Senior season opens Friday for Lovelace

Coming from a place like Tenafly, N.J., quarterback <b>Jabulani Lovelace</b> had a mental image of Vanderbilt. But after taking an unofficial visit to the Nashville school in August, he found some of his assumptions to be misconceptions. The multi-talented Lovelace's senior season gets underway Friday with an away game at Englewood.

Coming from a place like Tenafly, N.J., quarterback Jabulani Lovelace had a mental image of Vanderbilt. But after taking an unofficial visit to the Nashville school in August, he found some of his assumptions to be misconceptions.

"It was a very nice place, Vanderbilt," said the 6-2, 190-pound Lovelace, whose senior season at Tenafly gets underway Friday night with an away game at Englewood. "I didn't expect much, because they've had such bad teams over the years.

"I went down there and watched a practice, and found out they have some really good coaches who are really trying to get that team back on track."

Syracuse and Vanderbilt, two schools Lovelace has visited unofficially, are at the top of his current list, with Wisconsin trailing just a bit. All three schools have offered scholarships, as have Buffalo, Northeastern and Kent State.

With an offense that utilizes the option, Syracuse might seem the perfect fit for the multi-talented Lovelace, whose friends affectionately call him Jabu (pronounced ja-BOO). "But at Vanderbilt I might have the chance to play a little earlier," he said.

Don't look for Lovelace to be making a decision any time soon. With several firm offers already on the table and more likely to come, his plan is to wait until the end of his senior season and drop in on his top suitors on official visits in December and January.

"Time is on his side," said Tenafly coach Kevin Kreso. "There's no need for him to rush.

"He might be the perfect fit for Syracuse, because he's both a great option quarterback and a very good passer. They're pursuing him hard. They have him as the top quarterback on their list, and rightfully so."

But as a 3.7 student.in the classroom, possessing both outstanding mobility and a strong arm, Lovelace seems to fit the Vanderbilt profile as well.

"He liked Vanderbilt a lot too. It's big-time," Kreso said. "It's an SEC school. He had a good feeling with the coaches. He had a nice visit."

"What people may not realize is that he's every bit as good at safety as he is at quarterback. He's a terrific two-way player. He had 122 tackles last season, and when he got all-star mention, it was at safety, not quarterback."

But Lovelace is set on playing quarterback in college, Kreso said.

"The college he selects is going to be the one that gives him the opportunity to play quarterback. About 37 schools came by to look at him last spring, but when a coach said, we like you as a DB, or we like you as an athlete, he was polite to the coach, but he mentally sort of crossed them off the list."

Last year in Kreso's I-formation offense, in which the quarterback was called upon to run the option, take short drops and throw mainly play-action passes, Lovelace passed for over 1,100 yards and ran for over 600. This year Kreso hopes to open up the offense with more shotgun to take advantage of Lovelace's considerable abilities, and the result could be much gaudier numbers.

"What we really need to do is elevate the play of the people around him," Kreso said. "Jabu's passing percentage last year wasn't that great, but frankly it was because our receivers had a lot of drops. He was a lot better passer than his percentage last year showed, and college coaches are smart enough to see that."

Vanderbilt has already accepted a commitment from a quarterback for the class of 2005 (Mackenzi Adams), but with only three quarterbacks on campus, the Commodores would like to add another for this year's class.


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