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December 30, 2007
Dreadheads ready for Dawgs
Colt Brennan is in good hands with the "Dreadheads," the guys on the other end of all those passes thrown by Hawaii's record-breaking quarterback.NEW ORLEANS --
"Hands down, they're the best receiving corps in the nation," Brennan said of his starting receivers. "That's biased, I know. But they are."
Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Davone Bess and C.J. Hawthorne, who all have dreadlocks that flow from the bottom of their helmets, make up the Dreadheads and have combined for 340 receptions for 4,273 yards and 43 touchdowns.
The dreaded foursome will be key for No. 10 Hawaii as it faces No. 4 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
While they all have similar hair and collectively could potentially pass for a Milli Vanilli cover band, each brings a different aspect to the Warriors' high-powered offense that leads the country in scoring.
Rivers (82 catches, 1,060 yards, 13 TDs), aka "Grandfather Dreads," is the oldest of the group and is a big, physical, possession receiver. He owns the nation's longest streak with 49 straight games with a reception.
Bess (101 catches, 1,213 yards, 12 TDs), aka "Father Dreads," was the first of the four to sport the dreads and has an uncanny ability to make defenders miss. He is the nation's career leader, among active players, in receiving touchdowns with 41.
Grice-Mullen (100 catches, 1,214 yards, 12 TDs), aka "Daddy Dreads," brings confidence and eats up defensive backs in single coverage. He ranks second nationally in receptions a game (8.3) and fifth in the nation in receiving yards (111.2).
Hawthorne (57 catches, 786 yards, six TDs), aka "Baby Dreads," is the smallest and fastest of the group. He's had a remarkable season, considering he was a starting defensive back last year.
Rivers, Grice-Mullen and Bess each have more than 1,000 yards receiving this season, becoming only the second trio on a team to reach the mark, joining Texas Tech's Carlos Francis, Wes Welker and Nehemiah Glover in 2003.
They would have reached that feat last year, but Grice-Mullen missed four games because of injury and finished with 770 yards.
"We each have a different dimension," Bess said. "Together, it pretty much completes the whole package of being a reciever."
Brennan credits the quartet for much of his success at Hawaii.
"I think that's why my numbers have been as good as they are, is because the receivers around me," said the prolific passer, who owns 29 NCAA records and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. "Their best attribute is their ability to play together."
Georgia has been preparing for the "Dreadheads."
"They're the best set of wide receivers since I've been in college football," Bulldogs defensive end Marcus Howard said.
Despite the widespread talent, the Dreadheads never bicker about getting the ball more.
"There's definitely no selfish souls on this team," Grice-Mullen said. "We're just happy to be out there."
Rivers, who was married two weeks ago, said since the team passes 60 times a game, the receivers all know they'll have their fare share.
At 6-foot-2, Rivers is considered the most prototypical NFL receiver of the group, but rarely garners the attention his counterparts do. However, coach June Jones tends to go to Rivers in big games.
In Hawaii's regular season finale against Washington on Dec. 1, Rivers caught 14 passes for 167 yards and four touchdowns. In last year's Hawaii Bowl against Arizona State, Rivers had 14 catches for a bowl-record 308 yards and two TDs.
He said playing in the Warriors' pass-heavy offense has been a "receiver's dream."
Hawaii's receivers have a lot of responsibility and flexibility in how the offense operates. They have the option to change routes at the line, depending on how the defender plays them or lines up.
"I think our offense is kind of like organized street ball," said Bess, who had 1,000 yards receiving in each of his three seasons. "It's fun. At any given moment, you could be getting the ball."
The "Dreadheads" believe there's no defense that can fully stop them. Each might have their weaknesses, but collectively, they've been impossible to stop.
"Any threat you can think of, we pretty much have that threat," Hawthorne said.
Georgia cornerback Asher Allen said he's gone up against talented receivers in the Southeastern Conference, but hasn't faced a group of receivers quite like Hawaii's.
"They're explosive and this is the best tandem we've seen all year," he said.
The Bulldogs plan to be physical and make the receivers pay on each play.
"They just can't catch the ball and run out of bounds or fall down without any kind of punishment," he said. "You have to get your hands on them. If they're able to run free, it's going to be a long day."
As for the hair ... "I don't think anyone is cutting them any time soon," Grice-Mullen said. "We have fun with it and our fans back home love them."