Plummer almost Marched

3-22-01, 3:20 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bengals wide receiver Chad Plummer, keeping a close eye on his alma mater's run in the NCAA tournament, predicts the University of Cincinnati beats top-seed Stanford in Thursday night's West Region semifinal.

"He's a good coach who knows the situation and can get them ready," said Plummer of UC's Bob Huggins. "Stanford is a good team, but Cincinnati is capable of beating them by playing with confidence."

There was a time when Plummer says Huggins wanted him for the stretch run in March for his skills that allowed UC to use him as both a quarterback and receiver during his senior year. But it never worked out.

Plummer said he would have joined the Bearcats after the '98 football season, but he broke a bone in his foot during a practice at a college football all-star game.

Could the 6-3, 220-pound Plummer been the missing piece when UC got ousted by Temple in the second round of the '99 NCAAs? Plummer had to watch while two of his football mates, future Ravens linebacker Brad Jackson and Brent Petrus, got NCAA time.

"Things happen for a reason," Plummer said. "I'm not saying I would have been a starter. But I know I was as good as (Jackson and Petrus). The other guys play all year, but if those guys played I'm pretty sure I could have."

We'll never know what might have happened against Temple, but we do know Huggins had Plummer on his mind on the grim flight back from Boston.

"Do you think Chad Plummer can play in the NFL?" Huggins asked a sportswriter sitting near him.

The Bengals think he can. So much so that when they signed him to their practice squad last Dec. 7, it was their third attempt to get him.

They wanted to draft him in the seventh-round in the 1999 draft, but the Broncos beat them by five spots with the 204th pick at the end of the sixth round.

Denver cut Plummer at the end of training camp and he ended up on the Colts' practice squad. When the Bengals tried to sign him away from the squad in November to put him on their active roster, Indy responded by activating him for its own roster.

"We've always liked his strength and size," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel. "I remember even back in the days he was a senior at UC and going back and forth between quarterback and receiver and he just looked more comfortable catching instead of throwing."

Here's a guy who ran, passed and caught for more than 5,000 yards in Clifton, and he's still looking for his first NFL catch after appearing in just four games. The Bengals think he can be a solid contributor as a big, possession receiver. But he'll have to beat out guys like third-rounder Ron Dugans and fourth-rounder Danny Farmer.

"He runs as well as anybody we have and his maneuverability and athleticism is quite good," Lippincott said. "He has to be a more consistent catch, but he can do that."

Plummer figures he would have been a shooting guard or a shooting forward if he played for Huggins. The coach heard about him from his players who saw Plummer play in the gym after football season. They weren't going to let their MVP play hoop before his senior season, but Plummer had no worries about hurting his draft status by playing:

"I figured it would make my stock rise because they could see I was an athlete."

On Thursday, before quarterback Akili Smith took a trio of receivers to the practice field, he overheard Plummer's prediction for a UC victory. Smith, a Pac 10 loyalist, said, "Stanford by 10. They've got those guys in the paint."

Plummer: "I say UC by four or five. Their backcourt."

Once a quarterback, always a quarterback.

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