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Darnell Washington/Twitter
5-star ATH Darnell Washington is a big priority for UGA in the 2020 class. Real big.

Why 5-star ATH Darnell Washington has emerged as a top 2020 target

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings at least four days a week. The play sheet today calls for a real introduction to one of the biggest names for the 2020 cycle in Athens. That’s 5-star ATH Darnell Washington out of Nevada. 

They call him “Lethal Nell” in Nevada.

The Darnell Washington file would open up with this: 1) Already named to the Nike Opening finals; 2) 6-foot-7.5 and 255 pounds; 3) Clocks a laser 4.78 in the 40.

Washington could very well add a 6-foot-8-sized exclamation point to the future of the TE room in Athens.

But there are clicks everywhere that will take DawgNation readers down the path of stars and size and rankings.

Players make plays. What was the biggest one all that height and weight and athleticism and length made for Desert Pines?

It was not a big ball he snared racing past a safety from the tight end spot. 

Darnell Washington-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
Georgia has done what appears to be an excellent job so far in recruiting Darnell Washington. (Darnell Washington/Twitter)

Nor was it one he authored as a defensive end. (But those are why he’s labeled a 5-star ATH on the 247Sports Composite industry standard.)

Washington did not even go “Lethal Nell” from the linebacker spot. (But that is where he will likely see a lot of new reps in 2019.)

It was what he did when he lined up as a “3-tech” defensive tackle.

He’s that big and that long and that fast and came up with a “Rewind that” from the interior of the defensive line.

“It was against Arbor View,” Desert Pines assistant coach David Hill said. “We were playing a game and he was playing D-tackle.”

“He batted the ball with his right hand and popped it up in the air and caught it with his left [hand] and started running and all the kids piled on him, he pitched it to his teammate and he scored a touchdown.”

Can’t teach or coach that. This is the sort of athlete who can even crush a golf ball 300 yards.

“That’s probably the most athletic thing I have seen him do,” Hill said while recalling that play.

Check his reel below. Feel free to skip to the fourth play if you can’t wait to see that one.

The Darnell Washington highlight tape section 

The 27-second film review follows below.

Play 1: Oh my. Who is that way out wide? Darnell? I thought he was a tight end. Man, he’s big. This route is basically chaos. Scramble drill. Throw it to Darnell. He’ll catch it. 

He does. The poor soul trying to tackle him in open space looks like the Avengers trying to trip up “Ant-Man” after he super-sized himself. No chance after he caught it. Fire up the band. Six points. Lethal. 

Darnell Washington-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
Former Arizona fullback and current Desert Pines assistant coach David Hill (left) and Darnell Washington have a unique relationship. (David Hill/Twitter)

Play 2: He’s at tight end now. The throw and catch touchdown. Man, his arms are long. 

Play 3: He’s the punter? A fake? This is 4th-and-15? Yep, that 24-yard gain down was basically stealing. Nice clip.

Is it too much to want to see how well he could’ve punted it, though? 

Play 4: You know how that one turns out. (Hat tip to coach Hill.) He goes go-go-gadget arms but doesn’t run far. This play was in the Nevada state playoffs in the final game of his junior season. No scrubs on this field. 

Watch Washington. He bounds off the ground and starts jumping up and down. It shows true joy when he’s not the one getting the TD.

Play 5: Another seam straight downfield. He goes up and gets a ball over the top of blanket coverage. There are six guys around him. But he’s so big and long he is open. When all six try to get him on the ground, it is amusing. The key word is “try” there. 

The officials blow the play dead before he makes anyone else look bad in front of their momma.

It is a highly enjoyable film. Watch it all. It will not disappoint.

“His best tool is the way he understands football,” Hill said. “He really understands football at a high level and is very coachable. Competes at a high level. There are plays where there are guys running 10 and 15 yards ahead of him and he’s running 50 yards downfield to catch them.”

“That’s the thing I think separates him from a lot of different players. It is a relentlessness.”

What’s happening with Darnell Washington and UGA

Darnell Washington-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
Darnell Washington has some intel of his own about the future of the tight end position at Georgia. (Darnell Washington/Twitter)

Arik Gilbert, the 5-star Georgian, is another priority of priorities for this class. The best possible scenario for UGA is to add 10 stars worth of athletes to Todd Hartley’s room.

Get ready for a lot of “12” personnel discussions. Think the head coach likes tight end questions now? Wait and see what happens if James Coley gets to sic Gilbert and Washington on SEC safeties and linebackers.

Darnell Washington-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
One college coach compared Darnell Washington to Duke basketball freshman Zion Williamson in terms of an early instant impact at the college level. (Darnell Washington/Twitter)

Both go over 6-foot-5 on the growth chart, have great athleticism and the sort of length that goes on a flatbed at Costco.

Georgia has already distinguished itself here with Washington. He has built a rapport over two visits to Georgia. Hill explains why.

“The first time it was good,” he said. “But it was different. Once people know who you are and you kind of solidify your status it kind of gets better.”

Washington had a very successful second visit to UGA earlier this month.

The second time was a lot better,” Hill said. “The first time was just like a spur of the moment and ‘yeah We like you’ but now this time it was like ‘you are a priority’ and ‘We’ve got to know you’ with that.”

Hill feels UGA has made a move with Washington.

“Just because of the relationships,” Hill said. “Then the level of competition they play sending so many people to the NFL. Competing. Having such a personable head coach and things like that.”

It goes a little deeper.

“I think he loves Georgia honestly,” Hill said. “I think he connected with the players and the people there. And I think he can see himself playing there. I definitely think that’s one of his top 3 schools.”

He just sees “the real” on those two trips to Georgia.

“I want to hear the facts and the real,” Darnell Washington said. “I don’t want a coach to come in and say this and say that and when I get there it is not that and love the real stuff up front and they gave me the real. The players that are there I enjoy being with them and hanging out with them. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

Washington will not be able to enroll early. The current thinking is he will announce his choice at the Under Armour All-American Game next January.

He’s thinking about the Notre Dame game for a fall official to UGA. The other schools in the mix here sound like Florida, Miami, Penn State and Tennessee.

How does Georgia compare to those great options?

“I really can’t compare them,” he said. “Yeah, I really can’t. It is just different.”

The Desert Pines junior went on to compare downtown Athens to a night in Vegas. He named Georgia assistants Todd Hartley and Dell McGee early on in his thoughts about what he likes best about UGA.

“Coach Todd [Hartley] and Dell [McGee] you know,” Washington said. “Like I said. They are real truthful people. No sugar coating with them.”

What fuels Darnell Washington?

Hill serves a greater role for the Jaguars on their team. The Desert Pines alum will drive 23 miles from home past several good jobs in his area to work at his old school.

“I always thought it was cool to come back to where I came from, to give back to these kids and pour into them,” he said. “That is what motivates me.”

His ministry is life skills. Back in his day, he went 5-foot-9 and about 245. Desert Pines had a bowling ball-type who was listed at fullback when he was at Arizona.

He has gotten the chance to take Washington on a lot of these recruiting visits.

“I’ve always tried to take pride in doing things for kids that I would have wanted somebody else to do for me,” he said. 

With Washington, it seems like he has found someone who meshes with the message he is trying to share.

“He has a dream and he has a mission,” Hill said. “He’s hoping that he can be the first one to change the generation that comes after him. That’s pretty much what motivates him.”

He comes from an area where the term “financial hardships” will not cover it. Yet with that, Hill says Washington has a giving heart.

“We recently took a trip when we came back from I think Georgia,” Hill said. “We spent some time a couple of days later and we were at Starbucks together. He was like ‘Do you want a drink’ and it was just him looking out. He was like ‘I only got 10 dollars but I can split it with you’ and he doesn’t have a lot but he is just trying to show his attitude and appreciation and gratitude for all the little things.”

Hill has heard a lot of things from college coaches. He heard one say Washington could make an early impact the way that a certain freshman has on the Duke basketball team.

“They think he is rare and can be like a Zion Williamson type with impact right away because of his athleticism,” Hill said. “He still has to work but he has so much potential he has not even tapped into. He can really take an offense to the next level with what he can do in the run game and the throw game.”

What position will Darnell Washington play?

Washington rates as the nation’s No. 2 ATH for the 2020 cycle on the 247Sports composite. (Gilbert is No. 1 on that same ranking)

The position ranking does make sense because of the plays he makes from the defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end and even the punter position.

Darnell Washington-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
David Hill shared a few photos from their most recent UGA trip on his Twitter account. (David Hill/Twitter)

Hill has his opinion about which side of the ball he will play. He’s always known him as being big. Washington was at the 6-foot-5 mark when he was a freshman.

He could run and move back then. Athletes are like that.

“I think he should be a tight end because that’s what he loves,” Hill said. “He likes [defensive end] but he loves it at tight end. He likes catching touchdowns.”

Washington isn’t so sure.

“This goes across my head a lot,” he said. “Sometimes I want to catch touchdowns. Sometimes I want to tackle people and slam them. Whatever. But I will say I want to play tight end.”

With that, Washington has gotten his own “Intel” about the Bulldog offense. It will require hyper-athletic tight ends like the ones Hartley reeled in for the staff at Miami.

“I think the Georgia offense is about to change,” Washington said. “Because I know Todd [Hartley] and the type of tight ends he likes to recruit. I’m not throwing shade at [any] current Georgia tight end but I think they are more of a blocking style. Since Todd has got there what he did for Miami with Brevin [Jordan] and the other tight ends they have there are more mobile. Mobile enough to run routes like a receiver.”

“So I think that will change with the tight ends he likes to recruit. He is going to go after guys like Brevin and try to get them to Georgia.”

Jordan was the nation’s No. 1 TE out of the 2018 class. His hometown? That was Las Vegas, too. That tight end had 32 catches and four touchdowns last year at Miami.

Other than that, he’s still a kid. Loves “Fortnite” and to dance. Even though he admits he probably cannot create viral tweets when he does “The Wall” or any popular dances.

“I’m just a goofy person overall,” Washington said.

Goofy. But still pretty lethal on the field.


Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.

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