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0 – Fresh Kimble
Most recent player to wear No. 0: Akoy Agau

Other players who wore No. 0: Stuart Miller, Joshua Tinch, George Goode, Terry Rozier, Damion Lee, V.J. King

Where Kimble ranks among best No. 0s in program history: 2015 second-team All-ACC selection and current NBA point guard Terry Rozier is undoubtedly the best No. 0. Lee is close behind after leading the Cards in scoring (15.9 ppg) during his one season at Louisville. That sets a precedent for Kimble, a fifth-year grad transfer, to leave a legacy in his only season with the Cards.
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1 – Keith Oddo
Most recent player to wear No. 1: Christen Cunningham

Other players who wore No. 1: Mac Wilkinson, Kendall Dartez, Lorrenzo Wade, Terrence Williams, Angel Nunez, Anton Gill, Tony Hicks, Lance Thomas

Where Oddo ranks: Oddo, a walk-on transfer from Richmond, has his work cut out for him here. Williams will always be remembered at Louisville for his high-flying dunks and two triple-doubles, and for leading the Cards to a 2009 Big East Tournament title and No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed. And Dartez had one of the best individual performances in history with nine blocks in a 2003 game against Holy Cross.

2 – Darius Perry
Louisville’s Darius Perry (2) blew past a couple of Nicholls State defenders during their game at the Yum Center.
Nov. 8, 2018Buy Photo
Louisville’s Darius Perry (2) blew past a couple of Nicholls State defenders during their game at the Yum Center. Nov. 8, 2018 (Photo: Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal)

Most recent player to wear No. 2: Quentin Snider

Other players who wore No. 2: Ellis Myles, Preston Knowles, Russ Smith

Where Perry ranks: No. 2 has been a popular choice among Cardinals guards. It’ll be tough for Perry to pass Smith, the 2013 NCAA Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player, or forward Ellis Myles, who owns one of the four triple-doubles in Louisville history.

Recently: Louisville recently ditched its regular offseason workouts for … paintball
3 – Jae’Lyn Withers
Most recent player to wear No. 3: Jo Griffin

Other players who wore No. 3: Corky Cox, Keith Williams, Brian Kiser, Tony Williams, Bryant Northern, Juan Palacios, Peyton Siva, Chris Jones, Trey Lewis

Where Withers ranks: Even with some records vacated, Siva remains behind only LaBradford Smith in career assists. Keith Williams is a couple spots back on the all-time assists list, and Tony Williams also had a memorable Louisville career in which he became one of the school’s 1,000-point scorers. However, Chris Mack seems to think Withers has a lot of upside and can develop into a valuable frontcourt piece.

4 – Grant Williams
Most recent player to wear No. 4: Khwan Fore

Other players who wore No. 4: Herb Harrah, Roscoe Shackelford, Lancaster Gordon, Derwin Webb, Tick Rogers, Jerry Johnson, Hajj Turner, Nouha Diakite, David Padgett, Rakeem Buckles, Dillon Avare, Quentin Snider

Where Williams ranks: Williams joins the Cards as a walk-on this season after serving as a student manager for the last two years. He’ll have some work to do to gain notoriety among No. 4s. Lancaster Gordon’s jersey is honored in the KFC Yum Center after he led Louisville to two Final Four appearances in four seasons. Cards fans also have a soft spot for Padgett, who led the program through a tough 2017-18 season after Rick Pitino’s firing.

Also: Here are the Class of 2021 names to know for Louisville basketball

5 – Malik Williams
Louisville’s Malik Williams plays his own string music after knocking down a three.
Jan. 6, 2018Buy Photo
Louisville’s Malik Williams plays his own string music after knocking down a three. Jan. 6, 2018 (Photo: Scott Utterback/Courier Journal )

Most recent player to wear No. 5: Matz Stockman

Other players who wore No. 5: Jerry Moreman, Jerry Eaves, Mike Case, Alvin Sims, Marques Maybin, Brandon Bender, Taquan Dean, Earl Clark, Chris Smith, Kevin Ware

Where Williams ranks: So many No. 5s contributed to memorable seasons for Louisville. Eaves was part of the 1980 title team. Dean is one of the program’s top 10 scorers. Maybin and Sims are two prolific dunkers. Clark helped the Cards to a Big East Tournament Title. But Williams won over the starting center spot at the end of 2018-19 and looks poised for a big junior season.

10 – Samuell Williamson
Most recent player to wear No. 10: Wyatt Battaile

Other players who wore No. 10: James Heins, Gerald DuPont, George Burnette, Bill Akridge, Larry Holman, Bob Gorius, Larry Carter, Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, Mark McSwain, Shannon Fraley, Keith LeGree, Cameron Murray, Prileu Davis, Edgar Sosa, Gorgui Dieng, Jaylen Johnson

Where Williamson ranks: Bridgeman was part of Louisville’s 1975 Final Four squad and earned All-American honors that season, too. Sosa and Dieng are probably next in line as a dangerous 3-point shooter and excellent shot-blocker, respectively. For his part, Williamson is regarded as the crown jewel of the incoming freshman class, a shooter who can challenge Jordan Nwora for the title of leading scorer this season.

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Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis is being investigated in New York for an alleged rape that a woman told police took place last year, according to a New York Post report.

The woman told the New York Police Department on Thursday about the alleged attack, according to the Post, which cited law enforcement sources. The woman reportedly told police she waited more than a year to come forward because she had discussed getting $68,000 from Porzingis to keep quiet.

Porzingis’ attorney, Roland G. Riopelle, denied the allegations and said they had previously referred the case to federal authorities due to the “accuser’s extortionate demands.”

“We are aware of the complaint that was made against Mr. Porzingis on Friday and unequivocally deny the allegations,” Riopelle said. “We made a formal referral to federal law enforcement on Dec. 20, 2018, based on the accuser’s extortionate demands. We also alerted the National Basketball Association months ago, and they are aware of the ongoing investigation of the accuser by federal law enforcement. We cannot comment further on an ongoing federal investigation. Please refer any questions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the National Basketball Association.”

Porzingis was playing for the New York Knicks and had suffered a torn ACL just hours before the alleged attack, which the woman told police happened Feb. 7, 2018, at the Sky building in New York, where Porzingis lived.

The woman, who reportedly lived in the same building, said she had accepted an invitation to Porzingis’ apartment before the alleged attack.

Asked if the Knicks were made aware of the incident, a team spokesperson said, “This is Kristaps’ personal matter and not related to the Knicks.”

An NBA spokesman said the league is aware of the situation.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement that the union has “been aware of these allegations for some time, have evaluated the accuser’s claims and, based on what is presently before us, stand with Kristaps.”

Porzingis was traded to the Mavericks earlier this year, but he has yet to play for them, as he still is recovering from his injury.

The Knicks informed Dallas of the pending Porzingis rape allegations on a Jan. 31 trade call with NBA headquarters that finalized the blockbuster deal, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in an email to the Post, said the team is aware of the accusation, but “we have been instructed by federal authorities not to comment.”

Cuban declined further comment when contacted by ESPN.

An NYPD spokesperson would not confirm the Post report, issuing this statement: “The NYPD takes sexual assault and all rape cases extremely seriously, and urges anyone who has been a victim to file a report so we can perform a comprehensive investigation, and offer support and services to survivors.”

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Sunday that Porzingis is not currently with the team, as it was pre-planned for him to stay back in Dallas and work out as the Mavericks traveled to face Oklahoma City. Carlisle said this situation won’t affect Porzingis’ availability for practice, but if he wanted to take time away from the team, the Mavericks would be open to that.

“If he wanted to take some personal time away from being on the bench or whatever, we would certainly grant him that, but that would be his call. That would be his call,” Carlisle said.

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Before his final game for Lake Travis High School, Charlie Brewer felt colossal pressure.

The standard had been set. His older brother, Michael, had met it twice before, winning a pair of Texas high school state championships. Before that, the Cavaliers had won three. The wait for title No. 6 was longer than the community preferred, and Charlie came close as a junior, but didn’t quite close the deal.

Dec. 17, 2016, was his last shot.

“I was like, ‘Man, I better win this one,’” Brewer, now the starting quarterback at Baylor, recalled jokingly. “If I don’t win this game, I’m not welcome back in Lake Travis.”

Lake Travis already had produced a Heisman winner, an Orange Bowl winner and another quarterback ranked second best in the country. Winning state championships was customary.

“That’s just how it’s supposed to be,” Cleveland Browns quarterback and Lake Travis alumnus Baker Mayfield said, “and you have to live up to it.”

Fortunately for Brewer, he found the finish line. Looking back on it, he called it a “relief.” When you produce a Division I quarterback every couple of years — as Lake Travis has with every starter in its program since 2004 — you learn to live with high expectations.

“Honestly, I can’t tell you why there’s been so many Division I quarterbacks,” Brewer said. “It’s kinda crazy.”

It is, but it hasn’t happened simply by chance.

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If you follow recruiting, you’ve probably heard of Lake Travis. It was once was the home of the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country in 2009, Garrett Gilbert. It also produced a quarterback who won an Orange Bowl at Kansas (Todd Reesing). Oh, and there’s that guy who won the Heisman Trophy (Mayfield).

All told, the past eight Lake Travis starting quarterbacks have moved on to Division I programs. Seven signed letters of intent (one as an athlete). One, famously, walked on (Mayfield, again). Current Lake Travis starter Hudson Card, the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback recruit in the ESPN Junior 300, will make it nine straight when he signs as part of the 2020 class (he’s verbally committed to Texas).

The Cavaliers’ junior varsity quarterback, 2021 prospect Nate Yarnell, already has a scholarship offer from Houston.

But it wasn’t always that way.

When Reesing was a freshman in 2002, it was a “sleepy little lake community” in suburban Austin that had virtually no gridiron success. The varsity went 1-19 combined in 2001 and 2002.

“Football was kind of a laughingstock,” he said. “No one really cared. People were much more concerned with going to the lake or listening to music or checking out what the next concert was as opposed to, ‘Where’s the football team playing this week?’”

When a new coach, Jeff Dicus, arrived in 2003, things changed. He and his offensive coordinator, Jerry Bird, installed a more wide-open spread offense. Dicus aimed to better align the middle-school programs with what the high school ran. An emphasis on 7-on-7 competition was placed. Expectations were raised.

“He kinda got the guys off the lake in the summertime and got them in the weight room and got a program going,” said former Lake Travis offensive coordinator Michael Wall, now the head coach at Willis (Texas) High.

Success wasn’t instant, but there was improvement. Dicus’ first team went 3-7, which was three more wins than Lake Travis had the year prior. The team’s quarterback, Nick Bird (Jerry’s son), performed well enough to earn all-district honors and a chance to play at then-Division II Abilene Christian (the Wildcats are now FCS).

“[Nick Bird] was the catalyst that really got everything going there,” Dicus said. “He got kids out throwing and catching and we got involved with 7-on-7. … I give him a lot of credit.”

QUARTERBACK RECRUITING CLASS TEAM(S)
Todd Reesing 2006 Kansas
Garrett Gilbert 2009 Texas, SMU
Michael Brewer 2011 Texas Tech, Virginia Tech
Collin Lagasse 2012 SMU
Baker Mayfield 203 Texas Tech, Oklahoma
Dominic DeLira 2015 Iowa State, Texas Southern
Charlie Brewer 2017 Baylor
Matthew Baldwin 2018 Ohio State
Hudson Card 2020 Texas (committed)
The next season, Reesing took the reins and the Cavaliers went 8-3 and won their district championship. As a senior, Reesing threw for more than 3,300 yards and 41 touchdowns as the team went 11-1, including its first 10-0 regular season. That was good enough to earn a scholarship to Kansas, where he also eventually made history, taking the Jayhawks to 12-1 season in 2007 and a BCS bowl victory.

Succeeding Reesing was going to be a considerable task for the next Lake Travis quarterback, but when Gilbert whipped up a 348-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 41-34 win over Texas City High on Sept. 2, 2006, in San Antonio’s Alamodome, it was clear: The kid was special.

“He was the best high school quarterback I’ve ever seen play,” Charlie Brewer said. “He was big. He could heave it, throw the ball a mile. He could run. He could literally do everything you want your quarterback to do. He checked off every box and every intangible.”

The coming years brought exceptional success. The Cavs went 39-4 in Gilbert’s three years as the starter, winning two state championships. The first came under Dicus, who then left for the head-coaching job in Duncanville, south of Dallas. His successor was none other than Chad Morris.

Gilbert took home every accolade under the sun. He was the 2009 Gatorade National Player of the Year, was on countless All-America teams and broke several state passing records before signing with Texas (he later transferred to SMU).

While Gilbert’s profile rose in the prep ranks, Reesing’s Kansas run was concurrent. Their simultaneous success put Lake Travis football on the map nationally.

“[The 2007 Orange Bowl] played a part in people recognizing who Lake Travis was or where it was,” Michael Brewer said. “You listen to the broadcast and they say where everybody’s from, and people went and looked up Lake Travis.”

Morris, according to Mayfield, took the program to an even higher level.

“As soon as he came in, he went 32-0,” Mayfield said. “By the time he left, we had won three state championships in a row.”

Morris was only in Austin for two seasons before going to the University of Tulsa (then later Clemson, SMU and now Arkansas), but he made his presence felt. The Cavaliers added a more up-tempo pace to their offense as well as concepts he picked up from others, including his longtime friend Gus Malzahn, an Arkansas prep coaching legend who moved into the college ranks just before Morris and is now Auburn’s head coach.

When it came to quarterback development, Morris started from the ground up. He and his staff began organizing 7-on-7 football for elementary school-aged boys, got parents involved and held three weeks’ worth of spring games annually just before youth baseball season began.

“I think to be the big man on campus at Lake Travis High School, it prepares you to play at the college level. The expectations are very high. Pressure’s on.”
Baker Mayfield
“We had a plan in place, a developmental plan,” Morris said. “As crazy as this may sound, we identified who we thought was going to be our quarterback all the way down into the first grade.”

On the heels of that experiment, he also launched the Hill Country Passing Academy, a summer program that still exists today.

“It’s organized; [the quarterbacks receive] a lot of reps,” said Doug Card, Hudson’s father. “They practice the route trees, a lot of the concepts they run at the high school level.”

Meanwhile, the community around the high school was growing rapidly. When Dicus arrived in 2003, he estimated the high school had an enrollment of roughly 1,400 students. That number is now just over 3,000.

Such growth has been reflected in the football program. Dicus said there were 120 kids in the program total (including sub-varsity teams) when he started. By time he left following the 2007 season, there were well over 250. Participation has stayed steady ever since.

“There was always something going on up at the high school,” said Wall, who served as an assistant under both Dicus and current head coach Hank Carter. “If you go up there on a Saturday, not only are we bringing the high school kids in to watch the video postgame of Friday night, there’s flag football going on all over the place, all over our campus, in our turf room.”

The explosion in youth football also created heated competition.

“It was so competitive as a youth growing up that we had a kid that was in my grade, his mom took him out of school, held him back and home-schooled him for a year just so he’d have a better chance to play,” Mayfield said. “And that was in middle school. So that’s the type of craziness that goes on down in Lake Travis because of the atmosphere and people wanting their kids to play.”

Wall said it wasn’t unusual for quarterbacks to transfer in and out of the program as they sought to become the next great Lake Travis signal-caller.

“There were some guys who realized ‘Hey, I’m not going to beat this kid out,’ or ‘I don’t want to beat this kid out,’ and took off and chose to play somewhere else,” Wall said. “Most of the time, the kids that come in are helpful, but I’ve also seen some talented kids come in, stay for six months, and leave.”

Yarnell, a sophomore, battled with another freshman last season, and the pressure was a lot to take in for his parents.

“When they have freshman quarterbacks who are neck-and-neck, they take [turns in offensive] series,” said Christina Yarnell, Nate’s mother. “If [Nate] had one incompletion, they’d switch ‘em out. So every down, you’re like “Sweet Jesus, please have a completion.”

Numbers are one thing, but to have the pipeline of quarterback talent Lake Travis has had, it also takes good offensive talent surrounding them. The Cavaliers have produced numerous Division I prospects at other positions over the years, too. The latest such example is ESPN 300 receiver Garrett Wilson, the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2019 class currently committed to Ohio State.
Garrett Gilbert was rated the second-best quarterback in the Class of 2009 by ESPN. Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Good timing also helps. When Gilbert was a senior, Michael Brewer, who went to Texas Tech and eventually Virginia Tech, was a sophomore. Mayfield was two years behind Brewer.

“We were very lucky,” Gilbert said. “I don’t know that there’s any science to it other than just that we were lucky that the three of us were around the same age and got to play in the same area.”

Mayfield, fittingly, wasn’t the starter when he was on the freshman team. And he wasn’t the starter during his first varsity season. An injury to then-starter Collin Lagasse, an athlete who went on to play receiver and defensive back at SMU, opened the door for Mayfield to play.

“So I stepped in and never looked back after that,” Mayfield said.

With the Cavaliers riding a streak of four consecutive rings, he knew what was expected of him.

“The expectations were state championship or bust,” Mayfield said. “So that’s how I always handled it. Playing football there and starting is a big deal.”

As a junior, Mayfield helped deliver a 16-0 record and a fifth consecutive state title in 2011. Lake Travis went 77-3 in that five-year stretch from Gilbert to Mayfield. Current coach Hank Carter, who played for and coached with Morris, has three rings of his own and is gunning for a fourth this season. His team, led by Card, is currently in the state semifinals.

Since Mayfield departed, the Cavaliers’ quarterback production has continued. Dominic DeLira signed with Iowa State in 2014 before eventually transferring to Texas Southern, where he started for a brief period. Brewer is the sophomore starter at Baylor after signing in 2017. His successor, Matthew Baldwin, started for only a year at Lake Travis but is now a freshman at Ohio State.

Card, a versatile athlete, is a quarterback by trade but fleet-footed enough to play other positions (he was a receiver as a sophomore and caught 69 passes for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns). The future Longhorn has already thrown for 49 touchdowns this season and more than 3,300 yards. And with former Texas quality control coach Will Stein now serving as Lake Travis’ offensive coordinator, Card is getting a head start on his future team’s offensive concepts.

Yarnell, who moved into the district in middle school, is next in line. Listed at 6-foot-5, 190-pounds, he has some filling out to do, but has all the potential you’d expect from a Lake Travis quarterback.

“Yarnell is kinda in the same mold as a Matthew Baldwin,” said Wall, who evaluated Yarnell before leaving Lake Travis. “He’s a big-armed kid, very intelligent, very good leader, very cognizant of the team, the leadership and all those sorts of things and just loves the game.”

If Yarnell’s progression stays on course, he’ll likely extend the Cavaliers’ quarterback streak to 2021, a full 17 years with nine different D-I quarterbacks.

“It’s coaching,” Michael Brewer said. “We had a great coaching staff. Obviously, we didn’t have anything to compare it to. But once you get out of that and you go on to the college level and see the stuff college teams are running, the offseason programs, the in-season regimen and everything, you hear about everybody else’s high school experience, you realize just how good our coaching was in high school.’”

Texas’ passion and financial investment in prep football is well-documented, and it’s why the state continuously produces NFL quarterbacks. But it also takes talent and a little luck to have the type of run the Cavaliers are having. The scoreboard matters, too.

“You want a winner,” Morris said. “You want a kid that knows how to win and comes from a winning background.”

Being the starting quarterback at Lake Travis is an accomplishment in and of itself. Take it from the school’s lone Heisman winner and No. 1 pick.

“I think to be the big man on campus at Lake Travis High School, it prepares you to play at the college level,” Mayfield said. “The expectations are very high. Pressure’s on. There’s always so many people watching those games and paying attention to what Lake Travis is doing.

“You play in big atmospheres, stadiums that are packed, I think it’s all of those things that prepare young kids to be able to play at a high level.”

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The lasting image from the devastating injury that threatens McKenzie Milton’s career is not the way he got hurt.

It is the way his team responded.

Every player, coach and support staff member rushed onto the field. They knelt, some with heads bent, others praying, all collectively embracing Milton with their presence alone. It was easy to feel the way they felt, to understand the shock, the hurt, but also the love.

UCF has won 24 straight games because Milton led the Knights with his competitive fire, his passion, his toughness and his determination. He never backed down, and neither did UCF, his personality slowly becoming the team’s personality.
McKenzie Milton’s knee injury at South Florida was devastating, but his teammates have vowed to play for him in the American Athletic Conference championship game. Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Just like Milton, the two-star recruit with something to prove, UCF has had something of its own to prove. Unabashedly unapologetic and confident, neither Milton nor UCF shied away from bold proclamations. Self-proclaimed national championships? Sure. Talking trash about UCF being better than Notre Dame? Check.

“You look at the [Pitt] film against us and Notre Dame,” Milton told Bleacher Report before his injury. “You can’t tell me Notre Dame is a better team than us.”

So there’s no difference?

“Oh, I see a difference,” Milton said. “We’re better.”

Once again, UCF will have to show that on Saturday, without Milton at quarterback.

No. 8 UCF (11-0) knows it must beat Memphis (8-4) in the American Athletic Conference championship to secure its spot in another New Year’s Six game. That should be motivation enough, but with Milton unable to play, the Knights have even more — winning for him.

“We’re playing for 10,” center Jordan Johnson said, referencing Milton’s jersey number. “We’re going to go out there and put it all out there for McKenzie, because we know that’s what he’d want.”

Ask anyone on the team why Milton means so much to them, why it is so important to win for him, and the stories come easily.

For receiver Tre Nixon, it started his first day on campus as a transfer student, when Milton offered to help with the playbook and then took him out to the practice field to run routes.

“All the players around this team will tell you the same thing: What he stands for off the field, the leadership, pushing you in the offseason, keeping everybody up, the positivity — that’s why everybody likes McKenzie so much,” Nixon said.

For receiver Michael Colubiale, it is the way Milton responded after getting booed off the field following the Cure Bowl in 2016 as a true freshman.

“He took it personally,” Colubiale said. “He gathered everyone up and told them he’s here for us and we told him we had his back. It’s the trust factor with him. He would lay his life on the line for us to get a win.”

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Michael Colubiale
@michael_colub
Love you 10 #OHANA

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For senior offensive lineman Wyatt Miller, it is the way Milton helped transform a team that went 0-12 in 2015 to a team that has not lost since Dec. 17, 2016 — the night Milton was booed.

“Since he’s been here, a lot of people in that football building have changed, and their love for the game has changed, and their outlook on life,” Miller said. “When you see someone playing with that effort, it’s contagious. It’s hard not to try to match that, and I think it’s driven us to be better people and better players.”

For Johnson, it is the bond they formed during freshman student-athlete orientation, when they were paired together. As soon as Johnson learned Milton grew up in Hawaii, he wanted to go back home with him. It finally happened last May, when Milton took his center to his brother’s wedding as his plus-one. Johnson describes the reception as “the most fun I’ve had in my life.” When it came time to catch the garter, Johnson and Milton led the mad scramble to be the lucky winner. Johnson dove for it and reached it first. But like any good center, he handed it off to Milton so the quarterback could get the glory.
McKenzie Milton, second from right, took his center, Jordan Johnson, far left, home with him to Hawaii for his brother’s wedding. Courtesy of the Milton family
“From the moment we got on the airplane together, spending 12 hours watching movies, laughing about stuff on the airplane, it made us closer and I feel like it’s helped our play together,” Johnson said. “I got to crash in his room. I got to see what he lives like back home. We still reminisce on that experience to this day.”

For linebacker Nate Evans, it is the way their families have grown close, especially since Milton’s mother, Teresa, moved to Orlando last year to be closer to her son. Evans always stops by for good Hawaiian cooking — especially Spam musubi, a sushi-like dish made with canned meat.

“We’re like blood brothers,” Evans said.

For quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., it is the way Milton has been a mentor since Mack arrived on campus last season. The two are roommates for all away games, watch film together and are usually inseparable around the football facility.

When Milton injured his right knee against South Florida last week, Mack made sure to go to him on the cart. Mack bowed his head with Milton and told him everything would be all right. Then Mack led UCF to a 38-10 win. After the game, Mack took a No. 10 jersey and held it up in victory. Subdued and emotional afterward, Mack simply said, “I’m always around him, so, just seeing that, it hurts my heart.”

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Darriel Mack Jr ™
@DJMactastic1
This one for you my brother #PlayFor10

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“I think a lot has rubbed off from McKenzie to DJ,” Colubiale said of Mack. “I think DJ’s going to be just fine. He’s going to show that toughness and that resiliency that KZ brings to the field every day, and he’s going to make KZ really proud.”

Even though Milton remains at Tampa General Hospital, recovering from surgery to repair blood flow issues and a nerve injury, he FaceTimed into the quarterback meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday to help Mack and the quarterbacks with the game plan.
“McKenzie’s all about helping who’s under him, and I know he’s going to give all his knowledge to DJ to help him,” receiver Gabe Davis said. “McKenzie would love to see DJ do better than him in this game, because that’s the type of person he is.”

UCF plans to distribute 40,000 leis to fans attending the championship game Saturday. Johnson said he will wear his own lei, a special one given to him by Milton’s mother. It features the kukui nut from Hawaii.

“This game isn’t going to be sad, head held down because McKenzie’s not playing,” Evans said. “We’re going to be energetic. We’re going to be throwing up the 10.

“McKenzie, whenever you see this: I’ve got you.”

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It’s the question in the back of everyone’s minds and yet there’s no polite way of asking. So, here goes nothing: Why, Bill Clark, are you still at UAB?

At this, the 50-year-old coach of the most surprising team in college football smiles knowingly.

He knows there’s no use denying the premise. No one would have blamed him had he left following the program’s shutdown late in 2014. But for some reason he stayed, despite having other opportunities. He stayed through the vote to reinstate the program six months later; he stayed through the arduous two years it took to raise money, recruit and rebuild from scratch; and he stayed through the team’s remarkable return last season in which the Blazers won eight games and Clark was tabbed as Conference USA’s Coach of the Year.

“I don’t know why,” Clark said. “I’ve always been a sucker for reclamation projects.”

This one has been a doozy, though. There was a time not too long ago when Clark walked out of the official adoption of the UAB Football Foundation — a fundraising arm that should have been created decades earlier — and said, “This is what it must have felt like to be one of the Founding Fathers.” The group then went out and raised $27 million to help get the program back on its feet, which blew Clark away.

Now, with a C-USA West Division on his résumé and a 9-1 record in his back pocket, the investment appears to have been worth it. UAB is ranked in the Coaches Poll (No. 25) for the first time since 2004. Now, when Clark talks about the doubt he once experienced, it’s in the past tense. He points out the window of his office on the second floor of a new football-only facility, past a new covered practice field, to their old beige football offices straight out of the 1970s, as if to say, That’s where doubt used to live and that’s where it will stay.

There are plans to tear the building down soon to make room for additional practice space.

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Troy’s Brown heads a list of young coaches who could be future stars, while coaches like USF’s Strong and Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford showed they are still worthy candidates.

But first, an opponent Saturday that ought to symbolize something: UAB, which at one time felt it couldn’t justify the expense of a football program, will go toe-to-toe with a financial monolith in Texas A&M that committed $75 million to its new head coach, Jimbo Fisher, this offseason. According to the Dallas Morning News, the host Aggies are paying the Blazers $1.6 million, which covers the entirety of Clark’s salary this year and then some.

When the game was originally scheduled in 2016, all UAB’s administration could promise was a team with uniforms and helmets. And even then that was kind of iffy.

To come this far, to win a division title, is a “miracle,” Clark said.

That his dream would come true — and so fast — is remarkable by any measure. But the idea that Clark would dare to aim so high is certainly not.

When he was first starting as a head coach at Prattville High in Central Alabama, back when only 18 players showed up for the start of preseason camp and three of them were freshmen kickers, he would break down every practice with a chant of “Champs!” Players looked at him as if he were from another planet — “Like I was insane,” Clark said — not realizing they would eventually become a powerhouse, winning seven games that first season and nine the next. By the time Clark left for the University of South Alabama in 2007, he’d won back-to-back state titles.

At UAB, after the shutdown and with games nowhere on the horizon, he ended practice the very same way. Every day. Champs!

It was a bit of a pipe dream, of course. Clark admitted that compared to Prattville, the chant was a “little crazier” considering that it was a time when all he hoped for UAB was to be competitive, let alone win games. He wondered whether he’d have enough guys — again — to field a team. Recruiting so many transfers and junior college players was a calculated gamble that could have blown up in his face.

But to borrow a phrase from Lavar Ball, Clark wasn’t afraid to speak his dream into existence. He went after the big-name players UAB wasn’t accustomed to recruiting, and landed a few. And when he had all of them together, unlike a lot of coaches, he wasn’t afraid to verbalize goals beyond the next week’s game.
UAB coach Bill Clark stuck with the school even when the program was temporarily shut down in 2014. Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire
“To me,” Clark said, “you’re never going to get where you want to go if you don’t talk about things. This is our goal, and it should be. Why not just say it?”

On the outside, it made no sense. UAB? Champs? Of what exactly?

But internally, players responded. Players like Collin Lisa, who was part of that 2014 team, left for Buffalo when the program was shut down, and returned after a year because he couldn’t stand the cold and because he never really wanted to be anywhere else in the first place.

Lisa, the team’s leading receiver this season, credited Clark’s consistency throughout what has become known in social media circles as #TheReturn. “He coached the same when we didn’t have a game for another 300 and something days to when we had a game in three days,” he said. Every day the message was the same, and slowly players started to believe.

It wouldn’t matter that high-profile recruits like former Ole Miss signee D.J. Law and former Alabama signee Brandon Hill didn’t work out. It wouldn’t matter that Jonathan Haden, the brother of former NFL first-round pick Joe Haden who started his career at Arizona, would miss all of this season with a torn ACL.

“This year, I knew we were going to be good,” Lisa said. “From our workouts in the summer to the way our coaches coached us to the way players respond to coaching, there was no doubt.”

So good, in fact, that their starting quarterback A.J. Erdely went down with a shoulder injury, Tyler Johnston III came in and the offense didn’t miss a beat.

So good that the defense ranks in the top five nationally in seven categories, including No. 1 in sacks and No. 5 in total defense.

“We have depth at a lot of positions,” Lisa said.

Whether UAB pulls off the David vs. Goliath-caliber upset of Texas A&M on Saturday is almost beside the point now. The Blazers are going to the C-USA championship game no matter what, and if the chips fall the right way they could be hosting it at their home stadium, Legion Field, where they’re 12-0 since the program’s return.
This week, maybe more so than any week in years, Clark said he has been able to stop and smell the roses.

In the back of his mind, though, there’s more to do: a conference championship to win, a bowl game to play, a signing class to secure.

Clark isn’t thinking about why he’s still here or what opportunity might come his way next.

He’s a sucker for a good reclamation project and this one isn’t finished yet. That old eyesore of an office needs to come down soon to expand the practice field and a new stadium is scheduled to go up in 2021.

UAB is still building, and if you’re looking for why Clark has stayed, that’s as good a reason as any.

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No. 12 UCF would like to have a word for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee: feel free to just watch the second half this week. Oh, and maybe stick to the offensive cut-ups too.

The Knights may have taken issue with their low ranking on Tuesday night in the first set of playoff rankings but were lucky to escape with a 52-40 shootout win on Thursday night after making some big second half adjustments to dispatch a pesky Temple squad and take control of the AAC East in the process.

Making his first start in over two weeks, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton didn’t look limited at all by a balky ankle in leading his team to a win. While not quite as efficient as he typically has been this season, the dual-threat still threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns (one interception) while also adding 19 yards and a rushing score that came on a key fourth down conversion in the first half. The ball had plenty of zip despite limited practice time the past few weeks and Milton was big when coming up with some beautiful downfield throws and scrambles to keep plays alive.

Balance was key for the Knights though. Greg McCrae was the one who put up the biggest numbers (188 yards, 1 TD) but it was a successful committee approach on the ground that also saw Adrian Killins rush for 33 yards and Taj McGowan chip in with another 56 to go with his two trips to the end zone. Not surprisingly, the high tempo offense was really rolling for most of the game and the team only punted three times — easily cruising past the eight yard per play mark.

If there was one glaring issue on the night though, it was the UCF defense. They were gashed on the night to the tune of 670 yards of offense (a Temple school record) and were dominated in time of possession — to say nothing of allowing seven scoring drives to a team that was beat by FCS Villanova earlier in the season.

In fact, it was an impressive effort all around for the Owls in just about every facet aside from defense themselves (including a lovely fake field goal that went for a touchdown). Especially offensively, the team kept making plays with what they had despite missing their starting center for most of the game and seeing star back Ryquell Armstead miss most of the second half with an ankle injury after he rushed for 142 yards.

Quarterback Anthony Russo was a big reason why the chains kept moving, having a career night of 444 yards and four touchdowns through the air (two picks) to go along with a further 46 yards and a rushing score on that aforementioned fake field goal. It was certainly a valiant effort that included a halftime lead but just wasn’t enough in the end on the road.

While it was far from pretty, the Knights will take it anyway because it’s the first time they’ve beaten a team with a winning record this season. That was a key metric that was cited by CFP Selection Committee chairman Rob Mullens on Tuesday and there’s little question that Temple has turned into a very solid football team since a rough start in September.

Maybe more to the point for UCF was the victory, the team’s 21st in a row dating back to last season, allowed the team to take control of the AAC East as the only remaining undefeated team in conference play. That will likely be the takeaway for supporters of the program even if the on-field product left many others even more skeptical of that No. 12 ranking following the game on Thursday night.

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Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate will not play this week at UCLA due to an ankle injury, coach Kevin Sumlin announced Tuesday.

Sophomore Rhett Rodriguez, the son of former coach Rich Rodriguez, will start in his place.

“Going through the week, he felt pretty good,” Sumlin said Monday. “But we can’t keep going with this thing getting tweaked, and two series [later] he’s out of the game.”

Tate was pulled from Saturday’s loss in a move that Sumlin called a “player safety issue.”

“We’re never going to put someone in harm’s way,” Sumlin said.

Tate has been dealing with an ankle issue since an injury vs. Houston on Sept. 8, and he has been largely ineffective after beginning the season as a Heisman Trophy favorite. Through seven games, Tate has rushed for 112 yards, which is glaringly low considering he rushed for 1,411 yards last season when he began the year as the backup quarerback.

It will be the first career start for Rodriguez, who completed 20-of-38 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 42-10 loss to Utah.

Sumlin also said freshmen quarterbacks Jamarye Joiner and Kevin Doyle will continue to get reps in practice and may play.

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After nearly a year and a half away, Hugh Freeze is back — albeit at an entirely different level of football.

The Arizona Hotshots, one of the teams in the new Alliance of American Football, a pro league that will begin play in February of next year, announced that Freeze has by hired as the team’s new offensive coordinator. This marks Freeze’s first coaching job since his disgraceful exit from Oxford.

Freeze “resigned” from Ole Miss in July of 2017 after it was discovered he was using a school-issued cell phone to hook up with escort services on multiple occasions. Additionally, there were the Rebels’ NCAA issues while Freeze was in charge that left the coach with a two-game suspension to serve as well as a one-year show-cause. Freeze never served either penalty as they were levied after Freeze’s resignation.

It was reported in January of this year that Nick Saban had been “really pushing” to add Freeze to his Alabama coaching staff, but that the SEC was highly reluctant to sign off on it. In mid-April, a report surfaced that the conference had essentially blocked member schools, including Crimson Tide, from adding Freeze. At the time, Saban spoke of the respect he has for both Freeze and the SEC while seemingly confirming that the league did indeed coach-block a hire due “to circumstances that people created for themselves.”

In his first public speaking appearance since his resignation, Freeze told a crowd of students at Liberty University in January that he has found “a total new appreciation for integrity” during his time away from the coaching profession.

Freeze’s new boss with the AAF team is former UCLA, Washington and Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel. In addition to Freeze’s hiring, the team also announced that former Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will serve in the same capacity with the Hotshots.

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AUBURN, Ala. — You can’t rewrite the whole long, sad history of objectively bad, borderline counterproductive LSU offenses in one day. Not even against a top-10 Auburn team on the road. Because, let’s face it, we heard that same tall tale last season against the very same team when Danny Etling & Co. came roaring back from 20 points down at halftime to win inside Tiger Stadium.

That proved to be nothing but a trick. Sleight of hand. Yet another mirage in the post-JaMarcus Russell era, where there’s no middle ground between extreme hope and extreme mediocrity, and trips to the College Football Playoff are possible but never likely.

Sometimes it’s as if Les Miles never left. It even felt that way Saturday when his successor, Ed Orgeron, called for a fake-punt jump pass at midfield. It was a play that only Miles could have pulled off, and no one should try to imitate the Mad Hatter.

But something else happened after the punt-pass gone awry, after LSU gave away a 10-point lead to start the game and looked well on its way to yet another heartbreaking loss. Joe Burrow happened, and a path to SEC contention and playoff possibilities materialized. While his final stat line wasn’t particularly inspiring — he completed 15 of 34 passes for 249 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions — there was something about his play that felt different.

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Maybe it was the way he always kept his eyes downfield. Maybe it was how he hung in the pocket, ran for tough yards and took shots deep. He didn’t flinch. And when the fourth quarter rolled around, he took control, putting together two fantastic final drives — the first where he hit Derrick Dillon in stride for a 71-yard touchdown to make it a one-score game, and then a methodical 14-play, 52-yard drive that drained 5:38 off the clock and set up the winning field goal from Cole Tracy as time expired.

Looking back on a fourth-and-7 during the game-winning drive, when LSU’s offense was stuck at midfield, down two with 2:00 remaining and timeouts to spare, Orgeron could have punted and let the defense try to force a three-and-out. But did he even consider that?

“Nope,” Orgeron said afterward.

That one word spoke volumes. It spoke of confidence. When asked if this 22-21 victory was the kind of game, the kind of performance he brought Burrow in for, Orgeron nodded his head slowly. LSU had to fend off Cincinnati and other suitors for the Ohio State graduate transfer, and the Tigers were glad they did when Burrow delivered a 9-yard strike on fourth down, keeping the drive alive.

“He showed today that he’s a competitor,” Orgeron said. “Things weren’t always good, but he competed his butt off. I thought he played well. Didn’t play great, played well. He’s 3-0 as our starting quarterback. That’s pretty good.”

The thing is, LSU never needed greatness from its quarterback. Good would have always been good enough.

The program has always had an upper-echelon defense. It has had plenty of parts on offense, too, when you consider the running backs and receivers it has sent to the NFL. But it has never had the missing piece: a confident, competent quarterback who can make plays when called upon.

Burrow showed against Auburn that he might be just that. He might be the one to stop the long line of quarterbacks with strong arms, bountiful potential and ultimately underwhelming production — names like Brandon Harris, Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, Ryan Perrilloux and Anthony Jennings.

Earlier in the week, Orgeron acknowledged that to gain respect as a quarterback you have to win big games. And not only did Burrow do it against Miami to start the season, he did it again on an even bigger stage against Auburn.

Orgeron talked to his team about poise before the game, and Burrow showed it.

He talked to his team about not panicking, and Burrow never did.

Afterward, Orgeron called Burrow “cool as cucumber.”

“That’s kind of how I’ve been my whole life,” Burrow said. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And I think of myself as a tough guy.”

He saw Auburn’s defense load the box, daring him to pass.

“They kept challenging us and pressing us,” he said. “So we had to take shots.”

He wouldn’t say the game validated him as a quarterback. He wouldn’t even make bold proclamations about the team and its playoff chances.

But after beating a ranked Miami to start the season and top-10 Auburn on the road, the game said something.

“I think it shows that we’re a really tough team,” Burrow said. “We gritted this one out.”

Tight end Foster Moreau, who was wide-eyed and optimistic about Burrow’s arrival during SEC media days in July, was wide-eyed for different reasons late Saturday night. The senior thought back to two years ago, when he hugged then-coach Miles in the same end zone where Tracy kicked the game-winning field goal Saturday. Moreau and Miles thought they’d won the game back then, but time had expired. LSU lost, and soon Miles lost his job.

This time around, they finished the task at hand. This time, Moreau said his quarterback’s experience showed when it mattered most.

They had to dig deep, he said, and they did.

He could barely describe the feeling when he saw Burrow hit Dillon for that late touchdown.
“That was incredible,” Moreau said, shaking his head and searching for the right words. “Jeez. Wow. That gave us a big boost of energy.”

He added: “We felt it was our game to win at that point.”

They were 10-point underdogs, but they won, beating an Auburn team many had pegged as the chief competition to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC West.

Now, with Burrow at quarterback and the team’s confidence growing, LSU has taken that mantle, showing it might have the offense to finally compete.

There’s still a long way to go, of course, and a lot left to prove.

Saturday was the start, but we’re talking about LSU here. There’s much more history to rewrite than will fit in one day.

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LSU’s defense suffered a blow on Tuesday with the news that linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson will be out for the season with an injury.

Chaisson, a sophomore from Houston who was the No. 34 overall recruit in the 2017 ESPN 300, suffered an apparent knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ 33-17 win over Miami on Sunday. LSU coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Tuesday at his weekly news conference that Chaisson will miss the remainder of the season.

Coming into the season, the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Chaisson was slated to succeed Arden Key as the Tigers’ edge rusher in their 3-4 alignment. Chaisson played in 12 games in 2017, starting three and earning a spot on the 2017 SEC All-Freshman team. He had 27 tackles, 2 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in his rookie campaign and had high expectations in 2018.

Chaisson had five tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry in his start Sunday versus Miami.

“I feel bad for him,” Orgeron said Tuesday. “He’s a great young man. He had totally dedicated himself to this year.”

Sophomore Andre Anthony, a 6-4, 238-pound linebacker from New Orleans, was listed as Chaisson’s backup at the position. Anthony was the No. 209 overall recruit in the 2016 ESPN 300. Orgeron also cited linebackers Ray Thornton, Travez Moore and freshman Jarell Cherry as potential options to replace Chaisson.

Orgeron also announced that starting right tackle Adrian Magee will miss two or three weeks after suffering an injury. Magee left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with an apparent leg injury and was carted back to the locker room. The junior was making his second career start.

Junior college transfer Badara Traore finished the game at right tackle and received praise from Orgeron afterward.


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