Tuesday September 9th, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. -- Attention, all schools scheduled to face Georgia between 2009 and 2012. If you want a significant advantage, begin recruiting Ryne Giddins immediately. And while you're at it, add Petey Smith to your list.

Giddins, a defensive end, and Smith, a linebacker, are the soul of the Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) defense. They have all the physical tools to succeed at their positions, and their teammates would follow them into a live volcano if they asked. And, most importantly for the seven schools that face Georgia every year, they have the number of future Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray.

Giddins, Smith and the rest of the Armwood defense terrorized Murray last Friday in a sloppy 9-2 win over Murray's Plant High (Tampa, Fla.) team. Murray, the MVP of the Elite 11 Camp who threw for a Florida-record 51 touchdowns as a junior, completed 17 of 36 passes for 120 yards. Most of the night, he either ran for his life or looked up from beneath a pile of Armwood defenders. In three meetings in 2007 and 2008, Murray has thrown zero touchdowns against the Hawks.

"Aaron Murray has never thrown a touchdown pass against us," Giddins said. "And he never will."

Now, if you have Georgia on your schedule, isn't that the attitude you want from your pass rushers? And wouldn't it be nice to have a player who knows intimately the weaknesses of a quarterback who typically picks apart every defense he faces?

Of the teams that face the Bulldogs annually, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee have offered the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Giddins. He also has received interest from Clemson, North Carolina, USC and hometown South Florida. Last Saturday, he took in the Florida-Miami game, but he wasn't there to see both teams. "Miami's not looking at me anymore," Giddins said Friday. After Giddins dominated Plant, Hurricanes coaches may want to look again.

Smith, a 6-foot, 230-pounder, also could come in handy for schools that must eventually face Murray. He flies from sideline to sideline, and when he has a head of steam on a blitz, he can blast through offensive linemen. Auburn has the inside track on Smith, whose brother, Eric, is a freshman running back for the Tigers. On Aug. 30, Smith took in Auburn's season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. He also brought teammates. Mywan Jackson, the Hawks' quarterback, is being recruited by Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina and others. Some want him to play quarterback, while some want him to play cornerback. Smith also brought along safety Angelo Hadley, who is being recruited by several Big Ten, Big East, SEC and ACC schools.

With all that defensive firepower, it's no wonder Murray has struggled against the Hawks. But don't be fooled. Despite his team's dominance, Armwood coach Sean Callahan still worries when Murray has the ball in his hands.

"If you let Aaron Murray stand back there he's gonna make you pay for it," Callahan said. "He's so good, he gets lucky a couple of times, too."

Murray, who limped off the field after Hadley intercepted a pass originally tipped by Giddins to seal the win, handled the loss with class. He praised the Hawks, and then he said something that should please Georgia fans. Despite all the punishment he's taken from Armwood, Murray wants another shot at the Hawks.

"It's definitely disappointing. But we've just got to work hard," Murray said. "We've got nine more games in the regular season. If we win those, and if we win the first two playoff games, we'll see them again."

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has figured out a way to beat gnarly Friday night SoCal traffic and wow recruits in one fell swoop. Actually, it's more like several thousand swoops a minute -- as in the helicopter blades that ferried Neuheisel between games last week.

Neuheisel figured a chopper would be the only way to watch recruit Shaquelle Evans play for Inglewood against Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.) and still make it to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., to watch Bruins quarterback commit Richard Brehaut lead Los Osos against Bishop Amat and cornerback Sheldon Price, a fellow UCLA commit.

Neuheisel had originally planned to land on one of the athletic fields at Los Osos, which certainly would have drawn attention, but according to the Los AngelesDaily News, the San Bernadino County Sheriff's Department did not like the idea. Neuheisel had to land at a nearby airport and drive to the game. That's OK; UCLA's opening-week win against Tennessee probably did more for recruiting than the coach stepping out of a whirlybird ever would.

Also, before the politicos start dashing off angry letters to the UCLA athletic department, Neuheisel probably didn't waste anyone's tax dollars. According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, UCLA's football program generated $23.5 million in revenue compared to $16.9 million in expenses for the reporting year ending in June 2007. That leaves plenty of spare change for helicopter rides. Or, maybe Neuheisel took a cue from Magnum, P.I. and bummed a ride. As loyal viewers of the show know, Magnum never paid for a ride on buddy T.C.'s Island Hoppers chopper.

IN a July 23 column, I mentioned that Washington didn't have a single recruit publicly admitting to a commitment to the Huskies. Washington fans will be pleased to know that as that story was being posted, dual-threat quarterback Keith Price from St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) committed.

Since, the Huskies have received five more commitments. The latest is linebacker Andru Pulu from Federal Way, Wash., who committed Monday after spending Saturday watching Washington get hosed against BYU by a way-too-literal interpretation of the rules regarding celebrations.

Whether deserved or not, the losses have forced Washington recruits to think about whether they still want to play for the Huskies if coach Tyrone Willingham gets fired. Rivals' Washington site, UDubSports.com, asked Pulu what he might do if Willingham wasn't there to coach him. "That's a tough question. I don't know," Pulu told the site. "I like coach Willingham a lot and I like U-Dub a lot. I would have to wait and see, but I think he's going to be there."

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