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McMullen continues along path to stardom

After a freshman season in which he tied for the team lead with 28 receptions, wide receiver Billy McMullen had every reason to expect a breakout year this season. He also had reason to wonder after catching only one pass in the 2000 season opener.

"I was frustrated," McMullen said. "But I spoke to myself about being patient, so that died down real quick."

The 6-foot-4 sophomore from Richmond broke out in a big way in Saturday's win at Duke, catching eight passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Yet most Virginia players didn't realize what McMullen had accomplished until after the game.

"He had 189 yards, but it was quiet," cornerback Ahmad Hawkins said. "Nobody knew he had that many yards until we got into the locker room."

Even McMullen himself didn't know how good his stats were.

"I didn't know I had that many yards," McMullen said. "When I'm in the flow of the game, I don't calculate yards."

While McMullen may have been surprised at the numbers he put up, his teammates have long predicted great things for him.

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    "Billy has the opportunity to be one of the best that has ever come through Virginia," senior quarterback Dan Ellis said. "He's already a good receiver, and it's just the little things that separate being good from being great."

    Some folks have even compared McMullen to former Cavalier standouts and current Detroit Lions Herman Moore and Germane Crowell, both tall receivers who can leap.

    "I didn't see Germane in the early part of his career, but I definitely think Billy's got the talent," Ellis said. "There's no doubt he's got the talent to be that kind of a receiver. He might need to put on a few more pounds, and he's not polished by any means, but the talent is obviously there."

    McMullen downplays the comparisons to Moore and Crowell.

    "I saw Herman Moore being interviewed on ESPN about Crowell being up there with him," McMullen said. "I thought it sounded good. I'd love to be in that position. But I don't dwell on it. I just try to win ballgames."

    The Virginia coaches may also see the similarities to Moore and Crowell, considering how often they run McMullen on the alley-oop play made famous by the former Cav standouts. Last year at Maryland, Ellis found McMullen on that play in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

    "With his leaping ability and his size, if you throw one up to the corner of the end zone, it's not going to get intercepted," Ellis said. "He's a good enough athlete that he'll either make the catch or it will fall to the ground."

    Said McMullen: "I love doing it. It's just me and the other guy wanting to get the ball."

    McMullen particularly relishes the opportunity to use his size and leaping ability against smaller defensive backs.

    The opposing roster "is posted in the locker room, so you can't miss it," McMullen said. "They list the size and weight. The next thing I look at is their feet and how well they move."

    Despite his natural talent, McMullen continues to work hard to improve his play, and his teammates have noticed his work ethic.

    "Billy's just playing great," Ellis said. "He's continually getting better. He's starting to understand the nuances of playing receiver. He's doing the kind of things that I don't know if he understood last year."

    While McMullen enjoys putting up big numbers, he said he isn't motivated by statistics.

    "I don't like looking at stats," McMullen said. "In the game, if you start playing for stats, you stop playing to win."

    As he continues to help the Cavaliers win games, McMullen should continue to gain notice from the media as one of the ACC's top receivers. But he prefers to concentrate on his game, letting reporters say what they will.

    "That's up to the media, to decide who's the best," McMullen said. "I just do my job"

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