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Auburn

The play that put Auburn ahead for good in its 27-17 win over Florida on Oct. 14 won an award Monday night.

The Tigers' blocked punt Oct 14 won the Pontiac Game Changing Performance play of the year, as voted on by fans of college football. The winner was announced at halftime of the BCS Championship Game.

The win means Pontiac will donate to Auburn a $100,000 scholarship contribution.

"Everybody's been texting, calling," said Auburn defensive back Jerraud Powers, a former Decatur High standout.

Powers played a huge role in the play. He blocked Eric Wilbur's punt, and teammate Tre Smith picked up the loose ball, returning it 15 yards for a touchdown and 18-17 lead.

"It was something we'd been working on all week," Powers said. "Felt like we had a big chance to make a play. We were confident we could block it."

Powers, who watched Monday night's game with friends in Auburn, said he felt like Auburn had a good chance at winning the award.

"Everybody kept telling me that they were going to vote like a billion times," Powers said. "I felt like we were going to be close to getting it."
As for the championship game, in the third quarter with Florida leading 34-14, Powers said, "Florida's showing people that the SEC is fast. Ohio State is having a big time trying to figure out Florida's speed."

Bradley Handwerger,
Daily Sports Writer

LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. — JaMarcus Russell will announce Wednesday whether he is entering the NFL draft.

LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette said Monday that university officials were helping Russell set up the announcement, but labeled as "premature" recent reports that the quarterback had already decided to turn pro.

"I don't think he's made his mind up yet. People are jumping the gun," Bonnette said. "He still has a couple days to think things through and make the best decision for himself and his family."

ESPN.com reported Sunday that Russell was entering the draft.

At 6-foot-6, 257 pounds, Russell has imposing physical stature for a quarterback and would likely be a first-round draft pick.

Russell threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl last week in LSU's rout of Notre Dame.

If Russell turns pro, he would end his LSU career with 6,525 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons. He was a full-time starter to past two years.

Were Russell to remain in school, the Mobile native would begin next season as a leading Heisman Trophy candidate and help strengthen the Tigers' chances to contend for a national championship.

Georgia Tech

ATLANTA — For Calvin Johnson, this was a no-brainer.

Georgia Tech's star receiver announced Monday that he will give up his senior season to enter the NFL draft, fully aware that he should be one of the top players selected.

Even his parents, who are adamant that he get his college degree, knew there was no use putting off the pros any longer.

"It's one of those situations where he's got to maximize the moment," Calvin Johnson Sr. said. "These opportunities don't come along very often. He made the right decision for himself. He didn't feel a lot of pressure from us."

Almost from the day he stepped on campus, the younger Johnson was expected to last only three seasons with the Yellow Jackets. It was immediately clear that he was a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), athleticism and hand-eye coordination.

He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and has a 45-inch vertical leap — a combination that makes him difficult to defend.

"I think the sky's the limit," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "He has all the tangible factors to be a great, great player. He has all the intangible factors to be a great, great player."

Johnson was so confident that he didn't bother checking with the NFL advisory panel that rates the potential of juniors who are considering whether to enter the draft. This guy is a first-rounder all the way — it's just a matter of how soon his name is called.

"The NFL has been a dream of mine," he said. "That's where I've wanted to be since I started playing football."

Johnson closed his college career this season by catching 76 passes for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was chosen to The Associated Press All-America team and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.

Southern California

LOS ANGELES — An autopsy was performed on Southern California kicker Mario Danelo on Monday, and the coroner's office said it could be six to eight weeks before the cause of death is determined.

The medical examiner is awaiting toxicology results that would detect the presence of any alcohol or drugs the system of the 21-year-old player, the son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo.

Foul play has been ruled out. Danelo's body was found Saturday about 120 feet down a rocky cliff in San Pedro, not far from the family home, police said.

"There's no crime," Los Angeles Police Dept. officer Mike Lopez said Sunday. "It was either an accident or a suicide."

Danelo made 15 of 16 field goals this season and led the Trojans in scoring with 89 points.

Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich expects to move quickly to replace coach Bobby Petrino, who left the program Sunday to become coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Jurich said the list of potential candidates was "very short" but did not identify any specific coaches.

"I'm going to rely on my gut a lot," Jurich said. "I want somebody that's gotten a proven track record. I'm not going to talk about those names."

Jurich met with Louisville players Monday to assure them a coach would be hired quickly.

"The main message was just to trust him," said center Eric Wood. "He said in the next couple days he'd like to have us all looking our new coach in the eye."

The Louisville Athletic Association Board of Directors' personnel committee has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday at 3 p.m. in case a candidate is selected. Any new hire must be approved by the committee. Sports information director Kenny Klein said Jurich will be interviewing candidates on Tuesday and the meeting could be pushed back if a finalist is not selected.

Miami

MIAMI — Miami Hurricanes outside linebacker Jon Beason has decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Beason led the Hurricanes with 91 tackles this season. He's projected to be taken in the first three rounds of the April draft.

New Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon earlier lost another junior, tight end Greg Olsen, who decided last week to turn pro.

Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Alan Branch is skipping his senior season at Michigan to enter the NFL draft, delivering a blow to the Wolverines a week after they lost the Rose Bowl.

The 6-foot-6, 311-pound defensive tackle, a second-team All-American, is projected as a first-round pick in April's draft.

"It's always been a childhood dream for me, but it was surprising how tough of a decision it was," Branch said Monday.

Branch took advantage of a service the NFL offers to draft-eligible players who are not seniors, and the league gave him good news.

"I got my grade back and it said I was a solid first-rounder — middle to late first round — and it really did reinforce everything I've been hearing," he said.

"It didn't really have that much pull in my decision, but it made me that much more confident."

The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
AP contributed to this report.

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