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PAUL WOODY: 'Wronged' rookie seeks Skins role


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Quest for vindication

'Wronged' rookie seeks Skins role

BY PAUL WOODY

TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Aug 28, 2003

http://www.timesdispatch.com/sports/MGBM3AO4WJD.html

Even without having met him, you know Sultan McCullough.

You see him every summer.

McCullough is a rookie running back on the Washington Redskins' roster, but there is a Sultan (pronounced Su-tan) McCullough in every team's training camp.

McCullough is the "wronged" player. He was the misunderstood col- lege player. His gripe is that he was a victim of coaching changes, of bad publicity or of a coach's favoritism toward another player, or all three.

Sometimes, the "wronged" player really has been done wrong. Often, the problem is a mixture of factors.

None of that matters now for McCullough, 23. What matters is what he does tonight. McCullough has had a solid preseason, leads the team in rushing with 95 yards and a 4.8 yards-per-carry average and has caught the eye of the coaches with his exceptional speed.

He will have his last chance in game action tonight to convince the coaches that he belongs on the final, 53-man roster.

The Redskins play their fourth and final preseason game tonight at Jacksonville against the Jaguars.

At the moment, McCullough is the No. 5 running back on a roster destined to have four running backs. He is not without hope, though. The Redskins might trade Kenny Watson or Ladell Betts. Or McCullough, 6-1 and 197 pounds, might play so well tonight that Redskins coach Steve Spurrier will decide he has to have him available for every game. Or, McCullough could get cut and wind up on the Redskins' practice squad or the roster of another team.

McCullough came to the preseason as a long shot even to become a practice-squad player. He was not drafted out of Southern California and said only two teams called seeking to sign him as a free agent.

"It came out that I was a bad person, that I wasn't coachable," McCullough said. "It was all negative."

McCullough is correct about that. Reading the draft reports on him is an eye-opening experience. Rarely do you find a player who made such a negative impression on the "experts."

"He's been fine since he's been here," Spurrier said. "No problems at all."

McCullough is bitter about the way his career ended at Southern California, and part of that is understandable. As a sophomore, he gained 1,163 yards on 227 carries (5.1 yards per carry). His junior season was cut short by an abdominal injury, and he went into his senior season slated to be the backup.

Justin Fargas, a McCullough rival during their high school careers in Southern California, made the unusual decision to leave Michigan after three years and play his senior season at Southern California. Fargas was No.1 on the depth chart through the preseason, only to suffer a hamstring injury before the season-opening game.

McCullough started instead and held the job for five games. Then Fargas took over.

McCullough still finished the season as the Trojans' leading rusher with 814 yards. On draft day, Fargas was taken in the third round by Oakland. No one took McCullough in any round.

"I played for two different head coaches and three different offensive coordinators," McCullough said. "A lot of people had different thoughts about me, but no one really knew me as a person."

One coach who did know McCullough was Hue Jackson, the Redskins' offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Jackson was an assistant at Southern California before joining the Redskins and had recruited McCullough for the Trojans.

"He has the ability to be a tough, between-the-tackles runner, and he has speed," Jackson said.

McCullough has sprinter's speed. He was eighth in the 100-meter dash, with a time of 10.38 in the NCAA championships in 2000, and ran a 10.17 in the semifinals. If he gets into the open field, no one is going to pull him down from behind. But he has to get there first.

"He needs someone to tell him where to go and what to do," Jackson said. "He will respond to that, if he believes in you."

McCullough believes he belongs in the NFL. In a few days, he'll find out if the Redskins share that opinion.

Contact Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444 or pwoody@timesdispatch.com.

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Tell you what -- this guy breaks off a couple nice runs tonight and doesn't lay it on the ground, and he's gonna have a spot on the active roster.

With Patrick only playing a couple series, and half the defense not scheduled to play, the Sultan / Watson Watch is the single biggest intriguing factor about this "game."

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Well then Let Hue Jackson make the decisions at RB. If he feels strongly enough that McCollough won't make it pass the waivers to the practice squad then find him a spot.

If he decides we shoud keep Watson and let McCollough go through waivers then so be it. Again, let Hue make the call.

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Here's to hoping Sultan doesn't leave any other choice but to leave him on the team.

I read his scouting reports. They read like a demon's resume. No joke. Reguardless, not getting drafted was probably the best thing that could have happened to him. Cut down his ego and it gave us a shot to get him.

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Of the group, I favor Kenny Watson, but that's mostly because a) I met him briefly in training camp at Carlisle and B) his run on 3rd and 6 in the second Dallas game basically won us the game.

What I fear the most (and what I secretly suspect) is that we've got 4-5 RBs, all of whom are sort of average.

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Originally posted by Cleotis

they should have given sultan some first string time to see how good he really is. i would let betts go. he really hasn't done much in my opinion and watson has done everything he has for cheaper.

I hope he starts tonight. Let Trung sit this one out and give Sultan the first half to show his stuff.

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If we seriously want to see what SM can do, we should start him in this game and leave him in for the first half. Let's see what he does against the opposing starters for the first couple of series and what he does against the primary backups afterwards.

It's interesting though, because if we're seriously shopping Kenny, then we'd want to showcase him to the extent possible.

I wonder how much we see tonight will tip us off as to the front office's plans for these guys . . .

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The idea that we should keep Betts just because he was a high draft choice is total bunk. If you replace him with an UDFA, what have you lost? Nothing but ego.

We could cut Betts and Watson and I would be just fine with it. If we get a draft pick for either, even better. Betts and Watson are average. Sultan has speed.

If we are truly building this team for Spurrier's O, then it's a no brainer.

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you can't hold ONE play against Watson forever :)

yeah, he short-armed the ball against Dallas on Thanksgiving allowing Williams to grab the INT, however the Skins had TWO quarters to come back from that mistake and still win the game :mad:

remember Earnest Byner?

the Browns fans never forgave him for the fumble against the Broncos.

the team then traded him to the Redskins where he went on to become a 2-time pro bowler and Super Bowl champion :D

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I like this guy. Don't know who to jettison.

With Ham and The Sultan in the backfield, say after an apocalypse of injuries, wouldn't you have this "man, something could happen here" feeling? Y'know like Warner or maybe Doug "I threw for more points in one quater in the SuperBowl than anybody ever" Williams.

Alternate scenerio...Woe-ful...where is the hope there?

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