- seven TDs vs. 12 interceptions, but he has the Bulls in a bowl; Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 31.

-- ROBERT GRIFFIN III, Baylor -- Sophomore put up solid stats for the Bears, who finished fourth in the Big 12; Texas Bowl, Dec. 29.

-- KELLEN MOORE, Boise State -- Bronco QBs always throw up good numbers and Moore is no different -- 33 TDs and just five picks; MAACO Bowl, Dec. 22.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

-- TATE FORCIER, Michigan -- Another sophomore and the No. 2 QB to Denard Robinson; Gator Bowl, Jan. 1.

-- BRYANT MONIZ, Hawaii -- Has thrown for 50 TDs over the last two years, including 36 this year; Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24.

-- RUSSELL WILSON, North Carolina State -- Just a junior, but threw for 26 TDs and ran for nine more scores; Champs Sports Bowl, Dec. 28.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

-- DWIGHT DASHER, Middle Tennessee -- His numbers were terrible -- a 6:14 TD-to-int ratio; but the Stamps must see something in him; GoDaddy.Com Bowl, Jan. 6.

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

-- G.J. KINNE, Tulsa -- Junior pivot helped guide the Golden Hurricane to a 9-3 record; Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24.

-- TYROD TAYLOR, Virginia Tech -- Helped the Hokies to an 11-2 record and was ACC Player of the Year; Orange Bowl, Jan. 3

-- DAN PERSA, Northwestern -- Junior QB threw for 15, ran for nine TDs; TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 1.

B.C. LIONS

-- COLIN KAEPERNICK, Nevada -- A 6-6, 225 pound senior who joined Tim Tebow and Auburn's Newton to be the only QBs to throw and rush for 20 TDs in a season; Fight Hunger Bowl, Jan. 9.

-- DENARD ROBINSON, Michigan -- Sophomore QB threw for 16 TDs but, more impressively, ran for 14 scores and had a 6.7 per carry rushing average; Gator Bowl, Jan. 1.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 18, 2010 D4

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