Georgia Bulldogs: Washington Huskies

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Quarterback Blake Barnett (Corona, Calif./Santiago) burst onto the scene during a terrific junior season.

It's safe to say the 6-foot-4, 185-pound signal-caller is still gaining speed.

On Sunday, Barnett was named MVP of the first Elite 11 Regional event, held at Santa Monica (Calif.) College.

Early Offer: Sharpe pushes decision back 

November, 21, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: No. 2 offensive tackle David Sharpe was scheduled to announce his decision Thursday, but there’s been a delay; and it’s been a wild, wild week for fans of Pac 12 schools with USC in the national recruiting spotlight and UCLA and California making recruiting waves.


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Early Offer: Orgeron building momentum 

November, 19, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Top recruits out West are starting to like the idea of Ed Orgeron as the next head coach at USC; despite his commitment to Missouri, fast-rising receiver Nate Brown has become a wanted man with two of the top programs in the SEC; and lost in the disappointment of a tough loss to UCLA was the news of Washington landing a pledge from one of the nation's top 2015 prospects.

Trojans red hot on and off field
It could be argued USC is the hottest team in the country after beating No. 4 Stanford this past Saturday. All of the success on the field also has given the Trojans a ton of recruiting momentum. In front of a packed house of recruits, including No. 7 overall prospect Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and Alabama four-star offensive tackle commit Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial), the Trojans put on a show that brought back memories of the glory years of Pete Carroll. The victory generated a lot of positive comments from recruits, and now it's cool to have USC on your list again. It will be interesting to see how seriously USC looks at Ed Orgeron as a candidate for the Trojans' coaching position, because recruits certainly are warming up to the idea. "If Coach O isn't there, then I'm not looking at USC anymore," one top prospect said. "I would follow that guy anywhere."

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Video: Dr. Lou's Week 7 picks

October, 11, 2013
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Lou Holtz makes his picks for the biggest college football games of the weekend.

Week 6: Close calls and contenders

October, 8, 2013
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Aaron Murray, J.J. GreenJim Brown/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia may have celebrated the win, but the Vols were in it until the last minute.
For four months, ESPN The Magazine will follow the march to the Vizio BCS National Championship, moment by moment, culminating in our Story of the Season double issue Dec. 27. Every Tuesday, Mag senior writer Ryan McGee will pick the previous week’s biggest moments and tell you why they’ll have the most impact on potential BCS title matchups. If you disagree, send a tweet to @ESPNMag and tell us why your moment matters more, using the hashtag #StoryoftheSeason. Who knows? Your moment (and tweet) might just end up in our issue.


COACHES HATE a “statement loss.” So do fans, players and anyone else whose lives are built around a team’s record. (Well, OK, that’s everyone.) As former Clemson coach Danny Ford once said, “Moral victories only feel good if you don’t know how good an actual victory feels.”

Week 6 of the season was packed with moral victories, from TCU’s 20-17 near-miss in Norman to Northwestern’s closer-than-the-score, 40-30 loss to Ohio State. None of those games felt good for the losers, but they may have all signified something larger over the horizon. Sure, there’s the far-flung notion of program-building, but Saturday’s efforts might also have a much-larger-than-expected impact on the not-so-distant future, ultimately altering the BCS title march. That could either happen by way of an actual win over the next would-be BCS bowler, or simply damaging the image of the team that won on the scoreboard but could now be vulnerable for its next top-shelf opponent.

“We won and we’ll take it,” Georgia coach Mark Richt admitted after defeating Tennessee 34-31 in overtime, the Bulldogs’ second consecutive three-point, nail-biting W. “But this is the kind of win that you are likely to feel some effect from for a while down the road. The LSU game had some effect this week. Now you hope this doesn’t add on to that.”

Those words sounded a little like what was coming out of the mouths of Tennessee faithful after the heartbreaking defeat: We didn’t win, but we made them earn it! That’s the message that was being rained down upon the Vols as they left the field on Saturday night. They were still reeling from the emotional about-face of thinking receiver Pig Howard’s corner dive toward the pylon had been perhaps the game-winning score to learning that, via the replay booth, it was actually a fingertip fumble and touchback. Moments later, they lost.

As Neyland Stadium emptied, a group of orange-clad fans crowded their way into the first rows that overlook the entrance to the north end zone tunnel, where their gray-clad team was beginning to file through en route to the locker room. They shouted encouragement to the players, but were waiting on the coach.

Butch Jones doesn’t typically walk off the field. He runs. He jogs. He at the very least speed-walks. But as the Vols first-year coach turned toward the tunnel at Neyland Stadium, he was walking. Exhausted, covered in sweat, and with only a wisp of his perpetually hoarse voice remaining. The famously exuberant coach had been fearless during the game, going for it on fourth down three times in the fourth quarter, twice in his own territory and converting all three with perfect play-calling. But he looked beaten down. Moments earlier, his undermanned Vols had Georgia on the ropes. Now as he strode toward the tunnel, the scoreboard on the giant video screen behind him read “34-31 F OT.”

“They knew we were here, coach!” the fans shouted down, drawing a halfhearted thumbs up. “Brick by brick! Brick by brick!”

On paper, it will look like just another big-game loss for Tennessee, which still hasn’t defeated a top-10 team since 2006 and extended its winless streak against ranked opponents to 19. The Vols will face at least two more ranked teams (Alabama, South Carolina) and possibly a third (Missouri) this season. But the reality is that the Vols were in the game until -- actually during -- the last minute. They also hit hard, inflicting injuries to four key Georgia players and adding the likes of Keith Marshall, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley to an already too-long list of wounded stars.

That might make this week’s game in Athens against undefeated largely unknown Missouri much more of a contest than previously expected.

“I’m not really in the celebrating mood so much,” Richt said. His finger was bleeding, having just been cut on his postgame news conference chair. During the game he’d been knocked to the turf when a play ran over the sideline. “I’m just thankful to escape here with a victory, considering what happened.”




Nearly 2,500 miles west of Neyland Stadium’s tunnel, Stanford Stadium’s walkways were also filled with dejection.

“There’s no awards for losing.”

Those were the words of Steve Sarkisian, coach of the then-No. 15 Washington Huskies, whose chances of knocking off the fifth-ranked Cardinal came down to one final fourth-down play. That’s when electrifying quarterback Keith Price scrambled ... and then scrambled again ... to fire an on-the-run pass that was so close to being a first down catch that it was ruled a catch by the on-field officials, but was overturned by the instant replay booth, which ruled that it was an incomplete pass, having squirted out and touched the turf. Washington turned the ball over on downs and lost 31-28.

“It's unfortunate the game had to come down to a judgment call like that,” Sarkisian said. “That part was unfortunate, because it was two good football teams battling and competing with one another, and I wish the game would have gotten won on the field and not in the booth upstairs with some guy that didn't get to feel the emotion and the hard-fought football game that that game was.”

Stanford coach David Shaw (who admitted he also believed it was a catch until his press box coaches convinced him otherwise) was asked to address the same concerns expressed by Richt earlier in the evening. What would be the mental and physical cost of a win like Saturday night's, especially with the Cardinal’s brutal upcoming Pac-12 schedule, starting with a trip to Utah? But instead of worrying about damage, he turned the conversation back toward toughness.

“This is what we’re built for. All we talk about is the fourth quarter. About being finishers. Every day we have a finisher at the end of the day. Every week we have a finisher at the end of the week. We train ourselves to be at our best in the fourth quarter.”




Coach Sark’s rant about the replay booth, a job that he also compared to playing a video game, is threatening to become a shared chorus. Most of the weekend’s biggest games, including Washington-Stanford and Georgia-Tennessee, hinged on replay rulings.

The contentious tone surrounding game-deciding calls, on the field and in the booth, has built throughout the season, from the bizarre finish of Wisconsin-Arizona State to the in-or-out sideline ruling at Clemson-NC State. But the decidedly testier feelings on replay that were shown throughout Week 6 were put into motion by Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, who after Thursday night’s 31-30 loss to Texas unleashed one of the coolest postgame coaching rants of all time. It ranked alongside Tommy West’s 2009 post-firing directive on how to rebuild the Memphis football program. (“Give the next guy a fighting chance.”)

Texas running back Johnathan Gray had the football ripped away just short of the goal line, and it appeared Iowa State had possession before the whistle blew. Game over. But the officials ruled Gray down by contact. The booth upheld the call.



Keep in mind, Rhoads’ speech is not a CTRL+C of Sarkisian’s comments, which came 48 hours later: “What you saw tonight were a couple of teams playing their hearts out. You could argue both deserve to win the football game.” Then, his voice rising: “And to make a play ... on the 1-yard line ... with their backs against the wall ... clear to everybody ... and have it taken away from them! That’s hard to express. You don’t just put your arm around a guy and tell him that’s OK ... if that’s just happened to him!”

It’ll be even harder to do that if one of those calls ends up determining who does or doesn’t get to play for the BCS championship in January.

That’s nearly happened already, at least three times -- and it’s not even the second weekend of October.

ESPN The Magazine

Finding the Future: Atlanta NFTC 

April, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: Finding the Future is a RecruitingNation feature that will appear throughout camps and combine season, ranking prospects strictly on their on-field performance at the particular event. It does not reflect where each will land when the class is ranked by ESPN.

BUFORD, Ga. -- The NFTC was loaded with top upperclassmen prospects on Sunday, but a handful of 2015 prospects showed they could compete with some of the top older competition in the state.

1. 2016 CB Khalil Ladler
5-foot-11, 175 pounds
Stephenson (Ga.) H.S.


Considering: Has offers from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Charlotte, South Florida and Cincinnati

What we learned: Ladler could pass for a rising senior, which is why the offers are rolling in for the young freshman. His position coaches were stunned to find out that he was two years younger than most of the other defensive backs at the NFTC. Also, it is not just his size that commands attention. Ladler displayed refined techniques that prospects work for years to develop.

“Ladler is promising," ESPN national recruiting analyst Craig Haubert said. "Look at his frame: he is long and lengthy. He is very smooth. In a cornerback group that had some good 2014 guys, he was in that next level of guys jumping out. He has all of the natural tools, and with that type of size already, as well as being quick and smooth, he is certainly a guy to watch. From what I saw he was one of the better secondary players here.”


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Georgia offers Watch List wide receiver 

April, 12, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Despite missing half of his junior season, ESPN Watch List wide receiver Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) is close to having 20 offers. Earlier this week he picked up No. 16 from UCF and then on Wednesday, the University of Georgia offered.

What are the coaches at all these schools seeing in his injury-shortened highlight reel? The answer is production. After missing five games with a strained ACL and PCL, McCrary scored seven touchdowns on just 13 catches. He also had 311 receiving yards, an average of 24 yards per catch. To top it off, McCrary returned four punts for touchdowns and three interceptions on defense.

“I talked to Tony Ball today and he let me know that Georgia was going to offer me and that he would love for me to come up and get to see the facilities,” McCrary said. “That was very exciting for me because Georgia is a great team that throws the ball a lot to be in the SEC. That is a great thing.”

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Watch List DL checks out FSU, talks UGA 

February, 27, 2013
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Kendall Baker (Atlanta/Marist) made the ESPN Watch List as a defensive lineman, but he is equally talented on the offensive line. He says that blocking comes naturally to him and will play whichever side of the ball will allow him to see the field early in college.

With that in mind, Baker took in Florida State over the weekend to see what the Seminoles had to offer.


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DE could be first Georgia Dawg of '15 

February, 19, 2013
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Defensive end Arden Key (Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King) took in the University of Georgia junior day on Saturday and met with Bulldogs defensive line coach Chris Wilson. The new coach made quite the impression on the young sophomore, as by the time Key left, he was tweeting that he wished he could commit to Georgia.


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Georgia quick to offer Watch List RB 

February, 16, 2013
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Many high school prospects are evaluated for months or even years before a college program extends a scholarship offer. Highlights from sophomore seasons are compared to those of junior seasons to see progression and potential. Players who make a name for themselves as juniors are visited as seniors to gauge their possible impact at the next level. And then there are prospects like Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) for whom the entire process takes three or maybe four days.


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Allen-Williams talks Georgia offer, timing 

February, 12, 2013
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Last Wednesday, Georgia picked up two additional signees to its Class of 2013 in DeVondre Seymour and Davin Bellamy. The coaching staff had hoped for at least three more top talents to join them but they found themselves in second place all three times.

Instead of licking their wounds on what was a disappointing day, the coaches were on the phones, working toward the 2014 class.

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Prep WR eyes top 3, advises No. 1 ILB 

January, 29, 2013
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A former Lagrange (Ga.) Troup standout, wide receiver Christian Cumberlander enrolled at Jireh Prep last year in Indian Trail, N.C., and had a solid season, with 38 catches for 708 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.

Double-digit offers have come in for Cumberlander, who says he is now fully qualified -- but two offers seem to stand out at the moment. And the possibility of another offer has another prominent school heavily in the mix to land the 6-foot-2, 190-pound wideout.

Two of his three top schools also stand out for his close friend Reuben Foster, the No. 1 ILB in the nation.


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No. 1 ILB relaxed after UGA official 

January, 27, 2013
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The No. 16 prospect in the nation was in Athens, Ga., over the weekend, as Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) took his third official visit, this time to the University of Georgia. The 6-foot-1, 242-pound linebacker has visited Georgia many times, but this time there was something different about the campus.


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Wild finish ahead for LB Reuben Foster 

January, 17, 2013
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On the heels of his first official visit to the University of Washington, ESPN 150 linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) was met by two sets of coaches at his school. It is coming down to the final stretch for the 2013 recruiting cycle, so programs are not holding back any longer.

For Foster, that means a steady stream of high-profile visitors all telling him exactly what he wants to hear, he said. And that's not making things easy for him.


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Top ILB Foster impressed with UW visit 

January, 13, 2013
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The University of Washington already has the makings of a potential Top 15 recruiting class for the 2013 cycle, with five commitments from ESPN 300 prospects, including three from ESPN 150 prospects. But the Huskies are aiming for more, and never was that more clear than in the headliner recruit in town over the weekend.

Linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect and No. 16 overall prospect in the country, could play a big role in getting the Pac-12 program to the next level. While Washington is the only school outside the Southeast in the mix for Foster, he said following his official visit not to count out the Huskies by any means.


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