Beavers' Jaquizz Rodgers dodges media, tacklers


The word from Corvallis is that Jacquizz Rodgers is a busy guy who doesn't get all that excited about interviews. At least that's the word an Oregon State media relations department official offered Monday.

I have no idea what Rodgers thinks. My guess is, he was never asked.

Although for someone who supposedly doesn't enjoy tape recorders, he sure seems to get quoted a lot.

Maybe he doesn't even know he's so busy and doesn't like to talk. I could see that.

It's doubtful, though, that Rodgers' mouth moves faster than his legs, which is by far the most worrisome trait UNLV should own entering tonight's game against the Beavers at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Blink. You missed him.

It's the emotion those asked to tackle Rodgers must feel often. The sophomore running back is listed at 5 feet 7 inches, 191 pounds, a Lilliputian in shoulder pads making giants look foolish.

"He is really good," Southern California coach Pete Carroll said. "He has his own style -- great instincts, hunting, pecking, finding soft spots among all those big bodies. He is small enough that you lose him, and then he has the burst to accelerate."

The most celebrated back to oppose a Mike Sanford-coached team at UNLV introduced himself to the country against Carroll's Pac-10 monster last season, when Rodgers went for 186 yards and two touchdowns and the Beavers cut down the Trojans' national championship hopes like a logger working overtime.

Rodgers missed most of the final three games with a shoulder injury and still became the first freshman to earn conference Offensive Player of the Year honors with 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns. You can be sure those who design schemes for UNLV are concerned.

You can be sure they have every right.

The Rebels haven't been all that good against the pass or run during Sanford's tenure, and now get to defend the kid who set a state record for touchdowns in the prep football mecca that is Texas.

He rushed for 2,902 yards and 43 scores as a senior and had 41 career high school games of 100 yards or more. I'm guessing ''Friday Night Lights' '' Smash Williams couldn't even equal those numbers, even with Tim Riggins blocking while shouting "Texas Forever!" before each snap.

Very good backs like Gartrell Johnson of Colorado State have had their way with the Rebels in recent times. So have solid ones like Rodney Ferguson of New Mexico. Heck, the borderline junior college skill that is Sacramento State seemed to figure out UNLV's run defense for stretches last week.

Tonight, however, UNLV gets a look at a level different from very good and solid. Try great.

"I'll tell you who he reminds me of," Sanford said of Rodgers. "He's one of those guys that when he gets the ball, everybody's like this (stops breathing). Napoleon Kaufman when he was at Washington. Very similar speed. Very similar quickness. Very similar feeling when he gets the ball -- dynamic, exciting.

"And I think another thing is you've got to play fast, because he's fast."

So is his brother. There is no word on whether junior wide receiver James Rodgers also has a schedule busier than a plumber in December, but he too apparently isn't big on the ol' question-and-answer concept and is also catch-me-if-you-can fast.

Anyone for 42-35 tonight?

Could happen. Oregon State is hardly thought a sure bet against the pass, and UNLV has, under quarterback Omar Clayton, moved the ball against most everyone in the last 10 games he started.

There aren't many teams on Oregon State's schedule with better wide receivers than what UNLV features. You could see the referee's arms raised a lot in this one.

You could also see often a small figure darting this way and that, hunting here, pecking there, searching for a glimmer of light inside a cave of much larger figures, finding one and accelerating into open space.

Maybe that busy schedule of Jacquizz Rodgers' has something to do with hiking in the forests or visiting the local Farmers Market or snapping photos of a covered bridge. I'm not really sure.

I am about this: UNLV will have its hands full tonight with a Lilliputian in shoulder pads.

"He has the talent to be one of those guys who is just very, very productive," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "Ability. Intelligence. A tremendous competitor."

No matter if he is made available to chat or not.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at 702-383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. on "The Sports Scribes" on KDWN-AM (720) and www.infernosportsradio.com.

 

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