Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Smoker gets nod to start for Spartans

The Associated Press

Jeff Smoker earned the starting quarterback job for Michigan State a week after returning from a substance-abuse suspension.

"I don't need to come out and name him the starter, just like I don't need to name the starter at right guard," new coach John L. Smith said Monday. "But Jeff Smoker is No. 1 at quarterback right now on our depth chart. So, if that means I just named him the starter, then I named him."

Michigan State opens the season Aug. 30 at home against Western Michigan.

Smoker was suspended for the final five games of last season because of a substance-abuse problem. His family announced he was seeking treatment. Smoker has said his recovery is ongoing and he has changed his lifestyle.

Reinstatement gave Smoker a chance to compete to be a starter, a privilege he didn't have while practicing in preseason camp and during spring drills. The quarterback was 11-of-19 for 194 yards and four touchdowns during a scrimmage Saturday. His first three series all resulted in scoring passes.

"Clearly, he's our No. 1 guy," Smith said. "Once we put him in the mix, he really showed what he could do."

Smoker has started 24 games and thrown for 5,537 yards with 40 touchdowns and 25 interceptions during his first three years.

McPHERSON UPDATE: Former Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson has applied for admission at Tennessee State. That decision should be made by Friday, a school spokesperson said.

Classes began at the 9,000-student university Monday, and McPherson's application was accepted as part of the late registration process.

Last week, athletic director Teresa Phillips said the school would not allow McPherson to join the Tigers football program.

The athletic department had no comment on McPherson's application and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

McPherson was sentenced to 30 months probation in early July after he pleaded no contest to gambling and theft charges in Tallahassee, Fla. He had faced up to 20 years in jail on charges stemming from allegations he stole a blank check, filled it out and cashed it.

An earlier trial on misdemeanor charges of gambling - including bets on Florida State football games - ended in a hung jury.

TSU received letters of release from both Florida State and Murray State, where McPherson briefly enrolled last winter.

Phillips spoke with McPherson, his family and legal counsel. Tennessee State officials also reviewed his standing with the NCAA and other issues related to his situation, she said.

McPherson's eligibility to play football still hasn't been determined by the NCAA. If cleared, he would have two years of athletic eligibility remaining.

MINNESOTA: Major league baseball will not allow the Golden Gophers to use the Metrodome for college football on two dates in October that the league had already reserved for possible Twins postseason games. The university said it had requested use of the dome on Oct. 11 and Oct. 18, but baseball had denied the request.

MIAMI: Offensive tackle Vernon Carey has a high left ankle sprain but should return to practice this week. Coach Larry Coker expected Carey, who started every game at right tackle last season, to return to practice Wednesday and be ready for the Aug. 28 season opener at Louisiana Tech.

FLORIDA: Defensive end Steven Harris will go to trial Oct. 13 on charges that he beat up a man outside a nightclub.

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