A couple of weeks ago Steve and Mason Kelley of the Seattle Times started talking about a possible disconnect the Washington football coaching staff was having with local coaches and recruits.
The message was that local talent was being ignored in some cases in favor of California talent and it was rubbing a number of coaches and recruits the wrong way.
This took most of us by surprise because we all thought that Sark and his staff were pretty popular in the state of Washington. On the surface the staff seemed to be comprised of a bunch of humble hard working types who really cared about the kids in their program.
As far as local recruiting goes Sark and Holt were part of a staff at USC under Pete Carrol which was legendary in how they handled recruiting in the LA area. They outworked everybody even though they were USC and could just pick and choose from he best local talent available.
When Sark took over at Washington it was assumed that his staff would approach things the same way that Carroll did at USC. The first thing Sark did which I was thought was brilliant was divide the state of Washington up evenly among all the coaches on his staff.
I thought it was a great idea because it allowed all the coaches in the state the opportunity to get to know the entire staff. Local blue chips such as Desmond Trufant, Bishop Sankey, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams, Sione Potoae, Taniela Tupuo, and Danny Shelton confirmed the belief that things were headed in the right direction by electing to stay home and play at Washington.
To me this was all a solid sign that the coaches were putting up a solid fence around the state and that the program coming off an impressive 19-6 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl was about to reap a local bonanza of blue chip talent for the 2012 recruiting class.
Not so fast as Lee Corso is so fond of saying. I have been following recruiting for approximately thirty five years and I have never seen a single local recruiting season like this. Sure even DJ lost a local kid to Notre Dame, BYU, and Stanford once in a while but losing the top 4-5 players in the state in a single year is pretty much unheard of.
So what do local recruits think of Washington these days?
KeiVarae Russell (Mariner)...."First of all, my mom doesn't like U-Dub at all, she told me she doesn't want me to go there and that was a big influence in my life. My mom doesn't want me to go to this school, I won't feel comfortable going to a school my mom doesn't want me to go to. But when Notre Dame came for my in-home visit she said, ‘That's the spot where I want you to go."
Josh Garnett (Puyallup)..."I would have cut them a long time ago as a program if I lived in California or Chicago. But since I was from here I felt like it was my duty a little bit to keep them on the list."
Walker Williams (Tacoma Baptist)..."Those UW fans on the blogs and everything are ridiculas. 1st I'm garbage and they don't need me, then josh is weak cause he's not goin either, not u aren't a good player cause u ain't goin to UW. I wonder if they realize how much bein jerks to UW recruits who decide not to go there hurts washingtons recruitment. I don't think they realize that all the in state guys know each other and lots of them are friends. They can dig their own graves tho!"
Zach Banner (Lakes)..."I have to give it a 12 - I saw what it was like to be a U-Dub Husky. I think that's the one thing I had never seen before, never got the full feeling. For 48 hours, you're part of the team; you can relate to everybody and talk with everybody and joke around. It was a good experience.
Cedric Dozier (Lakes)..."That was my last visit (California)," said Dozier. "I’m through."
So obviously the Kelly's are correct. There is something wrong with current perception of the Washington football program (Can't blame this one on Tyrone) and Sark needs to get it fixed. Corrective action started yesterday when he fired three coaches from his defensive staff. However that will not salvage the 2012 recruiting class.
These are the type of losses that can be felt for years down the line and derail coaching careers. Sark is at a crossroads and he needs to make the right choices going forward to regain momentum and keep the program headed in the right direction.