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Rutgers announces 2013 recruiting class

Rutgers Scarlet Knights v Arkansas Razorbacks

(Below is Rutgers’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (February 6, 2013) – Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood announced Wednesday that 17 student-athletes have signed to play football for the Scarlet Knights beginning in the fall of 2013. In addition, Rutgers already secured commitments from five mid-year enrollees, to bring the signing class total to 22.

The 2013 recruiting class features 11 players from New Jersey, four from Florida, two from Pennsylvania, two from New York and one from Maryland, Delaware and Michigan. In all total, 21 of the 22 student-athletes reside in the “State of Rutgers.”

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 22 members of Rutgers’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Nick Arcidiacono
Tight End • 6-5 • 230
Holland, Pa. • Archbishop Wood High School

Two-way standout who played for head coach Steve Devlin at Archbishop Wood High School … younger brother of current Scarlet Knight Brandon Arcidiacono … third Archbishop Wood standout in the Rutgers program along with Brandon and Desmon Peoples … led team to state championship game as a senior and part of the school’s first state title squad his junior season … three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN.com and 247Sports … No. 60 defensive end nationally by Scout.com … rated the No. 33 tight end nationally and the No. 41 prospect in Pennsylvania by ESPN.com … No. 21 prospect in Pennsylvania by SuperPrep Magazine … rated the No. 37 weakside defensive end nationally and Pennsylvania’s No. 24 recruit by 247Sports … eight receptions for 137 yards as a senior … Philadelphia Inquirer All-City selection … selected to play in the prestigious Big 33 game … Second Team All-Southeastern Pennsylvania selection by the Philadelphia Inquirer … No. 20 prospect in Pennsylvania by PennLive.com … played on the offensive line as a junior for a team that scored a school-record 699 points, a single-season standard among Pennsylvania’s AAA and AAAA teams.

Dontea Ayres
Running Back • 5-9 • 205
Salisbury, Md. • Wicomico High School

Mid-year enrollee who will practice in the spring … suffered a knee injury as a senior at Middletown High School in Middletown, Del., and missed the entire season … began his high school career at Wicomico High School in Salisbury, Md., the same school as former RU defensive back Wayne Warren … totaled 3,370 yards and averaged 9.4 yards per carry in three seasons of high school football … rushed for 1,471 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior … averaged 11.9 yards per carry his junior season … versatile back who also caught 13 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns his junior year … rated the No. 26 prospect and No. 2 running back by SuperPrep in its Mid-Atlantic preseason preview … three-star recruit according to Scout.com and the nation’s No. 82 running back … three-star recruit and the No. 3 player in Delaware by Rivals.com … listed as the No. 48 running back nationally and a three-star recruit by ESPN.com … rushed for 1,196 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore for the Indians … averaged 8.7 yards per carry and 119.6 yards per game … finished freshman season with 703 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

Nadir Barnwell
Defensive Back • 5-11 • 190
Piscataway, N.J. • Piscataway High School

Mid-year enrollee who will practice in the spring … four-year standout at Piscataway High School for head coach Dan Higgins … started three seasons at quarterback and defensive back for the Chiefs … led squad to a 30-5 record over the last three years … recovered from a shoulder injury to lead Piscataway to the 2012 NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 championship … finished with 30 tackles as a senior … completed 61 of 111 passes for 913 yards and eight touchdowns … also rushed 50 times for 298 yards and four scores … ranks second all-time at Piscataway with 3,239 passing yards and 202 completions … 34 career touchdown passes are the most in school history … led the Chiefs to back-to-back group state titles as a sophomore and junior … threw for 1,364 yards, rushed for 452 yards and scored 18 combined touchdowns as a junior … 40 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions as a junior … Preseason All-America selection by SuperPrep … rated the No. 22 defensive back nationally by SuperPrep … No. 6 prospect in New Jersey by SuperPrep … four-star prospect according to Scout.com … rated a four-star recruit by Rivals.com and the No. 11 athlete in the nation … No. 7 Garden State recruit by Rivals.com … four-star prospect and the nation’s No. 21 athlete by ESPN.com … four-star recruit and the No. 9 athlete in the nation and the No. 10 prospect in New Jersey by 247Sports … named the MVP of the Semper Fi Bowl as he led the East squad to a 17-14 win over the West … Third Team All-State selection by the Star-Ledger … two-time Home News Tribune and Courier News All-Area selection.

Devan Carter
Running Back • 6-2 • 230
Rochester, N.Y. • Brighton High School

Two-way performer for head coach Steve Lian at Brighton High School … led Brighton to its best record in a decade … senior season was cut short by injury, but still managed to rush for 987 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games (7.4 yards per carry) … rushed for 1,440 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior … three-star recruit according to ESPN.com … rated the No. 6 prospect in New York by ESPN.com … rated the No. 77 inside linebacker nationally and New York’s 17th-best player by 247Sports … SuperPrep’s No. 4 player in New York who totaled 35 tackles and five sacks as a junior in limited action on defense.

Anthony Cioffi
Defensive Back • 6-0 • 180
Springfield, N.J. • Jonathan Dayton High School

Versatile performer who excelled on both sides of the football for head coach Joseph Goerge at Jonathan Dayton High School … Star-Ledger Second Team All-State honoree … 80 tackles, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two sacks on defense … outstanding returner who had seven kick/punt returns of 60 yards or more … rushed for 896 yards and five touchdowns (11.5 yards per carry) at quarterback … threw for 694 yards and five touchdowns … one of the top single-game performances in New Jersey against Pingry … passed for 94 yards and a touchdown, rushed 16 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown and recovered two fumbles and forced one fumble in the 34-20 victory … Star-Ledger All-Union County … rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com … No. 31 safety prospect nationally and the No. 18 player in New Jersey by Rivals.com … three-star recruit by Scout.com and the No. 86 safety in the nation … ESPN.com three-star selection.

Justin Goodwin
Running Back • 6-0 • 180
Summit, N.J. • Madison High School

Running back for head coach Chris Kubik at Madison High School … Star-Ledger First Team All-State honoree … rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior … averaged 10.6 yards per carry … caught 12 passes for 439 yards and six scores … returned two kickoffs for touchdowns to help guide the Dodgers to their third-straight section title … sixth in the state of New Jersey in scoring as a senior (174 points) … rushed for a season-high 292 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries in a 36-6 victory over Dover … Star-Ledger Morris County Player of the Year as a junior and a senior … finished his high school career by winning his last 37 games … ran for 124 yards and a touchdown and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass in a 13-0 victory over previously unbeaten Mountain Lakes in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2 final … rushed for 1,789 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior … returned three kickoffs for touchdowns his junior season … three-star recruit according to Scout.com and Rivals.com … ESPN.com’s No. 17 player in New Jersey and a three-star recruit … rated the No. 72 athlete nationally by ESPN.com … three-star recruit by 247Sports.

Janarion Grant
Wide Receiver • 5-11 • 170
Trilby, Fla. • Pasco High School

All-purpose standout for head coach Tom McHugh at Pasco High School … missed the first six games of the season with a broken hand, but still managed to score 20 total touchdowns in seven games played … Class 5A First Team All-State selection on offense … racked up 591 yards rushing, 168 yards receiving, 104 total yards on interception returns … scored five touchdowns against Fivay as a senior (two rushing, one passing, one receiving and a 50-yard interception return for a score) … rated the No. 8 recruit by Bright House Sports Network … helped guide the Pirates to a combined 25-2 record over the past two seasons, including a trip to the 5A state final four in 2011 and a region final appearance in 2012 … set a Pasco County record with 77 career touchdowns … Tampa Tribune All-Pasco First Team selection on offense … lined up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punt/kickoff return and defensive back … accounted for more than 1,800 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior … totaled nearly 1,000 yards receiving and led the Tampa area with 18 touchdown receptions as a junior … scored four special teams touchdowns in 2011 … three-star recruit according to Scout.com and the nation’s No. 54 cornerback prospect … three-star Rivals.com recruit and the No. 69 wide receiver nationally … also tabbed by Rivals.com as the No. 90 prospect in Florida … rated a three-star recruit by ESPN.com … a three-star recruit who was listed as the nation’s No. 43 athlete and rated as the 94th-best player in Florida by 247Sports.

Bryant Gross-Armiento
Defensive Back • 6-1 • 190
Sunrise, Fla. • American Heritage High School

Played safety and cornerback for coach Jeff Dellenbach at American Heritage High School … rated three stars by Rivals.com and ESPN.com … named the No. 54 safety prospect by Rivals.com … made 17 tackles, helping lead the Patriots to a 9-2 record as a senior … rated the No. 71 safety nationally by ESPN.com … team won their district and appeared in the Class 5A playoffs … picked up 25 tackles and one fumble recovery as a junior … has two brothers that play football at Colgate … recently added Armiento to his last name to honor his adopted family.

Nick Internicola
Defensive End • 6-3 • 230
Pembroke Pines, Fla. • University School

Played high school football for coach Roger Harriott at University School playing at linebacker and on the defensive line … rated three stars by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com … picked as the No. 28 prospect at his position and No. 69 out of Florida by Rivals.com … named the 54th-best player out of Florida according to 247Sports … Class 3A Florida All-State selection … ranked No. 26 on the Sun-Sentinel’s 2013 Broward/Palm Beach Super60 list … led his team to a 13-0 record and Class 3A state championship as a senior … team presented the MaxPreps’ Minuteman Trophy after finishing the season as the website’s small-school national champion … totaled 62 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions as the team’s top pass rusher … picked up six tackles and numerous quarterback pressures during the state title game, shutting out the opponent in the second half … totaled 33 tackles, four sacks and two pass deflections as a junior … born in Boston and moved to Florida at age of eight.

Sebastian Joseph
Defensive Tackle • 6-4 • 270
Stroudsburg, Pa. • Stroudsburg High School

Played high school football for Joe Bernard at Stroudsburg … rated as the No. 30 prospect out of the state of Pennsylvania by Rivals.com … ranked three stars by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com … checks in as the No. 52 player on the East Coast and No. 39 at his position according to Scout.com … totaled 40 tackles – with 17 for loss – to go with two forced fumbles as a senior … helped lead the Mountaineers to back-to-back Mountain Valley Conference champions with a 10-2 record in his final season … accepted bid to play in the Chesapeake Bowl following the season … picked up 25 tackles and six sacks as a junior as part of a defensive unit that held opponents to an average of 13.4 points per game.

Josh Klecko
Defensive Tackle • 6-2 • 260
Colts Neck, N.J. • Red Bank Catholic High School

Played high school football at Red Bank Catholic for head coach Jim Portela … three-star recruit according to ESPN.com and the nation’s No. 67 defensive tackle recruit … All-Shore Defensive Player of the Year according to the Asbury Park Press after posting 48 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a senior … won honor despite missing four games with injury … 16 quarterback hurries and returned one interception 37 yards for a touchdown … Class A Central Defensive Player of the Year … helped lead the Caseys to three-straight divisional titles … recorded 69 tackles and five sacks as a junior … team finished with the No. 13 ranking in the final NJVarsity Top 25 … Star-Ledger All-Monmouth County selection … Asbury Park Press All-Shore First-Team performer … rated as a three-star recruit by Scout.com … son of New York Jet great Joe Klecko, who played 12 seasons in the NFL with four Pro Bowl appearances as a defensive tackle … brother Dan was a former BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year at Temple and played eight seasons in the NFL and won three Super Bowl rings.

Chris Laviano
Quarterback • 6-3 • 200
Glen Head, N.Y. • Holy Trinity High School

Four-year starter at quarterback for head coach Tony Mascia … joins former high school teammate Matt McBride at Rutgers … threw for 1,473 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior … junior season totals of 1,716 yards passing and 14 touchdowns … four-star prospect according to ESPN.com … listed as the No. 14 pro-style quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com … rated the No. 8 prospect in New York by SuperPrep … three-star rated recruit by Rivals.com and the No. 3 player in New York … listed as the No. 34 pro-style quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com … three-star recruit by 247Sports and the No. 3 player in New York … also rated the No. 20 pro-style quarterback nationally by 247Sports … completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,716 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior … top game as a junior came against St. Joseph-by-the-Sea after finishing 13-of-15 passing for 205 yards and three touchdowns … also ran for 104 yards and a touchdown on four carries in the 49-7 victory.

Lester Liston
Linebacker • 6-2 • 235
Grand Blanc, Mich. • Grand Blanc High School (Hargrave Military Academy)

Prep school linebacker who played one season at Hargrave Military Academy … originally from Grand Blanc, Mich. and Grand Blanc High School … played for head coach Joe Delaney at Grand Blanc … second on the team as a senior with 98 tackles and led the Bobcats with 699 yards rushing and nine touchdowns … averaged 7.1 yards per carry as a senior … rated the No. 16 prep school player in the nation and the No. 3 prep school linebacker by Rivals.com … a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports … listed as the No. 3 prep school inside linebacker recruit nationally by 247Sports … totaled 87 tackles and two interceptions as a junior en route to KLAA all-conference honors … helped guide Grand Blanc to a 7-4 record and the district playoffs.

Taylor Marini
Tight End • 6-4 • 250
Oviedo, Fla. • Lake Mary Prep

Played high school football for coach Scott Perry at Lake Mary … three-star recruit according to Rivals.com and Scout.com … ranked as the No. 40 tight end prospect nationally by ESPN.com … rated No. 37 on the Orlando Sentinel’s 2013 Central Florida Super60 … helped the Rams to a 7-3 record as a senior … used primarily as a blocker and long snapper, adding 11 receptions for 143 yards receiving in his final prep season … father Tony played basketball for UCF in the 1980’s.

Dorian Miller
Offensive Line • 6-3 • 295
Metuchen, N.J. • Metuchen High School

Played high school football for Sal Mistretta at Metuchen … lined up on both sides of the ball as a guard … helped the Bulldogs rush for 3,941 yards and 48 touchdowns combined during his junior and senior seasons … more than 80 percent of Metuchen’s plays were rushes, running behind Miller approximately 90 percent of the time … made 122 tackles with 12 sacks on defensive in his final two prep seasons … four-star rating from ESPN.com and Scout.com … No. 21 prospect out of New Jersey with a three-star rating from Rivals.com … helped lead the North team to a 28-13 win at the Chesapeake Bowl … Star-Ledger First Team All-State selection … Miller never yielded a sack and Metuchen ran for over 7,000 yards during his four-year career … on defense vs. Spotswood, totaled 12 tackles, four for loss, three sacks, caused a fumble and stopped a two-point conversion in a 28-26 victory … brother Dejuan played 38 games at Oklahoma as a wide receiver with 75 receptions during his career.

Myles Nash
Linebacker • 6-5 • 205
Sicklerville, N.J. • Timber Creek High School

Part of back-to-back South Jersey Group 4 section championship teams for head coach Rob Hinson at Timber Creek High School … joins former Charger teammate Quanzell Lambert at Rutgers … led team to a 22-2 record over his junior and senior seasons … totaled 70 tackles, 14 sacks and eight tackles-for-loss his senior season … four-star recruit by ESPN.com … rated the No. 50 athlete nationally and the No. 16 prospect in New Jersey by ESPN.com … Star-Ledger All-Group 4 selection … one of several Rutgers commitments to play in the Chesapeake Bowl … 84 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior … rated a three-star recruit and the nation’s No. 43 outside linebacker by Scout.com … three-star recruit, No. 15 player in New Jersey and the No. 46 athlete nationally by Rivals.com … listed as the nation’s No. 61 athlete and a three-star recruit by 247Sports.

Andre Patton
Wide Receiver • 6-4 • 195
Wilmington, Del. • St. Elizabeth High School

Two-way standout for head coach Joe Hemphill at St. Elizabeth High School … named the Delaware Defensive Player of the Year by voting media and the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association … finished the season with 68 tackles and three interceptions … will play wide receiver at Rutgers and totaled 48 receptions for 761 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior … rushed for 677 yards and another 14 touchdowns … also returned punts and kickoffs for the Vikings … his older brother Eric plays football at Delaware … junior season featured 28 receptions for 644 yards and 10 touchdowns … also totaled 37 tackles and three interceptions in 2011 … three-star recruit and the nation’s No. 67 wide receiver according to Scout.com … No. 1 prospect in Delaware by Rivals.com … a three-star Rivals.com recruit who was tabbed the country’s No. 81 wide receiver … three-star recruit by ESPN.com and 247Sports … rated the No. 1 player in Delaware by ESPN.com and 247Sports.

Delon Stephenson
Defensive Back • 5-11 • 190
Sayreville, N.J. • Sayreville High School (Milford Academy)

Spent the fall at Milford Academy and played for head coach Bill Chaplick … lined up at defensive back for Milford, finishing the season with 48 tackles, six pass breakups and a forced fumble … 2010 Home News Tribune Offensive Player of the Year … rated by Rivals.com the No. 21 prep player in the nation … three-year letterwinner for head coach George Najjar at Sayreville High School … younger brother of current Scarlet Knight defensive tackle Daryl Stephenson and also played with defensive end David Milewski at Sayreville … listed as the No. 12 prospect in New Jersey by SuperPrep in 2011 … combined 22 touchdowns as a senior, including 1,161 rushing yards and 370 yards receiving … game-winning 65-yard touchdown reception in the closing minute of the sectional semifinal … 59 tackles and six interceptions as a defensive back in 2011 … part of two state championship teams for the Bombers … registered 3,532 yards from scrimmage and 52 touchdowns for his career, including 15 interceptions on defense … scored 12 touchdowns in eight playoff games … Star-Ledger All-State First Team pick on defense … guided the Bombers to a 30-5 career record as a three-year starter … rated a three-star recruit by ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com.

T.J. Taylor
Defensive Back • 6-3 • 190
Kendall Park, N.J. • South Brunswick High School

Played for head coach Joe George at South Brunswick High School … continues a strong tradition of Vikings to play at Rutgers, joining former high school teammate Jevon Tyree “On the Banks” and hails from the same high school of current Cincinnati Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu … Star-Ledger Second Team All-State on defense … finished senior season with 33 receptions for 610 yards and 10 touchdowns … led the Vikings to the Central Jersey Group 5 championship … recorded 48 tackles, 15 pass breakups and three interceptions at safety … finished year with 365 return yards … Star-Ledger All-Group 5 defensive selection … Home News Tribune All-Area as a junior and a senior … Star-Ledger All-Middlesex selection on defense … junior year featured 17 receptions for 468 yards and six touchdowns … three-star recruit and the nation’s No. 41 safety by Scout.com … No. 20 prospect in the Garden State, No. 47 athlete nationally and a three-star recruit by Rivals.com … rated the No. 77 athlete nationally, No. 20 recruit in New Jersey and a three-star recruit by ESPN.com … three-star prospect according to 247Sports.

John Tsimis
Wide Receiver • 6-0 • 175
Harrington Park, N.J. • Bergen Catholic High School

Played for coach Nunzio Campanile at Bergen Catholic … rated a three-star recruit by ESPN.com and Scout.com … ranked as the No. 5 wide receiver out of the Garden State by NJVarsity.com … missed senior season due to injury … caught 50 passes for 754 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior … three-star recruit according to ESPN.com … rated the No. 33 player in New Jersey by ESPN.com … rated No. 30 player in New Jersey and a three-star recruit by 247Sports … all-state honors his junior season … played in an offense that racked up more than 2,000 passing yards in 2011 … helped lead the Crusaders to an 8-3 record … leaves Bergen Catholic ranked in the top five in almost every receiving category … registered 10 catches, 152 yards and two touchdowns in win over Don Bosco Prep as a junior … totaled 15 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore … played high school basketball.

Kemoko Turay
Defensive End • 6-6 • 220
Newark, N.J. • Barringer High School

Played for coach Darnell Mangan at Barringer High School … Third-Team All-State selection by the Star-Ledger … led the state of New Jersey with 19 sacks as a senior … helped guide Barringer to the playoffs for the first time in 26 years … nine tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a safety in a 19-6 victory over Belleville … rated as a three-star recruit by Scout.com … recorded 105 tackles (28 for loss), 19 sacks and four forced fumbles as a senior … did not play football as a sophomore or junior … played the sport as a freshman at East Orange … … NJSIAA North 2 Group 1 spring track and field champion in the triple jump and long jump as a junior … noticed by coaches at Rutgers football camp … also played high school basketball.

Eric Wiafe
Defensive End • 6-5 • 260
Egg Harbor Township, N.J. • Egg Harbor Township High School

Played high school football for coach Tony DeRosa at Egg Harbor Township High School … former high school teammate of current Scarlet Knight defensive back Tejay Johnson … rated three stars by Scout.com … noted as the No. 79 defensive tackle nationally by Scout.com … played both defensive tackle and tight end in high school … recorded 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a senior … Press of Atlantic City All-Star selection … 10 tackles and one reception for 19 yards in limited action as a junior … rated as the No. 20 prospect in New Jersey according to SuperPrep Magazine.

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Texas LB takes to Twitter to raise money for sick mom

Dalton Santos, Baker Mayfield AP

While one Texas linebacker was cramming both of his feet squarely in his mouth this weekend, another teammate at the same position was trying to raise attention to a cause very near and dear to his heart.

On his personal Twitter account late Sunday afternoon, UT’s Dalton Santos, a projected starter for the Longhorns’ defense, posted a plea for money to help his ailing mother, Vista, a nurse who is apparently in need of open heart surgery.

Here’s Santos’ post:

Following the link contained in the tweet, you get the following information — and the stellar “Vista’s Angry Aortic Aneurysm” headline:

Friends,

Vista has been diagnosed with an AORTIC ANEURYSM. This MUST be repaired SOON by means of OPEN HEART SURGERY. As we all know Vista is a very proud momma to 3 children. Dalton, Wyatt and Gracie. Vista will be unable to work for at least 10 weeks. She is a single mom. She is a nurse and spends her days caring for others. Now she needs to learn how to let others care for her, even if only for a short time.

We need to raise money to help her during this time. Even if you can only donate 5 dollars it will help ease the burden. The stress of finances should not be something our friend worries about during this time.

Please consider donating.

The goal initially was to raise $5,000; it looks as if word of the social media-fueled drive is spreading as that target has now been upped to $10,000. As of this posting, a total of $4,821 — with 25 days left — has been raised.  For those who can’t figure it out, the direct link to donate if you so desire is right HERE.

God bless and good luck to all involved.

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Bo knows two-sport success, imparts wisdom on Jameis

Bo Jackson

One of the few people on the planet who can truly understand the athlete portion of the Jameis Winston phenomenon is Bo Jackson.

Jackson was a two-sport star at Auburn before playing both football and baseball professionally.  Winston appears to be headed down that same path, splitting his time this spring between the reigning BCS champ Florida State football team and the top-ranked Seminole baseball team.

Add in the fact that both won Heismans and both were born in Bessemer, Ala., and it’s reasonable for people to connect the dots between the two.  In that vein, Jackson, who was in attendance at the Tigers’ spring game over the weekend, was asked what advice he would give the FSU quarterback regarding the two-sport challenge both have tackled.

“People tried to tell me ‘Well, he shouldn’t do this,’ and it wouldn’t be right for me to say what he should do or shouldn’t do,” Jackson said according to al.com‘s Brandon Marcello. “I think he should follow his heart. He should experience success or failure on his own. I think he’s man enough to do that and admit either way.

“I just wish him luck. He’s from my hometown, so he’s a homeboy. I wish him luck.”

Jackson does, though, offer a word of warning amidst the encouragement.

When Bo was doing his two-sport thing, he was a running back in football and an outfielder in the stick-and-ball game.  Winston, on the other hand, is a quarterback and, along with being  a designated hitter, a relief pitcher.  With so much reliance placed on his arm, Winston may have to look elsewhere position-wise if he wants to try both sports professionally.

“If he thinks he can do it, then so be it — on the college level,” Jackson said. “But trying to take it to the next level, it’s going to be a little difficult because the talent pool on both sides. Plus he’s going to make his living with his arm and I think if I was Jameis I would follow my heart because I did the same thing.”

For his part, Winston has openly acknowledged wanting to tackle both sports professionally.

That is my dream,” Winston said back in February when asked about twin futures in the NFL and MLB, “whether it’s me being a closer or me being a hitter. But I know I want to be an NFL quarterback.

“Obviously, it would be a tremendous honor to follow in the footsteps of the Bo Jacksons and the Deion Sanders to play both sports professionally. That’s just something that I have to worry about when it comes.”

Jackson says Winston should follow his heart; Winston, though, may want to follow his wallet to find the path of least resistance, at least on his body.

(Photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

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Max Wittek takes in Texas’ spring game

Colorado v USC Getty Images

For the better part of the eight weeks or so since Max Wittek announced his transfer out of USC. all — or at least most — of the signs have pointed to Texas being the frontrunner for the quarterback’s services.

Saturday, there was yet another sign pointing in the general direction of Austin.

Late last night, ESPN.com reported that Wittek visited UT earlier in the day and was in attendance for the Longhorns’ spring game.  It was the third time since late January that the quarterback has visited the campus, leading some to believe that Wittek-to-UT is all but a done deal.

In addition to Texas, Wittek has visited Hawaii as well.  Louisville is also thought to be a potential destination.

As Wittek will graduate this spring, he will be eligible to play immediately at any FBS program and maintain two years of eligibility.  There’s no word yet on when Wittek will pull the trigger on a decision on his next collegiate destination, although that could happen as early as this coming week.

Wittek was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2011 recruiting class, rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country.  Late last month, Wittek announced he would be transferring from USC in search of a better shot at playing time.

Should Wittek land at UT, he would immediately join a competition that includes the incumbent David Ash, who recently underwent surgery on an injured foot but is expected to be available for the start of summer camp, and Tyrone Swoopes, who struggled for the most part leading the first-team offense in the spring finale yesterday.

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Texas LB calls Baylor ‘trash,’ says ‘they still suck to me’

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Other than Tyrone Swoopes‘ struggles, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of news coming out of Charlie Strong’s first spring game at Texas.

Well, that and a Longhorn giving a conference rival some serious bulletin board material.

Following the spring game, Steve Edmond was one of several UT players to make an appearance in front of the media.  When asked about how Strong can improve the Longhorns’ fortunes from the last couple of years, the linebacker decided to go off on a tangent and aim some rather sharp words directly at the reigning Big 12 champs, Baylor.

“We could have won the conference. Even though I didn’t get a chance to play in the Baylor game, I really feel like we should have beat Baylor. I really don’t like Baylor. I still think they’re trash. …

“I’m mad as I can be. I knew we were a better team than they were. And then … Baylor gets the win and acts like they had never won before. Even in high school, you know how to react when you win a game. It’s not like you never won a game.

“I’m like, ‘They won it, so what?’ They still suck to me.”

Thanks to Oklahoma State’s upset loss to Oklahoma earlier in the day, the Texas-Baylor game Dec. 7 turned into a de facto Big 12 championship game. After playing to a 3-3 tie through the first two quarters of play, the Bears outscored the Longhorns 27-7 the rest of the way to claim the conference title and its first-ever spot in a BCS bowl.

In fact, Baylor has come out on top of Texas in three of the last four meetings, with the only loss in that span coming by six points in Austin in 2012. Perhaps that’s why Edmonds, who missed last year’s loss due to a lacerated liver, reiterated his stance with an “I don’t like Baylor” to conclude his remarks.

Regardless, current and former members of the Baylor football program had a chuckle at Edmond’s bombast.

Oh, and for those wondering, Baylor and Texas will next meet again Oct. 4 in Austin.  Go ahead and grab yourselves some popcorn now as that one’s going to be some fun.

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Potential secondary starter for UK out up to four months with sports hernia

Alabama v Kentucky Getty Images

The good news is a potential starter for Kentucky on the defensive side of the ball will be laid up for quite a bit of time.  The good news?  It shouldn’t impact the player’s availability for the start of the upcoming season.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, cornerback Nate Willis will be sidelined for the next 3-4 months after undergoing surgery in the near future for a sports hernia.  Such a timeline would have Willis out of action no longer than the middle of August, which means the defensive back could be sidelined for the beginning of the Wildcats’ second summer camp under head coach Mark Stoops.

“It’s always hard when you have an injury and you’ve got to be out, because you miss all those reps,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said according to the Herald-Leader. “That frustration sets in, but you’ve always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

Willis, who transferred to UK from the JUCO ranks, started seven of the first nine games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.  Despite the missed playing time, Willis still led the team with five pass breakups.

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Tide tops in spring game attendance despite lowest turnout of Saban era

Alabama Spring Game Getty Images

Only at football-mad Alabama could being tops at something nationally also, at the same time, result in a low-water mark for the current era.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon as a total of 73,506 fans took in their Crimson Tide’s annual A-Day spring game.  That total topped the previous 2014 high-water mark of just over 72,000 for Penn State’s first spring game under James Franklin last weekend.

It also bested Iron Bowl rival Auburn, coming off an appearance in the BCS title game, and its 70,465 fans this same day, although weather in that part of the state may have played a role in those numbers.

It’s highly (highly) (highly) likely the Tide’s total from this Saturday will finish out the spring campaign as the most at the FBS level in 2014; of the remaining spring games, only those at Michigan State and UCLA could even remotely hope to surpass that total — and even that’s simply wishful thinking on anyone’s part.

Despite adding a “Spring Game Attendance High” notch in the belt to go along with yet another recruiting title this year, the turnout for Saturday’s A-Day game was the lowest since Nick Saban took over in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, it was the lowest since the 78,200 showed up during Saban’s second spring.

Of course, there’s not really any reason (at all) to fret over spring attendance as the Tide has blown past the 90,000-mark three times –2011 (92,310), 2007 (92,138), 2010 (91,312) — and the 80,000-mark once — 2009 (84,050) — during Saban’s eight years heading the football program.

More to the point, the eight most-attended spring games in the school’s history have come under Saban; prior to Saban’s arrival, the record amount of fans who took in a spring game was 51,117 (1988), or more than 20,000 fewer than the low-tide attendance Saturday.

Yeah, again, no need to fret for those who were even remotely inclined.

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Confident Nick Marshall dazzles as Auburn exits spring

Nick Marhall, Montravius Adams AP

It’s impossible for a player to win a Heisman based on his spring-game performance, just as, barring injury, it’s impossible for someone to lose it.  What a solid-to-spectacular performance — especially when it’s televised — can do is show the level of progress made from the previous year… and put that player on the minds of those with a stiff-armed lean during the dog days of the offseason.

Based on that assumption — howdy, Coach Saban! — you can very well expect rave reviews and upbeat predictions for the upcoming season to be rolling in for Nick Marshall.

During Auburn’s spring game Saturday, the Tigers quarterback led the first-team offense on seven possessions… and put points on the board at the end of every single one of them.  Included in that very efficient and proficient performance were four touchdown passes from Marshall to three different receivers.  Additionally, all of that scoring came in the first half as Marshall didn’t see the field for the last two quarters.

One of the few negatives to take out of Marshall’s day was the fact that he completed 59 percent of his passes; offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has set a standard of a 65-percent completion percentage for Marshall.  Other than that, though, Marshall’s head coach came out of the day pleased with the triggerman of his offense as he grows both as a quarterback and as a leader.

“He’s more of a leader by example,” Gus Malzahn said of the second-year starter. “He doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, his teammates listen. …

“Our emphasis was obviously throwing the football. It was good to see our guys throwing and catching the ball in front of a crowd.”

For his part, Marshall had ominous words for what opposing defenses can expect from an offense that was run-centric in 2013 but could be adding a potent dimension for 2014.

We’re going to be a scary sight this year,” the quarterback said. “We can get real scary. We know we can run the ball. We’re just focusing on throwing the ball down the field. That’s the emphasis this year.”

In Marshall’s first year as a starter at this level of football, the Georgia transfer, by way of the JUCO ranks, played a significant role in leading the Tigers on a magical ride to the BCS title game following the 2013 season.  In two of AU’s biggest games of the season — the Kick-Six win over Alabama in the regular-season finale and the SEC championship game win over Missouri that propelled AU to its date with Florida State — Marshall completed just over 74 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions.  Not only that, but Marshall rushed for 200 yards and a pair of scores for good measure in those huge wins.

Of course, Marshall then proceeded to put up arguably his worst performance of the year against the best defense he faced, barely completing 50 percent of his passes and throwing a pick in what was still just a three-point loss to the Seminoles.

Coming off that inaugural starting campaign, AU coaches have done nothing but privately rave about the work Marshall has put in to improve himself this offseason.

Yes, it’s the spring and, yes, the spring game specifically is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage with fans in attendance.  Marshall has shown the desire to improve as a player, and those results showed themselves this afternoon.  How that all plays out when the real footballs start flying in a handful of months, though, remains to be seen.

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Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon takes home third straight A-Day MVP

TJ Yeldon, Landon Collins

Back in the day, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner derisively referred to his high-priced slugger, Dave Winfield, as “Mr. May.”  With no Steinbrenner-like derisiveness intended, T.J. Yeldon has taken the “Mr. April” mantle and literally run away with it.

As Alabama concluded Spring Practice 2014 Saturday with its annual A-Day spring game, Yeldon was named as the game’s MVP despite his Crimson team falling to the White squad 17-13.  Remarkably, it’s the third time in the running back’s three years with the Tide that he’s claimed those spring honors.

The true junior led all Tide backs with 95 yards on just 11 carries.  Yeldon had one of the three touchdowns the Tide offense was able to muster on the day as well, the other being touchdown passes from Blake Sims, the frontrunner (for now) to replace AJ McCarron, and Cooper Bateman.

Speaking of the quarterback situation, nothing was decided on that front — that battle will continue in earnest when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gets to town — although there could’ve been a bit of concern this afternoon for a coach as averse to turnovers as Nick Saban.  All told, five Tide quarterbacks combined to toss four interceptions on the day.

Despite the turnovers and all-around lack of scoring in what was the first real public debut of new coordinator Lane Kiffin‘s offense, Saban, as expected, didn’t seem the least bit concerned.  Well, kind of.

After beginning his postgame remarks by stating that, from a coach’s perspective, “[n]obody ever has a bad spring game,” Saban did allow that the offense wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said in quotes distributed by the team. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

Seeing as the Tide is transitioning not only from a three-year starter at the quarterback position to a new coordinator, it’s not surprising that the consistency isn’t where Saban would like it.  Getting that consistency will be tested even further when Coker, who some or even most observers expect to be under center when the Tide opens the 2014 season, enters the fray when summer camp opens in early August and further dilutes the reps.

Regardless of how it ultimately turns out, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch how the Tide gets to Saban’s optimum level of consistency at the position and moves on post-McCarron.

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Key recruiter leaving the Hawkeyes

Eric Johnson

A week ahead of its spring game, the Iowa football program has taken a rather significant hit on the recruiting front.

The Hawkeyes announced in a press release Saturday that assistant coach Eric Johnson has decided to leave Kirk Ferentz‘s coaching staff.  The state reason is that Johnson wants to pursue an unnamed career opportunity outside of football.

Johnson was a part of Ferentz’s first Iowa staff as a grad assistant.

“I know Eric and his family have given this decision great attention and thought, and we all wish them the best as they move forward,” said Ferentz in a statement.  “Eric has been a valued staff member since he joined our original staff in 1999 and has made many contributions to our program and team as a coach, recruiter and mentor.  I am very appreciative of Eric’s efforts and his commitment to Iowa and wish him all the best in the future.”

Johnson has served as assistant defensive line coach (2012-13), tight ends coach (2010-11; 2003-07) and assistant linebackers coach (2008-2009) during his decade-plus career with the Hawkeyes, but it was on the recruiting trail where Johnson made his biggest mark and where his departure will hit the program the hardest.  From the release on Johnson, who had spent the past 10 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ recruiting coordinator:

Johnson has been heavily involved in Iowa’s recruiting efforts since joining the Hawkeye staff. Iowa’s 2006 recruiting class was ranked extremely high by all the recruiting experts. Iowa’s 2005 recruiting class was ranked among the top 10 in the nation by all of the top recruiting services, while Iowa’s classes in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2009 were all ranked in the nation’s top 25. Sporting News ranked Iowa’s 2011 recruiting class second best among Big Ten programs and the 2012 class was ranked third among league programs.

Johnson ranked as one of the top ten recruiting coordinators in the country by Tom Lemming in 2001 and was named one of the Top Ten Recruiters in the Big Ten Conference by Rivals.com in 2007.

“My family and I can’t thank everyone enough for our 15 years at Iowa,” said Johnson. “It has been a great time in our lives. From a family standpoint, we had a chance to raise our children in a tremendous community. From a professional standpoint, I have worked for the best person in college football.

“Coach Ferentz is the best teacher, leader, and person I have ever been around; he truly embodies the Iowa way. I have also been mentored by three great coordinators in Norm Parker, Phil Parker and Ken O’Keefe, and had the opportunity to work with one of the best people anyone can ask for in Reese Morgan.”

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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Ark. St.’s ‘Coach for a Day’ claims spring game win

Nick Bhardwaj

How much does a win at the FBS level cost?  For Nick Bhardwaj, it was $11,700 of well-spent funds.

Earlier this month, Arkansas State and head coach Blake Anderson announced that it was auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to coach one of the Red Wolves’ squads in the annual spring game.  The winning bid went to Bhardwaj, who is the 25-year-old CEO of a California-based tech company.

Friday, Bhardwaj put his football mettle to the test… and came out on the winning side as his Black team dropped a 48-17 decision on the Red squad.  Bhardwaj, a release from the school stated, “gave the team’s pregame and halftime speeches and communicated with the coaching staff on headset throughout the entire game while making play-calling and fourth-down decisions.”  That decision-making came after an extensive film session with offensive coordinator Walt Bell.

Also as part of the promotion, Bhardwaj received a Powerade bath (pictured)following the lopsided win.

The truth was I was just a fan of the sport, a fan of the game, and just happy to be a part of this opportunity,” Bhardwaj, who had never been to the state of Arkansas prior to the spring game, said during a press conference. Even a day after the game, Bhardwaj was still basking in the glow of the unique experience while Anderson was praising the man with the unblemished coaching mark.

In addition to Bhardwaj, ASU had another surprise up its spring sleeves as beloved former Red Wolves head coach Larry Lacewell was on the Red team sidelines as coach.  Lacewell stills holds the school record for career wins.

“[Athletic director] Terry [Mohajir] kept this a big secret that I was going to coach because he didn’t want the crowd to get so big, or he was scared that when everybody finds out I’m going to coach again that nobody’s coming,” Lacewell said.

Well done and very classy on all fronts by Anderson and the football program.

(Photo credit: Arkansas State athletics)

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VIDEO: Navy football takes near-annual trip to White House

Navy White House 1

Navy’s trips to the White House in celebration of its gridiron success are becoming such a yearly tradition that we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Midshipmen had their own monogrammed towels in one of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s myriad bathrooms.

Friday afternoon, Navy players and coaches were honored yet again by President Barack Obama at the White House for claiming the 2013 edition of the Commander-In-Chief trophy.  It’s the ninth time in the past 11 years the Midshipmen have staked its claim to the prestigious trophy.

Navy defeated both Air Force (28-10, after it looked like the game wouldn’t be played) and bitter rival (sometimes) Army (34-7) to earn its 14th CIC honor since the trophy was first handed out in 1972.  Despite the recent run of football success, the Midshipmen still trail the Falcons’ 18 trophies.  The Black Knights, the inaugural winner of the award, are well behind both service academies with six, with the last coming in 1996.

The trophy has been shared on four different occasions: 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1986.

Navy White House 2“When you sign up to play at Annapolis, you know you’re in for a different experience,” the President said. “So, yes, it’s about learning to be a good football player, but more importantly, it’s about learning how to be a good leader and to be a good man. And that’s what these outstanding Americans are and will continue to be.”

The President also acknowledged the tragedy with which the program has been forced to deal.  Last month, running back Will McKamey passed away after falling unconscious and into a coma during a spring practice session.

“I understand your motto for this season is ‘I Will’ in memory of him. And that’s what camaraderie is all about: Honor. Courage. Commitment. That’s what makes the Midshipmen so strong,” the POTUS said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to serve as your commander-in-chief. Not primarily because of what you’ve done on the football field, but because of your dedication to each other and your service to America.”

 

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Nick Saban ‘shocked’ at Manning-Gase imbroglio

Nick Saban Peyton Manning AP

In the course of a post yesterday on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase having their brains picked on the no-huddle offense by Nick Saban during a recent visit to Tuscaloosa, we mentioned in passing, as noted by our redheaded stepmothers over at PFT, that the confab may have been in violation of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For its part, the NFL is looking into whether or not Manning and Gase violated the portion of the CBA which prohibits coaches from meeting with players prior to the start of their team’s offseason workouts (the Broncos began their offseason program Monday, after the visits took place).  For his part, Saban is stunned that an NFL issue may have arisen out of what’s sounding like an impromptu get-together, ensuring that he stressed that Manning and his coach were never in the same room discussing football during their overlapping time in Tuscaloosa.

From an interview Saban did with the Denver Post after the situation blew up:

“I’m like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part,” Saban said by phone Friday night. “I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Asked specifically if Manning and Gase were in a meeting at the same time, Saban said, “Only to say hello and b.s. with each other. Adam came Monday and talked to the offensive coaches and some of the defensive coaches. I know he talked with Kirby (Smart, the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator). He and I just visited casually. We didn’t talk football. Adam was with me through two different college programs (at Michigan State and LSU).”

Saban firmly stated that Manning and Gase did not arrive together; in fact, the coach had been then there “for a couple days” prior to the player’s arrival.

Because of Manning’s proficiency in operating the no-huddle offense, the Alabama head coach and Denver Broncos quarterbacks spent a couple of hours one day — without Gase present — going over what defenses are problematic for that type of offense.

“And Peyton,” Saban said, “we were just talking ball. We talked about particular defenses that give us trouble with the no-huddle. Things like that.”

Given how the situation exploded, Saban took the opportunity to intimate an “ass out of you and me” joke when explaining the cause of the explosion.

“I was asked about their visit at my coach’s clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn’t. That’s what happens when people assume.”

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Hoke: Shane Morris narrowed gap on Devin Gardner after ‘good spring’

Shane Morris, Devin Gardner AP

While Devin Gardner said “it was amazing how much better (the quarterback competition this spring) made me,” the incumbent at the position –despite his pre-spring proclamation — exited the 15 practice sessions without a firm grasp on the starting job.

How tenuous Gardner’s hold on the job was further demonstrated by head coach Brady Hoke, who stated Friday “he might” when asked if Gardner would be his starter when the 2014 regular season commenced.  Gardner and Shane Morris have been engaged in what appeared to be a  neck-and-neck battle to lead the Wolverines offense throughout the spring.

When asked about Morris, Hoke was damn-near effusive, relative to his tepid comments Morris’ competition, in his praise.

“I thought Shane had a good spring,” Hoke said according to mlive.com. “Was it flawless? No. But I think he learned more about the urgency that he has to have to be the quarterback at Michigan.

“I thought he had a good spring.”

Gardner started every game last season before a foot injury he suffered in the loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale sidelined him for the Wolverines’ bowl game.  In his first career start, and as a true freshman no less, Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards and interception as UM dropped a 31-14 decision to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

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UGA expects Keith Marshall, pair of WRs back for summer workouts

Tennessee v Georgia

A high-profile running back and a pair of experienced and productive wide receivers missed all or part of Georgia’s spring practice due to injury and/or rehabilitation from injury, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Bulldogs takes its next big step in preparing for the upcoming season.

According to head coach Mark Richt, running back Keith Marshall (pictured) and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the football program’s “voluntary” summer workouts.  Those structured workouts will commence in June.

All three of the players are coming off of torn ACLs suffered last season that forced them to miss various amounts of games.  Marshall and Scott-Wesley both incurred their knee injuries during the Tennessee game last October, while Mitchell’s knee was injured in late August.

Mitchell had been participating — in non-contact fashion — in UGA’s spring practice earlier this year before another leg injury knocked him out for the remainder of the spring.

In addition to those three, Richt said he expects tight end Jay Rome, who suffered a foot injury last year and underwent surgery in the offseason, to be at full speed for the workouts as well.

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Washington latest to unveil new uniforms for 2014

View of Mascot

Another day, another FBS program has itself some new football duds.  Hooray?

This time around, it’s the Washington football players who will wear new uniform combinations for the 2014 season.  From the release:

The new stadium and athletic facilities are filled with Husky references, echoing the team’s ethos that “no dog runs alone.” A graphic symbol and unique coded sequence embroidered into the back inside neckline of the jerseys reinforces this mantra. Representing the quickest/most agile sled dog formation, the focal point of this special graphic is the area representing the “team dogs,” who are the heart and soul of the squad. The symbol is formed by lines that, when turned sideways, make an 11 to honor the 11 players on the field. Like a sled team, the Husky football team competes as a pack through innovative formations on field.

Our players can’t wait to take the field in these new uniforms. The design tells the story of our program and provides modern innovations in materials and design while embracing the rich tradition that has made Husky football so special,” said first-year UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement.

Below are the three uniform combinations the Huskies will wear this season as well as a video tied to the release:

Washington Uniforms

 

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