Originally created 01/01/00

Comparisons to Warrick don't faze Miami's Moss



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The next Peter Warrick doesn't mind the comparison -- just as long as people understand he thinks he's on that level already.

The next Peter Warrick doesn't think about winning the Heisman Trophy in 2000. As a matter of fact, he asked that his name be left off those weekly Heisman Watches.

The next Peter Warrick knows that agents will bird-dog him, the media will have him under intense scrutiny and hangers-on will try to take advantage of him. Bring it on, he says. He thinks he has the strength of mind to handle it.

Santana Moss worries only about what he is capable of doing for the University of Miami, whether it's catching passes or returning kicks.

Being compared to Warrick, Florida State's All-American wide receiver, and being touted as the early front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in 2000 are peripheral issues for the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Miami native.

Competing for a national championship next season is the only long-range goal Moss has, a quest that begins with the short-term goal of helping the Hurricanes (8-4) beat Georgia Tech (8-3) in the 54th Toyota Gator Bowl Classic today at Alltel Stadium.

In a game that promises to be an offensive shootout, Moss is one of the most dangerous weapons for the Hurricanes. With a team-best 4.3 time in the 40-yard dash, and ghostly moves that leave tacklers grasping air, the fleet junior led Miami with 54 receptions for 899 yards and six touchdowns this season, moving him to third on the school's career yardage list (1,788) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (14).

Moss added a 14.2 average per punt return, with two touchdowns. He was on the All-Big East first team as a receiver, on the second team as a returner, and was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the best wide receiver in the nation.

Opponents fear the embarrassment of a Moss open-field juke. Teammates are relieved he's on their side.

"It's the speed," said Georgia Tech cornerback Travares Tillman. "His overall speed is great, and that's going to give any defender problems. He makes good cuts. He's just a complete receiver."

"There's nothing anyone can do to stop Santana," said Miami cornerback Markese Fitzgerald. "He's going to make big plays when he gets the ball in his hands."

To that praise, Moss shyly ducks his head and wonders about the fuss. To him, highlight reel plays are simply his job.

"I want to go out and have a good game, then have a great off-season and work my behind off," he said. "My senior year is my last chance to go out and do my thing and be prepared for whatever happens."

What may happen is that Moss escapes the comparisons that have been made to Warrick the past two years -- especially since the Florida State star is playing in his final game next week at the Sugar Bowl -- and does what Warrick couldn't do, win the Heisman.

There are those who think that since Moss is at Warrick's level now, he will be a viable candidate for college football's most prestigious award.

"He's such a gifted athlete that having him on your side is such a great advantage for you," said backup quarterback Ken Dorsey, who will see time today. "He has the potential to be as good, if not better than Peter Warrick, if he isn't already."

Moss doesn't mind being compared to Warrick, but he wouldn't mind being judged on his own abilities.

"He has things he can do that I can't, and I have things I do that he can't," Moss said. "We're both great athletes who have a chance to score every time we touch the ball."

And Heisman hopes? Moss professes not to care, but he said if he does have a chance to win the award, he will avoid the pitfalls that came Warrick's way, when a highly visible brush with the legal system cost him the famous stiff-armed trophy.

"I haven't really looked at (being a Heisman favorite)," Moss said. "I want to play well each week, and if I do that, there might be Heisman possibilities. I know there will be people who will try to take advantage of me, but that's life. You can be sitting at home, and someone will try to take advantage of you. My father (Lloyd Moss) taught me from day one to be on my Ps and Qs, and watch out for someone trying to get the better of you. He said there will always be someone trying to take something they don't have from you."

The problem with that, is they have to catch Moss first.