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South Florida Bulls-Syracuse Orange features two starting quarterbacks who have also played major-college basketball

USF assistant football coach Mike Canales sat in the bleachers and watched B.J. Daniels as a high school senior and knew he was seeing something special.

"You could see his quickness, how he handled himself with the ball," the Bulls' offensive coordinator said. "It was quite exciting. What I wanted to watch was the intangibles, the characteristics you look for in a winner. I saw a kid who managed his players, who got them up to play."

Canales was describing Daniels as a basketball guard whose actions reinforced what the coach had seen on the football field months earlier in Tallahassee.

Now USF's starting quarterback, Daniels prepares to face a more prominent point guard, Greg Paulus, who starred for Duke before becoming Syracuse's quarterback this year.

Their meeting today at the Carrier Dome matches a rare pair who have also played major-college basketball. Daniels, who averaged 27 points as a senior at Tallahassee's Lincoln High, played sparingly as a walk-on for USF last season; Paulus was a three-year starter for Duke.

"If you're a good point guard, you can be a good quarterback," said former FSU two-sport standout Charlie Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 and then played 11 years in the NBA. "It's knowing what to do with the ball. I think they both help each other. A point guard's mind-set is the same: reading defenses, recognizing where plays are and understanding the game as it happens."

There aren't many Charlie Wards these days, especially at high-profile positions such as quarterback.

"It's very tough, and it takes a person who's committed to both sports and not going to base their future on one or the other," said Ward, now retired and coaching high school football in Texas.

Like Ward with FSU, one reason Daniels, 19, chose USF was the Bulls' willingness to let him play both sports. He left Jim Leavitt's football team after the regular-season finale last year, switching to basketball before the bowl game. He played in 19 games off the bench, totaling 10 points.

Paulus played both sports in high school but gave up football for basketball at Duke. After getting his undergraduate degree and with one year of eligibility left, he enrolled in graduate school at Syracuse to return to a sport that five of his brothers played in college.

"There is nothing like playing football," Paulus told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month. "I did miss it. … At the same time, I wouldn't change my experience at all with Duke, playing for Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski). To have a second opportunity to do both sports at the highest level is something I feel blessed to have."

Despite a four-year absence from football, Paulus, 23, has led Syracuse to a 2-2 start and drawn respect from the USF coaches challenged to stop him.

"He's a winner," defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said. "(The Orange's) demeanor — if you look at them on tape compared to the last couple of years, are they improved? Absolutely. But I think having a young man like that in his position with his presence of leadership and the success he's had on the basketball court, parlaying that to the football field is paying dividends for them right now."

Paulus, 6 feet 1, 195 pounds, has thrown for 888 yards in four games, completing 68.4 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He came back to football after a friend on Duke's team asked him to throw him passes as the receiver worked out for NFL scouts. Paulus looked solid and found an NCAA rule allowing him to transfer and use his final year of eligibility for football.

"I think it's one of the best stories of the year," said Duke assistant basketball coach Steve Wojciechowski, a former Blue Devils guard. "(Paulus has) always been one to seek out challenges, to test his limits. One advantage he's had is he's played on as big a stage as you can play on. He's dealt with the publicity, the scrutiny, knowing you're taking everybody's best shot every time you face them."

Leavitt said he has never coached a college basketball player at quarterback and can't remember facing one, but he said he can appreciate the parallels.

"Your ball skills, your feet, your leadership — you've got to lead a basketball team, and that's certainly what Paulus has done," Leavitt said. "As far as B.J., anyone who can play basketball the way he does is a heck of an athlete."

If Paulus is more of a distributor, less likely to run with the ball, Daniels is the football equivalent of a combo guard, a threat to distribute the ball and to score. Facing Daniels in practice has prepared the Bulls for all kinds of top quarterbacks.

Linebacker Sam Barrington said, "In my opinion, you don't get too much more mobile than B.J. Daniels."

South Florida Bulls-Syracuse Orange features two starting quarterbacks who have also played major-college basketball 10/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 2, 2009 11:45pm]
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