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Witherspoon battling for job


The Stillman College 2007 football roster lists Brian Witherspoon as 6-1, 180. The Jaguars media guide has Witherspoon at 5-10, 175. The truth is that Witherspoon is one of those players who is so slight of build that we may never know his true size.

Never mind, though, because Witherspoon says size doesn't matter.

"I've made it through the whole camp. Size is not important," Witherspoon said.

His lack of size sure wasn't a disadvantage this past Saturday night, as Witherspoon stole the show with his exciting punt and kickoff returns. He was a fumble away from going all the way on one of those returns.

The guy is lightning. He's faster than fast. He's now the fastest player on the Jaguars roster.

"That's what they tell me," said Witherspoon, who ran a 4.23 40 at his pro day workout.

So how is it that a guy who ran a 4.23 wasn't drafted? Well, probably because he's even smaller than his alma mater, Stillman, a tiny, 1,200-enrollment Division II school that stresses academics over athletics.

"I just want the ball in my hands," Witherspoon said.

He'll almost certainly have the ball in his hands quite a bit during the rest of this preseason. Witherspoon's performance against the Falcons on Saturday clearly put him in the competition for the punt-return and kickoff-return jobs.

"I was impressed with two things he did. One was a tough fair catch he made and the other was hitting it up inside on a punt return. The negatives are his weight and ball security," special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said of Witherspoon, who was breaking into the clear on a punt-return when the ball was stripped from behind.

"The problem with them is you worry about them getting beat up over the long haul," DeCamillis said of smallish return men. "It takes real toughness for that guy to stand up over the long haul, but the guy has special speed. Special!"

It's not as though smallish players haven't made their mark in the return game. Gerald "The Ice Cube" McNeil weighed 145 pounds, yet, he was one of the top return men in the league for the Browns in the late 1980's. Jermaine Lewis was a smallish return man who went to two Pro Bowls while with the Ravens.

"I think he's playing for a chance to do both of them," DeCamillis said of the two return jobs. "He has to prove he's tough enough to handle gunner on the coverage teams, too, and he has to show they can rely on him as a corner.

"I think it's a three-horse race between Maurice (Jones-Drew), Dennis (Northcutt) and Spoon (Witherspoon)," DeCamillis said of the punt-return competition. "I would say, kickoff return, you would have to throw Spoon and Maurice together, and then there are some guys behind them. Chauncey (Washington) and (Troy) Williamson have to get a look."

Witherspoon's goal is simple: "I try not to get hit," he said.

The real test may come when he does get hit.

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