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Culpepper draft watch has begun

University of Central Florida coach Gene McDowell knew the time was coming. He just wanted to wait a little longer.

As the Golden Knights prepare to wrap up the season, heavy speculation has begun over the future of junior quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper, who has tantalized UCF fans and opposing defenses, is beginning to draw attention from college scouts and general managers.

The question: Will he turn pro?

"We are recommending to Daunte that he not get attached to any of those over-the-counter agents," McDowell said. "We would like to see him get with a high-profile, high-integrity type agent. He needs to get a good handle of what his projected draft position would be.

"If he thinks he's going to be a first-round draft pick, then he's gone, and he would have my blessing."

Culpepper has been brilliant all season. Saturday, in a 45-41 loss to Northeast Louisiana, the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder passed for 385 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 95 yards and a touchdown.

"He was spectacular," McDowell said. "This guy has a high level of talent and is such a fierce competitor. The loss does not diminish what he was able to do."

McDowell said that after talking with scouts and NFL general managers, he thought it was less likely Culpepper would enter the draft.

"I don't want to speak for Daunte, but based on what I have seen, it's less likely," McDowell said. "Daunte still has some things to learn, and he knows it. Right now I don't think he's emerging as a first-round guy."

"Playing in the NFL is always one of my dreams, but I would be selling my team short if I start thinking about that," Culpepper said. "As of now, I plan to be here next year."

MORE HARDWARE: The accolades continue to pile up for Culpepper. Tuesday, he was named to the 1997 American Football Coaches Association Good Works Teams. The two 11-man teams honor players for their commitment to community service. They are composed of players from Divisions I-A, I-AA, II, III and NAIA.

Along with Culpepper, a number of well-known Division I prospects were named, including Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning and Miami quarterback Ryan Clement.

TACKLING THE PROBLEMS: Jermaine Benoit's numbers are outstanding for someone playing defensive end, but the UCF coaching staff has gotten used to it. Benoit, a senior end and a product of Hillsborough High in Tampa, is redefining his position as a down lineman.

Benoit, a co-captain, leads the team in tackles with 90. With two games left, the 6-foot-3, 240 pounder has a chance to become the second player in school history to record 100 tackles as a down lineman. In 1983, Darryl Rudd had 153.

"You just don't see guys with hands on the ground making those kind of tackles," McDowell said. "When your hand is on the ground, then you are certain at least half of the tackles are going to go on the other side. That's why linebackers usually lead in tackles. They are moving from side to side."

WHO'S THE MAN?: Facing a fourth and goal from the 8, there was no question what Bethune-Cookman was going to do. It was going to go for it, and they were going to put the ball in the hands of their leading receiver.

James Adderley's 8-yard touchdown reception with 19 seconds left gave B-CC a 26-25 win over North Carolina A&T, lifted the Wildcats to a 4-4 record, snapped a 15-game Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference losing streak and avenged a 73-7 beating at the hands of the Aggies one year ago.

"I just ran the route, and the ball came my way," Adderley said. "It was fourth down, and there was no way we were going to lose to those guys. Coach (Alvin Wyatt) said he wanted to go to the best man, and I made the catch."

The win was particularly gratifying for the Wildcats, who thought N.C. A&T had tried to humiliate them last year by running up the score.

"We talked about that all a lot," Adderley said. "We were focused on the fact that they treated us like dogs over there."