A.J. Barker, Gavin Roberts

Updated: Minnesota responds to allegations from WR


Well, this is interesting.

Minnesota’s leading receiver, A.J. Barker, is leaving the football team with the Gophers bowl eligible and the season-finale against Michigan State coming up this weekend. Barker has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, but his departure appears to be linked directly to coach Jerry Kill. Barker made the announcement Sunday on his Twitter page.

But Barker also wrote a lengthy blog post titled “My Letter to Jerry Kill” in which he accuses Kill of “pathetic, manipulative display of rage and love” in addition to other harsh words. The entire post is quite bizarre (and angry). That’s putting it lightly too.

Minnesota hasn’t responded to the post yet, but what Kill has to say about the accusations will be interesting.

Barker, a non-scholarship player, was far and away the best receiver for UM this year with 30 catches, 577 yards and seven touchdowns. His loss hurts — the Gophers are 1-2 in his absence — but this story has now taken a strange twist.

Updated 9:04 p.m. ET: Minnesota has released a response to the allegations from former wide receiver A.J. Barker regarding the accusations he made in a blog post directed at coach Jerry Kill:

“Coach Kill received an email from A.J. Barker today notifying the Coach that he has quit the team. Coach Kill tried reaching out to A.J. after receiving the email, but was unable to connect with him. We understand A.J.’s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms. Our concern first and foremost is student athletes and we wish A.J. well.”

Updated 10: 11 p.m. ET: The Pioneer Press was able to catch up with Barker about the allegations of mistreatment he received from Jerry Kill. You can read the story HERE. Barker talks about his ankle injury and how it affected his standing (so to speak) with Kill. As for the decision to write a lengthy rant directed at his now-former head coach, Barker said “You’re allowed to have your own voice now, and people want the truth. I get that I’m going to look bad to a lot of people. But I believe in the idea that people should be honest about it.”

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian
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Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.