Bush 'in a class by himself'

Originally Published: November 3, 2004
By Ted Miller | Special to ESPN.com

The most explosive player in college football is Reggie Bush. The best player in the country wears No. 5 for USC.

But don't take our word for it.

Take Kirk Herbstreit's, because he issued the preceding proclamation on ESPN's College GameDay.

Beautiful coeds with exposed bellybuttons toss their underwear at Herbstreit while he's trying to provide such trenchant analysis on live television every Saturday, so his opinions are not to be trifled with. Of course, he's hardly alone.

Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush is a threat to go all the way any time he gets the ball.
Who is college football's ultimate weapon? Should the issue even be debated?

"(Bush) is in a class by himself," Stanford coach Buddy Teevens said.

Bruce Feldman, however, is backing Oklahoma's fab freshman tailback Adrian Peterson. According to the blurb in Feldman's immensely readable book, "'Cane Mutiny," which details the rise of Miami football, the ESPN The Magazine senior writer has "earned mention in three consecutive editions of 'The Best American Sportswriting'." He also has written for Maxim and Playboy.

Feldman's accomplishments frighten and confuse me. I am just a shlep sportswriter who has stared at articles and read pictures in Maxim and Playboy. My primitive mind can't grasp the words to counter his eloquence. But I do know one thing.

"There isn't anything that (Bush) can't do," Washington coach Keith Gilbertson said. "Every time that he has the ball in his hands, you are going to be nervous because he is remarkable."

Peterson might be the best freshman tailback of our generation; who cares if he's caught only three passes for six yards? It's impressive that his rushing statistics almost match California's J.J. Arrington, who's scored three more touchdowns in one less game and averages nearly a yard more per carry.

Both Bush and Peterson have impressive numbers. But here's the most telling: 172.

That's the number of combined starts for Oklahoma's top six offensive linemen, three of whom are three-year starters. Bush's linemen, including two sophomores and a freshman, have combined for 55 starts. According to this calculator, that means the Sooners are 3.13-times more experienced up front than the Trojans. So before we compose operas and epic poems for Peterson, perhaps we should wait and see what he does when he's not following five red Sherman Tanks every play?

As for Bush, one gets the feeling the sophomore could just tell the other 10 Trojans to grab a soda and some popcorn and watch him to his thing.

"He's never out of the play," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "No matter how bleak it looks, no matter how much you have him surrounded."

Bush has accounted for 12 touchdowns this year: four rushing, six receiving, one on a punt return and another on a 52-yard touchdown pass (yeah, one he threw). He averages 5.2 yards per rush and 9.3 yards per touch. He's produced 19 plays over 20 yards this season, and scored 19 touchdowns in 21 career games.

He's sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards (171.63) and tied with Miami's Devin Hester for breaking the most ankles during punt and kick returns.

"He's the best player we've faced," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.

Peterson is an outstanding running back who makes defenses nervous, but at least they know where he'll be. Bush forces opposing coaches to change fundamental aspects of their defenses and special teams.

A defender must go on Bush Patrol, perhaps the worst job in college football. He becomes the Spy Who Was Left Out in the Cold. Bush, who runs a 10.4 100 meters, isn't easy to follow.

"They put him everywhere," Tedford said. "You try to stay out of many one on one situations with him. He is so talented that any one on one situation, he is going to win."

And woe to the team that uses a linebacker for that task. Anyone notice how well that worked for Virginia Tech? Bush caught five passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns.

Game film -- the sort coaches watch with religious zeal -- also reveals a unique Bush statistic: decoy efficiency. Repeatedly watching Bush, without the football, attracting the obsessive attention of one, two or even three players, while another Trojan prances untouched into the end zone on the opposite side of the field has some Pac-10 coaches putting Dr. Kevorkian on their speed dial.

"His versatility is just a killer," Oregon State coach Mike Riley lamented. "It's very disruptive. The matchup problem is huge."

Did you see avuncular Washington State coach Bill Doba getting on his punter last weekend for kicking to Bush? Kyle Basler has a huge foot, but the plan was to not -- under any circumstances -- kick the ball to Bush.

That whoops moment turned into a 57-yard touchdown scamper.

"He changes your whole kicking game," Doba groused.

Bush changes everything. He's nicknamed "The President," but he doesn't need to be elected, nor is there any reason for a debate.

Ultimate weapons stage their own coups every Saturday.

"I don't care what formation they're in," Gilbertson said. "You better know where No. 5 is. OK?"

Ted Miller covers the Pac-10 for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Ted Miller | email

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