It's a simple word that separates the great athletes from the good ones.
Skill.It's also what separates the South's best from the rest and dominates the 81st Orlando Sentinel All-Southern High School Football Team.
Skilled athletes such as Cedric Benson of Midland, Texas; Roscoe Crosby of tiny Union, S.C.; and quarterback Adrian McPherson of Bradenton Southeast, who tied the Florida single-season touchdown passing mark, lead the top 13 players on the team. The talented baker's dozen includes seven running backs, three quarterbacks, two receivers and a defensive back.
Benson rushed for 249 yards in the Texas state title game in leading Midland Lee to a second consecutive state championship. He rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 of Lee's 14 games and has committed orally to Texas.
Crosby caught 77 passes for 1,408 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead his team to a second consecutive Class 3A state championship in South Carolina.
McPherson threw 42 touchdown passes to match the number thrown by Eric Hinson of Havana Northside in 1991. McPherson shares Florida's top honor with running back Frank Gore of Coral Gables, who broke the single-season rushing record in tradition-rich Miami-Dade County.
The 133-man honor squad is selected by state representatives and the Orlando Sentinel staff.
McPherson is joined by two other quarterbacks, Robert Johnson of Americus, Ga., and Damarius Bilbo of Moss Point, Miss. Johnson threw for 3,263 yards this season in leading Americus to its first state title and unbeaten season (15-0) in 25 years. Bilbo passed for 3,038 yards and 32 touchdowns and also kicked 10 field goals for Moss Point, which won the state title.
The most crowded position was running back, where Benson and Gore are joined by Alabama's Carnell Williams, Arkansas' De'Arrius Howard, Tennessee's Gerald Riggs, Virginia's DeAngelo Hall and Louisiana's Byron Robertson.
Williams, from Attala Etowah, ran for 1,739 yards and 23 touchdowns in nine games. Howard, a bruising 210-pounder from West Memphis, broke the state's Class 5A single-season rushing mark with 2,746 yards and 29 touchdowns. Riggs, chosen Mr. Football in Tennessee as a junior at Chattanooga Red Bank this season, is the son of the former NFL running back of the same name. Hall, projected as a big-time defensive back for Virginia Tech, accounted for 1,316 rushing yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions for Chesapeake (Va.) Deep Creek. Robertson, Louisiana's Mr. Football for St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond, produced career totals of 5,989 yards and a state-record 114 touchdowns.
And as good as Crosby's numbers are for Union, check out Montrell Jones at Kentucky state champion Louisville Male. Jones, his state's Mr. Football, finished with career records of 266 catches and 59 touchdowns, plus 4,345 receiving yards. His totals this year were 69 catches for 919 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
The other member is defensive back Robert Boulware, from Charlotte (N.C.) Vance. He is one of the South's fastest defenders and the state high hurdling champion. He has committed to play for Tennessee.
Illustration: PHOTO: Quarterback keeper. Adrian McPherson of Bradenton Southeast shares Florida's season touchdown passing mark with 42 and this year's Sunshine State football honor on our team.TIFFANY TOMPKINS/BRADENTON HERALDPHOTO: A reception machine. Roscoe Crosby's 1,408 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns help his team to the South Carolina state 3A championship.ROGER RICE/(SPARTANBURG , S.C.) HERALD-JOURNAL
RB Carnell Williams
Attala Etowah High 5-11, 192 lbs., senior
RB De'Arrius Howard West Memphis High 5-11, 219 lbs., senior Possible colleges: Ark., Tenn., Miami, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Ala.
RB Frank Gore Coral Gables High 6-0, 195 lbs., senior Possible colleges: Auburn, Miami, N.C. State, Tenn., S.C.
QB Adrian McPherson Bradenton Southeast High6-4, 185 lbs., senior Possible colleges: N.C., Tenn., Ga. Tech, FSU, Miami, Mich. St.
QB Robert Johnson Americus High 6-3, 190 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: undecided
WR Montrell Jones Louisville Male High 6-2, 195 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: Tenn., UF, FSU, Mich. (had committed to Ky.)
RB Byron Robertson Hammond St. Thomas Aquinas 6-1, 170 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: junior college
QB Damarius Bilbo Moss Point High 6-3, 215 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: Ga. Tech., Ala., Ole Miss, Tenn.
PHOTO: NORTH CAROLINA
DB Robert Boulware Charlotte Vance High 6-1, 185 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: Tennessee
PHOTO: SOUTH CAROLINA
WR Roscoe Crosby Union High6-2, 190 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: Ga. Tech, FSU, Clemson
RB Gerald Riggs Chattanooga Red Bank High6-1, 205 lbs., juniorPossible colleges: underclassman
RB Cedric Benson Midland Lee High 5-10, 210 lbs., senior Possible colleges: Texas
RB/DB DeAngelo Hall Chesapeake Deep Creek High6-0, 190 lbs., seniorPossible colleges: Virginia Tech
BOX: Also on the Team
(Position, name, school, personal stats, class year and probable college choices)
LB Lamarcus Rowell, Opelika, 6-3/212/Sr. (FSU/Tenn./Ala/Aub/LSU)
Ath Lance Rhodes, Hoover, 5-11/185/Sr. (Kentucky)
DE Freddie Roach, Killen Brooks, 6-3/232/Sr. (Alabama)
WR Anthony Mix, Bay Minette, 6-4/210/Sr. (FSU/Ky/Tenn/Ala/Aub)
Honorable mention: WR Tim Castille, Birmingham Briarwood Chr., 6-0/209/So. (Underclass); RB Keldrick Williams, Montgomery Lanier, 5-10/202/Sr. (Tenn./Aub/Ala/Ark/LSU); QB Spencer Pennington, Fayette County, 6-4/195/Sr. (Alabama); OL Von Ewing, Troy Henderson, 6-5/297/Sr. (Tenn./Miami/Ala./Ky.); DE Justin Tuck, Rockford Coosa Central, 6-4/210/Sr. (NDame/Aub./GaT); WR Ratavious Biddle, Decatur, 6-0/170/Sr. (NCSt/Ky/Ala/OleMiss)
OL Shawn Andrews, Camden Fairview, 6-5/315/Sr. (Arkansas)
DE Chase Pressley, Fort Smith Southside, 6-4/268/Jr. (Underclass)
RB Dedrick Poole, Little Rock Central, 5-11/1785/Jr. (Underclass)
WR Josh Bell, Greenwood, 5-7/141/Sr. (Undecided)
Honorable mention: RB Cedric Houston, Clarendon, 5-11/200/Sr., (Ark/MichSt/Miami/Tenn); K Kyle Magrini, Greenwood, 5-8/187/Jr. (Underclass); LB Clarke Moore, Van Buren, 6-2/229/Sr. (Arkansas); RB Antonio Warren, Warren, 5-11/185/Sr. (Ark/ArkSt); QB/DB Willie Whitmore, Texarkana 6-1/190/Sr. (Undecided); WR Jason Wood, Sheridan, 5-10/180/Sr. (Arkansas State)
RB Mike Gilliam, Tallahassee Lincoln, 5-9/195/Sr. (Cincy/Lville/USF)
RB/DB Sean Taylor, Miami Gulliver, 6-2/210/Sr. (Miami)
OL Mike Degory, Palm Bay, 6-6/315/Sr. (GaT/NCSt/UF/MichSt/Tenn)
QB/Ath Brian Fisher, Pensacola Pine Forest, 5-8/175/Sr. (South Florida)
Honorable mention: QB/DB Danny Embick, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, 6-1/215/Sr. (GaT/IowaSt/KanSt/NCSt); Tre Smith, Venice, 5-11/185/Jr. RB/KR (Underclass); Dallas Baker, New Smyrna Beach, 6-4/185/Sr. (UF/Ky/UCF/JuCo); LB Willie Jones, Miami Carol City, 6-2/200/Sr. (FSU/BC/NDame/Nwestern); LB; Kevis Coley, Palatka, 6-3/200/Sr. (JuCo); LB Doug Justice, Spruce Creek, 6-4/215/Sr. (Mich/Nwestern/UF/NDame/UNC)
RB Willie Reid, Warner Robins, 5-11/180/Sr. (FSU/UF/UGa/Tenn)
RB Jabari Davis, Tucker, 5-11/230/Sr. (Tenn/OleMiss/Ala/UGa)
RB Derrick Tinsley, Marietta, 6-1/190/Sr. (Clem/Tenn/UGa/SCaro)
DE Marquis Elmore, Charlton Co. 6-4/220/Sr. (Georgia)
Honorable mention: WR P.J. Sams, Buford, 6-3/185/Sr. (FSU); QB D.J. Shockley, College Park North Clayton, 6-1/185/Sr. (FSU/UGa/Clem/UNC); RB Daccus Turman, Washington-Wilkes, 6-0/190/Sr. (Undecided); WR John Harris, Americus, 6-2/175/Jr. (Underclass); DB Reggie McFadden, Columbus Shaw, 5-11/165/Sr. (Georgia); RB Monte Williams, Commerce, 5-9/175/Sr. (Undecided).
WR Brett Hamblen, Fort Thomas Highlands, 6-0/180/Sr. (Ky/Lville)
LB Brent Grover, Fort Thomas Highlands, 6-4/243/Sr. (Purdue)
RB/Ath Michael Bush, Louisville Male, 6-3/205/So. (Underclass)
DL/OL Travis Laffew, Boyle Co., 6-4/260/Sr. (Louisville)
Honorable mention: QB Gino Guidugli, Fort Thomas Highlands, 6-5/210/Sr. (Kentucky leads); RB/LB Matt Quinn, Boyle Co., 6-0/202/Sr. (undecided); RB/LB Eric Shelton, Lexington Bryan Station, 6-3/235/Sr. (OhSt/FSU/Tenn/UF/Tex); LB Jake Flowers, Louisville Trinity, 6-1/202/Sr. (Undecided); OL Rob Smith, Fort Thomas Highlands, 6-4/290/Jr. (Underclass); OL/DL Marcus Green, 6-4/260/Sr. (Ky/Ind/GaT/UF).
QB Brent Rawls, Shreveport Evangel, 6-5/200/Sr. (Oklahoma)
LB Glentrell Ware, West Monroe, 6-2/210/Sr. (Undecided)
RB Brandon Jacobs, Napoleonville Assumption, 6-5/225/Sr. (JuCo)
TE Marcus Spears, Baton Rouge Southern Lab, 6-5/270/Sr. (LSU/FSU/Texas/Texas A&M)
Honorable mention: Rudy Niswanger, Monroe Ouachita Christian, 6-5/275/Sr. (LSU); QB/Ath Tristan Smith, Slidell Salmen, 5-10/175/Sr. (Tenn/LSU/SoMiss/Tulane); QB Dawan Landry, Hahnville, 6-3/220/Sr. (UGa/GaT/Neb/Colo); QB Dayne Ashley, Jena, 6-4/210/Sr. (Tulane/other Louisiana schools); DE Donovan Grayson, New Orleans Karr, 6-5/225/Sr. (LSU/Tul/KanSt/Iowa/GaT); WR Michael Clayton, Baton Rouge Christian Life, 6-4/205/Sr. (LSU/FSU/Miami/UF); Ath Ronnie Prude, Shreveport Fair Park, 6-0/170/Sr. (LSU/Colo/Tenn/TexTech)
RB/DB Clarence McDougal, Clinton, 6-1/205/Sr. (Mississippi State)
QB/P Michael Spurlock, Indianola Gentry, 5-11/190/Sr. (NewMexSt/LSU/OleMiss/MissSt/SoMiss)
WR Mike Espy, Madison Central, 6-0/180/Sr. (Clem/FSU/Tenn/NDame/OleMiss/MissSt)
OL Chris Spencer, Madison Central, 6-4/310/Sr. (Tenn/LSU/OleMiss/FSU/MissSt)
Honorable mention: OL Chris McNeil, Petal, 6-4/275/Sr. (Mississippi State); RB/LB Derrick Ducksworth, Mize, 6-2/225/Sr. (Undecided); RB Jerious Norwood, Brandon, 6-1/190/Jr. (Underclass); WR/DB Darren Williams, Clarksdale, 6-3/205/Jr. (Underclass); OL Cornelius Stallings, South Pike, 6-4/315/Sr. (Undecided); RB Sylvester Brown, Madison Central, 5-11/210/Sr. (Undecided).
QB Chris Leak, Charlotte Independence, 6-0/200/So. (Underclass)
DE Jacques Dumas, Asheboro, 6-8/240/Sr. (North Carolina)
DL Forrest Tucker, Lillington Western Harnett, 6-4/240/Sr. (Undecided)
DB Randy Jones, Rockingham, 5-11/170/Sr. (Undecided)
Honorable mention: OL E.Z. Smith, Concord, 6-3/285/Sr. (Penn State); WR Dovonte Edwards, Chapel Hill, 6-1/180/Sr. (N.C. State); LB Kenny Covington, Laurinburg Scotland, 6-2/240/Sr. (N.C. State); OL Jason Brown, Northern Vance, 6-4/285/Sr. (North Carolina); OL Lance Butler, Lexington West Davison, 6-7/300/Sr. (Tenn/Clem/ECU/Ky/NCSt/UF/UNC); RB Jacque Lewis, Elizabeth City Northeastern, 5-10/185/Sr. (North Carolina)
WR/DB Tymere Zimmerman, Bennettsville Marlboro Co., 6-3/190/Sr. (Clemson)
DE George Gause, Conway, 6-4/235/Sr. (Clem/SCaro/Tenn/GaT)
RB Demetrius Summers, Lexington, 5-11/175/So. (Underclass)
WR Airese Curry, Columbia Richland Northeast, 6-0/175/Sr. (FSU/Tenn/Clem/SCaro)
Honorable mention: LB Roger McIntosh, Gaffney, 6-4/215/Sr. (Clemson/FSU/Miami/Tenn); Ath James Murdaugh, Orangeburg Wilkinson, 6-0/200/Sr. (Undecided); DE Robert Geathers, Carver's Bay, 6-4/230/Sr. (Clem/SCaro/ND/GaT); QB Bennett Swygert, Summerville, 6-3/200/Sr. (Undecided); DL Jeff Littlejohn, Gaffney, 6-3/290/Sr. (MichSt/Clem/SCaro/Miami); OL Curtis Bradley, Summerville, 6-2/270/Sr. (Georgia Tech)
DB Kyle Dickerson, Memphis East, 5-11/185/Sr. (Mem/OleMiss/Ark/Tenn)
RB/LB Alvin Fite, Nashville Hillsboro, 6-2/205/Sr. (Undecided)
QB Ingle Martin, Nashville Montgomery Bell Academy, 6-4, 210, Sr. (UGa/UF/Tenn/OleMiss)
DL Dierre Carter, Memphis Melrose, 6-4/240/Sr. (Undecided)
Honorable mention: DB Derron Johnson, Memphis Melrose, 6-4/225/Sr. (Clem/UGa/Ky/FSU/Tenn/Ala); QB Matt Henshaw, Nashville Brentwood, 6-5/200/Sr. (Clem/FSU); RB Anthony Webster, Parsons Decatur Co., 6-1/190/Sr. (Undecided); QB/DB Daniel Bullocks, Chattanooga Hixson, 6-1/195/Sr. (Undecided); RB Blake Morris, Cleveland Bradley Central, 6-3/225/Sr. (Tenn/MTSt/VaTech); DL Heath Wilson, Memphis Central, 6-4/250/Sr. (Undecided)
RB Donta Hickson, McKinney, 5-11/210/Sr. (Oklahoma)
DL Tommy Harris, Killeen Ellison, 6-4/280/Sr. (Tex/Miami/FSU/Okla/Neb/TexA&M)
RB Anthony Evans, Pearland, 5-10/195/Sr. (KanSt/Okla/Bay/Hou)
OL Abe Robinson, Houston Jersey Village, 6-7/280/Sr. (Texas)
Honorable mention: QB Kyle York, Spring, 6-2/200/Sr. (Okla/Hou/Pitt/IowaSt); LB Derrick Busby, Aldine Eisenhower, 5-10/210/Sr. (Undecided); LB Derrick Johnson, Waco, 6/4/220/Sr. (Tex/FSU/Okla/UCLA/TexA&M); OL Jami Hightower, Jacksonville, 6-4/302/Sr. (Neb/TexA&M/Tex); OL Collin Barker, Wortham, 6-9/324/Sr. (UCLA); DB Aaron Ross, Tyler John Tyler, 6-0/180/Sr. (Texas); QB/DB Quan Crosby, Mart, 5-10/180 (Nebraska/FSU/Texas/Texas A&M/Colorado).
QB Bryan Randall, Williamsburg Bruton, 6-2/205/Sr. (VaTech/Tenn)
QB/Ath Anthony Ford, Daleville Lord Botetourt, 5-10/160/Sr. (Undecided)
DB Blake Warren, Clifton Centerville, 6-4/210/Sr. (Virginia Tech)
WR Nate Iloa, North Stafford, 5-11/180/Sr. (Undecided)
Honorable mention: TE/DE Jeff King, Dublin Pulaski Co., 6-6/245/Sr. (Virginia Tech); DB D.J. Walton, Woodbridge Hylton, 6-0/195/Sr. (Virginia Tech); TE/DE Darryl Blackstock, Newport News Heritage, 6-5/222/Sr. (Undecided); RB Michael Johnson, Newport News Heritage, 5-11/185/Jr. (Underclass); DB C.J. Fayton, Virginia Tech Princess Anne, 6-2/185/Sr. (VaT/Tenn); QB Jacob Lewis, Roanoke Cave Spring, 6-2/180/Sr. (W&M/Furman/Richmond).
BOX: WHO PICKS OUR TEAM?
We poll high school sports experts from around the South to select the Orlando Sentinel's annual All-Southern Team. Members of this year's panel are:
Bill Buchalter Orlando
Bill Bumgarner New Orleans
Jody Demling Louisville, Ky.
Walt McMahon Birmingham, Ala.
Stan Olson Charlotte, N.C.
Bill Spencer Jackson, Miss.
Dan Uthman Roanoke, Va.
Robert Yates Little Rock, Ark.
CHART: 4 YEARS AGO -- HOW THE '96 TEAM IS FARING
Pos., player High school College The buzz
DB Tony Dixon Reform (Ala.) Pickens Co. Alabama Solid starter in Crimson Tide secondary
QB Jared McBride Nashville, Ark. Arkansas Never got off the ground with the Hogs
RB Travis Henry Frostproof Tenn. Became Vols' leading career rusher
OL Cosey Coleman Decatur (Ga.) SW DeKalb Tenn. Already in the NFL, with Tampa Bay
RB Derek Homer Fort Knox, Ky. Kentucky 4-year contributor with the Wildcats
RB Travis Minor Baton Rouge (La.) Catholic FSU Vital component of Seminoles' offense
QB Romaro Miller Shannon, Miss. Miss. 4-year starter for the Rebels
WR Steve Shipp Charlotte (N.C.) W. Charlotte Florida Never lived up to billing and left UF
DB Andre Lott Memphis Melrose Tenn. Best player in the Vols' secondary
QB Woodrow Dantzler Orangeburg (S.C.) Wilkinson Clemson Has thrived under Tommy Bowden
WR Brian Scott Darlington, S.C. S. Carolina Underutilized in Gamecocks' offenses
DE David Warren Tyler (Texas) John Tyler FSU Physical setbacks have hurt his career
QB Ronald Curry Hampton, Va. N. Carolina 2-sport star hampered by injuries