Originally created 08/17/97

College notebook: Ward not bothered by `Playboy' pick

Hines Ward says his mom already knows everything about it.

When Georgia's "Mr. Versatile" was named to Playboy's 1997 preseason All-America team, he didn't try to hide the fact from his mom.

"At first, she thought I'd be posing naked," said Ward, who caught 52 passes for 900 yards and five touchdowns last year. "Then she realized what was happening and went along with it."

Ward was notified of the selection last spring and was flown to Phoenix for pictures with the rest of the team, which will be announced in next month's issue.

"It was a great trip, but there wasn't any bunnies or models out there," Ward said. "It was great hanging out with some of the guys, especially Peyton Manning. He's a great guy. We went on a recruiting trip to Tennessee together and have been friends ever since."

As for letting his mom see the article, Ward said: "Oh, I think it'll be all right. She's a grown lady. She knows what Playboy is."

HELPING OUT: Jason Cox (Strom Thurmond) has been one of four freshmen offensive linemen pressed into service for South Carolina.

Cox, 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, has seen time at right tackle and guard, while Todd Davis (6-5, 280), Kevin Rivers (6-4, 290) and Melvin Paige (6-6, 320) have seen considerable practice time.

USC offensive line coach Mark Salva and offensive line coordinator John Zernhelt have been forced to call on those freshmen because of incidents involving several veterans.

Cox knew he might contribute this season. But he's surprised when he looks around and sees so many classmates being prepared for backup duty.

"I'm still trying to adjust, because it's a different competition level here," Cox said. "You come here, and everybody is bigger, stronger, faster, and they know what's going on. I'm just a freshman who is trying to learn everything. It's hectic."

Sophomore Jason Thomas left the team, and seniors Reggie Baker, a projected starter, and Jesse Washington missed practices with injuries and heat exhaustion.

NO FAVORS: Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary's youngest son, Marty O'Leary, is a freshman defensive back with the Yellow Jackets this fall, but don't expect any favoritism.

"If Marty sees action this year, we've got some problems," O'Leary joked.

With depth at its best level in his three years at Tech, O'Leary said he'd be surprised if more than two or three freshmen play this year. One of them could be fullback Ed Wilder (Washington-Wilkes).

"My first year here, we played 12 freshmen," O'Leary said. "Last year, it was six. If any play this year, they're going to have to beat out some good players."

GONE: Georgia freshman offensive lineman Matt Sorrells has been medically disqualified from athletic participation because of a neck condition discovered during preseason physicals.

During his physical the Georgia medical staff evaluated a neck injury Sorrells sustained at Winder-Barrow High, and further diagnostic testing revealed a condition known as cervical sterosis, a narrowing of the spinal cord.

Sorrells, who is 6-6 and 235 pounds, will remain on scholarship and help with the football program.

POOCH PUNTS: Chad Barnhardt, the No. 2 quarterback at South Carolina last year, could start on South Florida's first-ever team. Barnhardt, a junior, played in all 11 of USC's games last year and threw for 89 yards. His main competition comes from Lance Hoeltke, who threw for 1,570 yards and nine touchdowns at Austin Peay last year. ... Swainsboro's Chris Williams, a 300-pound junior offensive tackle at West Georgia, is being touted as a potential Division II All-America. ... Troy Tolbert (Josey) is the No. 2 strong safety on Georgia Tech's depth chart. Tolbert, a redshirt freshman who has added 15 pounds and now weighs 201, is listed behind sophomore Travares Tillman. Tillman played in nine games and started against Georgia last year.


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