Gruden, Nolan work by the numbers

Updated: January 24, 2007, 12:16 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

MOBILE, Ala. -- North head coach Jon Gruden of Tampa Bay and South head coach Mike Nolan of San Francisco share a problem -- they don't know who is playing for them yet. Nolan, at his news conference Tuesday, pleaded with reporters to give him the uniform numbers and schools of the players they asked about (the players are wearing their school helmets).

They had some chance of knowing the names of the players who are here. Gruden, asked about the replacements for injured tailback Garrett Wolfe (hamstring) of Northern Illinois and tight end Clark Harris (toe) of Rutgers, didn't even try. The new tailback, he said with a grin that threw itself upon the mercy of the media, is "the young man from Kansas State." The tight end, he said, "is from the University of Delaware. I don't know his name."

They would be Thomas Clayton and Ben Patrick, respectively.

"I'm making a lot of new friends at this point," Gruden said. He got the laugh he was looking for.

I Think You Know My Son

When San Diego Chargers assistant coach James Lofton arrived at the Mobile airport, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn was leaving. Lofton walked over and introduced himself.

"My son sacked you this year," Lofton said.

"Number 6, right?" Quinn asked.

Lofton nodded and they shared a laugh. Stanford safety David Lofton, No. 6, did sack Quinn this year, but the Irish beat the Cardinal, 31-10.

What A Rush

Mississippi State coach Sly Croom stopped by the South practice Tuesday afternoon "to see old friends," he said. Croom's daughter lives in Mobile, so he's always looking for an excuse to come. He stopped his chatting to watch his 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive end, Antonio Johnson, line up against Auburn guard Tim Duckworth in a drill.

Johnson jumped into the neutral zone.

"Don't jump offside," Croom said, "like I told you a thousand times!"

Johnson got back into position. At the snap, he powered through the 6-3, 304-pound Duckworth like Duckworth wasn't there. Croom beamed.

"That boy can rush the passer now," he said.

Almost Perfect

LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe has made an impression with his size, speed and hands this week. Midway through the South practice Tuesday, Bowe made an outstanding catch at the sideline, tipping the ball, catching it and managing to get one foot down inbounds before he tumbled over the sideline. You have to hope the memory of that play will overpower the last play of the day. Bowe, five yards behind the defense, got both hands on a perfect post throw from Houston's Kevin Kolb -- and couldn't hold it.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com