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Early playing time does not equal instant gratification

Kevin Gorman
| Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Early playing time is often one of the ultimate factors for high school football players choosing a college, although the events that transpired early this week are proof that such a decision shouldn't be based on a school's two-deep chart:

  • Monday : After only one season, Cecil Howard leaves Syracuse with the intention of transferring to either Division I-AA Youngstown State or Division II Indiana (Pa.).

    At McKeesport, Howard was heralded as the best running quarterback in the nation after rushing for nearly 3,400 yards and 40 touchdowns in two seasons in the Tigers' triple-option Wishbone offense.

    When Howard chose Syracuse, it looked like the perfect fit. Butler's Troy Nunes and Woodland Hills' Madei Williams were battling for playing time, and neither had distinguished himself in the eyes of Orangemen coach Paul Pasqualoni.

    With visions of becoming the next Donovan McNabb, Howard committed in the spring of his junior year. Problem was, Syracuse isn't as committed to running the option as it once was, and Howard wasn't as adept in the passing game as he was in making deft play-action fakes and brilliant reads while on the run.

    Things changed for Howard when Williams transferred, Nunes was injured and sophomore R.J. Anderson emerged to lead Syracuse to seven victories in eight starts. With Anderson the starter, Nunes the backup and strong-armed freshman Perry Patterson of Lancaster McCaskey joining the mix this year, Howard bolted.

    In hindsight, Howard might have been better off at Nebraska, which is trying to replace Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch in its option-heavy attack.

  • Tuesday : After two seasons that turned out to be one big headache, Dustin Picciotti gave up on his injury-plagued career and left the Pitt football program.

    At Central Bucks West, Picciotti was regarded as the best fullback in the nation after rushing for 3,826 yards and 78 TDs in leading the Bucks to three consecutive undefeated seasons and PIAA Class AAAA championships.

    When Picciotti picked Pitt, it was hailed as a turning point for the program. Panthers coach Walt Harris promised that Picciotti would play strictly fullback and would not redshirt as a freshman, then held true to his pledge even when Picciotti suffered a concussion at the Big 33 Football Classic that haunted his career.

    Woodland Hills' Lousaka Polite, then an unproven redshirt freshman, was the only returning scholarship fullback on the depth charts. Another fullback recruit, Rick Razzano of Milford, Ohio, backed out of his commitment after Picciotti chose the Panthers.

    But effects from the concussion lingered throughout Picciotti's college career, which consisted of seven carries for 23 yards in eight games in 2000 and a redshirt season in 2001.

    Picciotti was slated to back up Polite when he told Panthers coach Walt Harris that he was finished. His departure leaves Pitt short at fullback and probably wondering what Razzano would have looked like in midnight blue and Vegas gold.

    Perhaps, Razzano, now at Ole Miss, is wondering the same thing.

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