Originally created 05/12/02

Screven's Cooper is high on Richt's list



What happens if Musa Smith isn't healthy?

That's the biggest question facing Georgia coach Mark Richt as he enters his second season. One option is Screven County's Michael Cooper, who signed with the Bulldogs in February.

The health of Smith, who missed time during the fall and spring with a chronic groin injury, will determine how much action Cooper sees as a freshman.

But one thing is for sure, according to Richt: Cooper will play this year.

"I've got a feeling he will be productive for us this season," Richt said of Cooper, who rushed for a school-record 2,352 yards and 38 touchdowns last season. "I don't foresee trying to redshirt him. We have no intention of waiting a year to see what he can do."

Richt isn't just impressed with Cooper's work on the field. Cooper was an honor student while amassing 5,086 yards and 64 touchdowns during his prep career.

"He seems to be a very mature young man," Richt said. "He's got character, intelligence in the classroom and physical ability. Those kind of guys have got a chance to help you as freshmen."

OPENING HOLES: Most Auburn fans are wondering whether Daniel Cobb or Jason Campbell will start at quarterback in 2002. Whoever it is, Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville is just hoping to take some pressure off his starting signal-caller.

Tuberville said the offense wasn't consistent last season in short-yardage situations, which led to struggles inside opponents' 20-yard line.

"We're going to be a little more physical and run some more two-back schemes," said Tuberville, who welcomes back 18 starters from last year's 7-5 squad.

SALES PITCH: In terms of in-state recruiting, Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser is already doing what Dave Odom couldn't.

Prosser, in his second year leading the Demon Deacons, recently drew commitments from highly touted point guard Chris Paul (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and forward Todd Hendley (Sanford).

Paul is regarded as the state's best prospect, and he chose Wake over two schools - North Carolina and N.C. State - that traditionally beat the Demon Deacons on the recruiting trail during Odom's 12 years as coach there before Prosser's arrival. Odom is now the coach at South Carolina.

Prosser has already signed Eric Williams, a McDonald's All-American from Wake Forest, N.C., who will be a freshman for the Deacons this fall.

"We aren't the University of North Carolina at Winston-Salem," Prosser told the News & Observer of Raleigh. "We are a small private school with big-time academics and big time athletics."

COSTLY DECISION: Memphis might be Rashaad Carruth's quickest route to NBA riches, but it's not the cheapest.

Carruth, who was released from his scholarship to Kentucky after his freshman season, indicated last week that he plans to attend Memphis. Problem is, the Tigers don't have a scholarship to give him. That means Carruth's family might be forced to pay the tab for him until one becomes available.

Carruth, who frequently complained that he didn't get enough shots last season, could also attend junior college for a year before joining the Tigers.

Linzy Davis, Carruth's AAU coach, said Carruth is determined to take a route similar to that of DaJuan Wagner, who recently declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman season at Memphis.

"He is willing to pay his own way," Davis told the Herald-Leader of Lexington, Ky. "He is determined. He has a long-term goal."

Carruth played for Davis at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta two years ago.

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.