Originally created 08/28/99

College notes: Former walk-on now a starter



From walk-on to practice fodder to the starting tight end on the No. 1 college football team in the country.

That's the path Lakeside High graduate Ryan Sprague has taken for Florida State. The 6-foot-4 1/2 , 244-pound redshirt junior will start at tight end for the Seminoles today in the season opener against Louisiana Tech (5 p.m., ESPN2).

Sprague has been a fullback, center and tight end during his four seasons in Tallahassee. He beat out Nick Franklin, who was the starter coming out of spring drills.

"It's not so much what Nick hasn't done but what Ryan did during the preseason," Seminoles tight end coach John Lilly said. "He's performed real well for us and Nick had a great preseason. So I think it's a great situation for us."

Another area product, Aiken's Jamal Reynolds, will start at defensive end. The junior was the MVP of spring drills, based mainly on his pass rush.

SAVANNAH STATE:

New Savannah State tailback Troy Hambrick is not expected to suit up for today's 5:30 p.m., opener at home against Elizabeth City State, but probably will play on Sept. 4 against Bethune-Cookman.

Hambrick was kicked off the team at the University of South Carolina by coach Lou Holtz for breaking team rules.

"Life is full of obstacles and if you fall, the strong get up," Hambrick said. "I almost let my dreams go, but that would have made South Carolina happy. They would have said, `See, we let a quitter go."'

The 6-foot-1, 233-pound tailback ran for 1,586 yards (18th-best career yardage in Gamecock history) and 14 touchdowns in three seasons.

Savannah State's attack will led today by quarterback Jermaine Brooks, a Josey High graduate.

MIDDLE GEORGIA:

When Middle Georgia plays at Kilgore, Texas, tonight, Tonya Butler is expected to become the first female kicker for a Georgia college.

VALDOSTA STATE:

Lincoln County High graduate Kenn Barnett will be the starting punter for Valdosta State when the Blazers play host to Albany State tonight at 7.

Barnett, a freshman, also will be the No. 3 quarterback.

"He's made some tremendous strides since he's been here," Valdosta State coach Mike Kelly said. "The last couple of years we had to throw freshmen quarterbacks into the game who were talented but maybe not ready. I don't want to do that to Kenn."

Eugene Dorsey of Augusta, who had six interceptions for 124 yards last season, will start at defensive back for Albany State.