BOWL NOTES: Tennessee star appears headed to NFL

ATLANTA — Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin said he believes Eric Berry will play in the NFL next year.

Virginia Tech is just trying to figure out what position Berry will play Thursday night.

Berry, an All-America junior safety, could play his last game for Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech. He is projected as a high first-round pick if he enters the NFL draft. Most mock drafts list Berry among the top five picks.

Berry said the draft decision is “kind of made.” He said he wants to play the bowl game in his hometown of Atlanta before he discusses his plans.

“I want to focus on Virginia Tech,” he said.

Virginia Tech’s biggest concern is following Berry on the field. He has 14 career interceptions but the safety often plays in the middle of the defense like a linebacker.

“We’ve asked Tennessee to put a little red light on top of Eric so we’ll know where he is all the time,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring joked Tuesday. “They haven’t really gotten back with us to let us know if they’re going to do that.”

Berry (5-foot-11, 203 pounds) is an effective run-stopper. He is second on the team with 83 tackles, including six for losses.

“From what I’ve seen, they use him more like a linebacker, putting him in the box,” Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “He’s a big hitter. He’s strong in defending the running game.

“We know he can run the field and he does cover the field well. But as far as the tapes I’ve seen, he’s down playing linebacker and he gets to the ball quick.”

Free safety? Strong safety? Linebacker? Nickel cornerback? Return specialist? Berry has filled each role, and Kiffin said the junior’s versatility will pay off in the draft.

“What Eric has done such a remarkable job of is the ability to do so many different things and to put that on film,” Kiffin said. “Your film is your resume.”

Berry smiled as he heard Kiffin add “I would think he’d go extremely high — whenever he leaves.”

Kiffin said he advised the junior to seize the NFL opportunity.

“I told him from my perspective he’s done everything he can do,” Kiffin said. “If he wants to go, this is the time to go. I would never want to hold someone back from that, because it would be real hard to live with yourself if you tried to convince someone to stay and then something happened to him injury-wise and they weren’t able to get what they had worked so hard for.”

Poll: Majority of Americans want a playoff

HAMDEN, Conn. — A majority of college football fans want to scrap the current Bowl Championship Series and replace it with a playoff system that’s similar to college basketball, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac University survey shows 63 percent favor getting rid of the current system, while 26 percent want to keep it. When asked how much they like the bowl game process, the poll showed fans are mixed.

“College football fans are not in love with the current system in which two teams that play for the national championship are picked by computers, sportswriters and coaches,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Settle the question on the field, voters say more than two-to-one.”

While more fans favor a playoff system, they don’t necessarily want Congress to get involved. The poll shows 48 percent believe it’s a bad idea for federal lawmakers to force college football to start a playoff system; 45 percent say it’s a good idea.

Earlier this month, a House subcommittee approved legislation aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine its national champion. The bill, which goes to the full committee, would make it illegal to promote a national-title game “or make a similar representation,” unless it results from a playoff.

There is no Senate version of the bill.

The survey of 1,849 adults, 948 of whom consider themselves to be very interested or somewhat interested in college football, was conducted Dec. 15-20.

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