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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Wake-Up Call: Paulus bringing brighter days for Orange

The Wake-Up Call greets you each weekday with news, views and a few Tampa Bay area sports offerings to anticipate for the day and night. We encourage suggestions and contributions. Good morning! In another life, Greg Paulus was point guard for Duke University's basketball program. As a freshman, he led the ACC in assists, often serving as triggerman for J.J. Redick's assault on the league's all-time scoring record. Paulus had 25 points in an NCAA Tournament game. He was a constant presence for college basketball fans, a household name.
And now, some six months after his final game for Coach Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils? Paulus, a graduate student, is starting quarterback for the Syracuse Orange (2-2), who host the University of South Florida Bulls (4-0) on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome. That is not a misprint. Neither is the T-shirt currently circulating around Syracuse's campus. The Devil Wears Orange. "I can't say enough about it, I really can't," said first-year Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. "I mean, he didn't even go through the spring with us. From August until now, it's really phenomenal what he has done." Some background: Paulus (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) was the Gatorade National Prep Football Player of the Year at Christian Brothers High School in Syracuse, drawing scholarship offers from Notre Dame to Miami. But the allure of playing for Coach K was too great. The chance to perform before the Cameron Crazies was a deal-breaker. So off he went. Duke never reached the Final Four during Paulus' tenure. In fact, he was replaced at point guard by Nolan Smith and started only five games as a senior. End of story? Actually, it triggered a new beginning. Paulus, who never lost his love for football or the interest in his hometown university, investigated an NCAA rule, which allows a student-athlete to use a fifth year of eligibility in a different sport if an academic reason can be demonstrated as a reason for the transfer. He considered Michigan, but admitted his heart was in Syracuse. Paulus enrolled at Syracuse's noted Newhouse School of Public Communications as a master's candidate in the television, radio and film program. The transfer was finalized and the plan was announced on May 14. Initially, it seemed like a publicity stunt, giving a nice angle to a historically great Syracuse program that had fallen on hard times. After a few weeks of training camp, Marrone realized that Paulus not only would contribute, he would be the starting quarterback. From Duke basketball to Syracuse football - in the blink of an eye. Not only that, but Paulus has breathed life into the recently moribund Syracuse program, getting the Orange to 2-2 heading into the Big East Conference schedule. In his third game, Paulus beat Northwestern 37-34 and passed for 346 yards - the sixth-highest single-game total in Syracuse history, a figure never achieved by the program's two best quarterbacks, Donovan McNabb and Don McPherson. "I know who Greg Paulus is, definitely, because I really love March Madness," USF linebacker Chris Robinson said. "He was a pretty good point guard. He's a pretty good quarterback. Am I surprised? Not really. "He was one of the top high-school quarterbacks coming out. When you have it, you don't lose it. You just have to remember it. It's like riding a bicycle. Hey, he's a playmaker. We've got to keep him contained." So far, Syracuse has done an excellent job of playing to Paulus' strengths. The Orange have emphasized efficiency, quick-hitting patterns, a conservative approach. Paulus has improved each week. "You've got realize he is really like a true freshman when it comes to football knowledge," USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said. "Now when it comes to his maturity and presence, that's a whole different level. "He's a winner. When you look at their demeanor on tape, it's completely different (from previous seasons). Are they improved? Absolutely. But I think having a young man like that, with his presence, leadership and the success he had on the basketball court, he has parlayed that onto the football field." Paulus has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 888 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. Utilizing his footwork and decision-making skills, he has been sacked just nine times in four games. So where's the comparison? Chris Weinke, who played minor-league baseball for six seasons then came to Florida State's football program, comes to mind. It has shades of Bo Jackson ("Bo Knows Football," blared the advertising campaign) and maybe a bit of Deion Sanders' multi-sport skills. But in another way, it's a Greg Paulus original, going from iconic basketball program to would-be savior of a previously struggling BCS football program. And in his hometown, to boot. "It's fun to have a kid like that in college football," said Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who faced Paulus in the first game, a 23-30 Golden Gopher overtime victory. "Because of the experiences he had at Duke, he's not going to be fazed by the Carrier Dome. He brings instant credibility as a winner into that locker room." It's a great story. It's also a short story. "I understand that there's not a lot of time here," Paulus told the Syracuse Post-Standard. "Having only one year here, there's only a certain amount of games you can play. I'm trying to take advantage of every practice, every meeting, every game. I'm going to make some mistakes, but I'm trying to learn from them so they only happen one time. "I'm using my experiences, whether that's high school, whether that's growing up, whether that's Duke, whatever that might be. I've tried to model things after people I look up to, whether that's a Peyton Manning for his work ethic or a Brett Favre for the way he plays the game and the passion and fun and everything he brings with his toughness. I may only be here for one year, but I'm trying to show guys maybe how to prepare, how to do a little bit extra or what needs to be done in order to have a little bit of success. I wanted to come back here and help the Syracuse football program."

The No. 4-ranked University of Tampa Spartans scored a three-set victory against No. 17 Florida Southern College, 25-20, 25-17, 25-18, in college volleyball on Wednesday night. UT (14-1, 5-0) was led by junior Melissa Vanderhall, who had 15 kills and hit .520 for the match. The Spartans host No. 23 Saint Leo (14-2, 5-0) on Saturday afternoon at 4 in another Sunshine State Conference match. UT's only loss this season came in four sets to No. 1-ranked Concordia, St. Paul during the Sept. 5 Colorado Premier Tournament.

Well, so much for easing into the college-basketball scene. University of North Carolina freshman John Henson (Sickles) is listed as the nation's fifth-best small forward, according to rankings by Lindy's College Basketball. Hey, just wait until he actually plays a game! Henson, a 6-foot-10 prep All-American selection, wasn't exactly anonymous. But with terms such as "future NBA lottery pick" and "the latest Tar Heel All-American-in-waiting" floating around, the expectations are especially high. Here are the top five small forwards, according to Lindy's: 1. Tasmin Mitchel, 6-7, Sr., LSU. 2. Tyler Smith, 6-7, Sr., Tennessee. 3. James Anderson, 6-6, Jr., Oklahoma State. 4. Devin Ebanks, 6-9, So., West Virginia. 5. John Henson, 6-10, Fr., North Carolina. When the Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-3 on Wednesday night for the team's 82nd victory - clinching the franchise's second winning record - Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had a classic remark during the postgame Sun Sports interview with Todd Kalas: "The fans should be charging the field right about now, huh?" Then Maddon got the obligatory shaving-cream-pie smashed into his ear by catcher Dioner Navarro. Before last season's American League championship, what would Rays fans have given for a winning record? But with higher expectations, a winning record will go relatively unnoticed. Florida Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan (East Lake) went 1-for-5 in Wednesday night's 5-4 victory against the Atlanta Braves, giving him 47 hits in September, which tied his own franchise record (Coghlan also had 47 hits in August). Coghlan, batting .318 overall, has twice compiled the most hits in a month by a National League rookie since Wally Moon of the St. Louis Cardinals had 52 in July 1954.

Tickets for the Outback Bowl, the Jan. 1 game matching teams from the SEC and Big Ten, go on sale today. They are $70 (plus a Ticketmaster service charge). For information, call (813) 287-8844 or (727) 898-2100. Six of the previous nine Outback Bowl games have been advance sellouts. For information on Outback Bowl priority membership, call (813) 874-BOWL or visit www.outbackbowl.com.

You won't hear any talk of television blackouts with the Washington Redskins. Sunday's game against the Bucs will be the franchise's 329th consecutive sellout - an NFL record that dates to 1966. The Philadelphia Eagles signed linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who played three games with the Bucs in 2007 and was inactive last season. He also spent parts of seven previous seasons with Philadelphia. In turn, the Eagles released quarterback Jeff Garcia, the former Tampa Bay starter. The Bucs play at Philadelphia on Oct. 11. Happy birthday to Lee McGriff, the former Plant High School and University of Florida wide receiver who started three games for the 1976 expansion Bucs. McGriff, now an insurance man in Gainesville, serves as analyst on the UF football radio network. Saturday, McGriff turns 56. Here's the answer to Wednesday's trivia question: Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson, heading into Sunday's game at Washington, will become the eighth player from a California college to start a regular-season game at quarterback for the Bucs. The California Eight: Mike Boryla (Stanford), Mike Rae (USC), Steve DeBerg (San Jose State), Jim Zorn (Cal Poly Pomona), Trent Dilfer (Fresno State), Rob Johnson (USC), Jeff Garcia (San Jose State) and Josh Johnson (San Diego). Here's our daily sports trivia question, featuring a Tampa Bay/Florida spin. Try your luck by commenting below. Who is the only Syracuse University football player from a Tampa Bay area high school to be selected first-team All-Big East Conference? Check for the answer in Friday's Wake-Up Call.
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