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COLLEGE FOOTBALL DAILY REPORT : ACROSS THE NATION : Hurricanes’ Sapp, Stewart to Turn Pro

The Miami Hurricanes’ latest loss was to the NFL.

Lombardi Award winner Warren Sapp and running back James Stewart said Tuesday they will make themselves available for the pro draft rather than return for their senior season.

Sapp, an All-American defensive tackle, is expected to be a top-five pick in the April draft.

“It’s just like if I was a business major and IBM offered me millions of dollars to come work for them,” he said. “You’d definitely take that opportunity. You’re only presented so many opportunities in life, and I’m about to take advantage of the biggest one I believe I’ve been offered.”

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Stewart, who led sixth-ranked Miami with 724 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns, is projected as a second- or third-round choice.

“I heard Warren Sapp was coming out,” Stewart said. “I figured I had to come out with him so he’d have somebody to tackle.”

Hurricane Coach Dennis Erickson, rumored to be bound for the NFL, said Sapp and Stewart made the right decision.

“They are ready for this next step,” Erickson said, “and it is a tremendous opportunity for them to be able to take care of their families.”

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The announcement by the two juniors, which had been expected, came at a news conference two days after the Hurricanes lost to Nebraska, 24-17, in the Orange Bowl.

“I just woke up this morning and made my decision,” Sapp said. “It’s always been a hot question around town.”

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Quarterback John Walsh, who led Brigham Young to a 31-6 victory over Oklahoma in the Copper Bowl last week and was named the game’s most valuable player, said he will forgo his senior year and make himself available for the NFL draft.

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“It was a tough decision, but my family, coaches . . . and friends were very supportive,” Walsh said. “My years at BYU have been great, but I realized it is now time to leave college and play professional football.”

Walsh, a native of Torrance, passed for 4,166 yards and 33 touchdowns in 1994.

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Texas receiver Lovell Pinkney said he will skip his senior year to enter the NFL draft, and offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer is expected to announce today that he also plans to turn pro.

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Rick Neuheisel spent his first day as Colorado’s new head coach on a recruiting trip and thinking about assembling a coaching staff.

“It’s pretty hectic,” Neuheisel said in Tempe, Ariz. “This is the first day of the rest of my life, as somebody said. It’s the first day of a new beginning at Colorado, and I’m anxious to get started.”

Neuheisel, who coached Colorado’s quarterbacks and receivers this season, was appointed to succeed Bill McCartney on Nov. 28. He said a top priority will be to determine the status of offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac. Uzelac has waffled on his intentions, saying he has options at other schools but also that he would consider staying at Colorado.

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Noting that Uzelac tends to be run-oriented and Neuheisel pass-oriented, the incoming coach said of the possible combination, “A little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll? There’s no question that Elliot and I bring two different aspects of the game to the table. Hopefully, we can reach an accord to the point where we can continue to do so.”

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On the morning after Oregon’s 38-20 Rose Bowl defeat, Coach Rich Brooks’ mood was still one of disappointment.

“We lined up against an undefeated Penn State team and had an opportunity to win the game,” he said. “We were in it. We were battling them. We went nose to nose with them. We didn’t get overwhelmed. We didn’t get dominated. In fact, there were periods of the game where we dominated them.

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“I probably need about a week or two to put it into a little perspective because I’m so disappointed right now.”

Brooks has three years left on his contract and he’s talking with school officials about an extension, but he knows the pressure will be on to succeed more often.

“The expectations are changed in our entire program and in the state and with our team,” he said. “They now know that we can play with anyone in the nation.”

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Idaho Coach John L. Smith was hired by Utah State, replacing Charlie Weatherbie, who left to become coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.


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