Looking back at recruiting in the Don James era

Legendary coach Don James

With Signing Day 2013 in the books and all the excitement over what's generally considered a top-15 class for Sark, let's take a look back at the Don James years and see how his recruiting classes were graded.

Signing Day 2013 has come and gone and the Huskies have received a lot of praise for what has been judged a strong recruiting class, coming in at #15 overall (as aggregated between Scout, Rivals, 247 and ESPN). As our Jack Follman notes in this article, it rates as the 2nd best class the Huskies have signed since 2002 (the first year both Scout. & Rivals have their rankings archived). And as Bob Condotta notes in this blog post, the 2001 class (highlighted by Reggie Williams, Charles Frederick, Joe Toledo, Ty Eriks and others) was very highly rated, as high at #5 by SuperPrep.

What about in the days before the recruiting websites and internet coverage? Information is harder to come by and it didn't get nearly as much attention as it does now, but there were specialty magazines that would track recruiting and a few of the major sports magazines would compile recruiting rankings.

I happen to have UW Football media guides from 1979-1989 and 1991-1992, and while they weren't always specific about recruiting rankings, they would often tout when a particular class had received plaudits, and the information gleaned from those media guides suggest Don James usually landed classes regarded as top-20 and had a number that were top-10 or better. This shouldn't come as a surprise given the on-field success he had, but some Husky fans tend to downplay how well he recruited. In those days one of the best gauges of talent was the yearly Long Beach Telegram's "Best in the West" poll - they'd ask every Pac-10 coach which players they were recruiting, and that would constitute a "vote" for a player. If a kid had a perfect 10 votes, that meant every Pac-10 school had offered him a scholarship. Let's take a look back:

1991: According to the media guide, it was described as one of the "nation's finest" and "best on the West Coast" by The Sporting News; also noted by Condotta as ranked #4 by SuperPrep

Notable Signees:

  • LB Jeff Bockert (Vancouver, WA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West
  • TE Mark Bruener (Aberdeen, WA) - 6/10 votes Best in the West
  • DT Steve Hoffman (San Jose, CA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West
  • QB Damon Huard (Puyallup, WA) - recruited by Miami (FL), Notre Dame, USC & Tennessee among others
  • RB Napoleon Kaufman (Lompoc, CA) - 10/10 votes Best in the West; 1st Team All-American USA Today and Parade Magazine
  • DB Reggie Reser (Pasadena, CA) - 9/10 votes Best in the West

Top Actual Performers: Bruener, Hoffman, Huard, Kaufman, Reser, TE Ernie Conwell, FB RDichard Thomas, OL Pat Kesi, DL Trevor Highfield

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1988: According to the media guide, it was rated as in the top-10 by the Sporting News

Notable Signees:

  • WR Mario Bailey (Seattle, WA) - 4/10 votes Best in the West
  • CB Walter Bailey (Portland, OR) - 3/10 votes Best in the West; Honorable Mention All-America USA Today
  • QB Mark Brunell (Santa Maria, CA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West; All-American SuperPrep
  • DE David Ilsley (Napa, CA) - 6/10 votes Best in the West; All-American SuperPrep
  • OL Lincoln Kennedy (San Diego, CA) - 3/10 votes Best in the West; All-American SuperPrep
  • DL Mike Lustyk (Bellevue, WA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West; All-American USA Today, Parade Magazine, SuperPrep
  • WR Damon Mack (Gardena, CA) - 9/10 votes Best in the West
  • FB Darius Turner (Gardena, CA) - 7/10 votes Best in the West; All-American SuperPrep

Top Actual Performers: M. Bailey, W. Bailey, RB Jay Barry, Brunell, LB James Clifford, DT Steve Emtman, LB Jaime Fields, LB Dave Hoffman, Kennedy, WR Orlando McKay, Turner

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1986: According to the media guide, described by "most of the major recruiting chronicles" as among the top-10

Notable Signees:

  • DT Dennis Brown (Los Angeles, CA) - 7/10 votes Best in the West; All-American USA Today, Street & Smith
  • DB/P Eric Canton (Port Orchard, WA) - 3/10 votes Best in the West
  • QB Cary Conklin (Yakima, WA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West; All-American The Sporting News
  • DL John Cook (Olympia, WA) - 3/10 votes Best in the West
  • OL Adam Cooney (Hillsboro, OR) - 7/10 votes Best in the West; All-American Street & Smith
  • DL/OL Dean Kirkland (Vancouver, WA) - 5/10 votes Best in the West
  • CB Trevin Moore (Riverside, CA) - 5/10 votes Best in the West

Top Actual Performers: Brown, FB James Compton, Conklin, Cooney, Kirkland, LB/DE Travis Richardson

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1984: According to the media guide, it ranked in the top-10 in "most recruiting polls".

Notable Signees:

  • DT Pat Doyle (Mission Hills, CA) - 6/10 votes Best in the West
  • RB Aaron Jenkins (Stockton, CA) - All-American Blue Chip Magazine
  • OL Brett Wiese (Issaquah, WA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West, All-American Blue Chip Magazine, USA Today
  • OLB/DE Bob Willig (La Miranda, CA) - 6/10 votes Best in the West
  • LB Bo Yates (Lebanon, OR) - All-American Street & Smith

Top Actual Performers: LB Rickey Andrews, LB Tom Erlandson, Jenkins, OT Kelly John-Lewis, TE/OT Scott Jones, LB David Rill, WR Brian Slater, RB Vince Weathersby, Wiese, Yates, OL Mike Zandofsky

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1983: No description in the media guide of how the class was ranked, but the number of notable signees suggests it was probably highly rated.

Notable Signees:

  • TE Scott Busz (Aberdeen, WA) - Rated #1 TE prospect by National High School Football Magazine
  • QB Chris Chandler (Everett, WA) - 8/10 votes Best in the West; All-American Parade Magazine
  • LB Tony Domingue (Portland, OR) - 6/10 votes Best in the West; All-American Parade Magazine
  • FB Rick Fenney (Snohomish, WA) - 10/10 votes Best in the West; All-American Parade Magazine USA Today
  • OL Kevin Gogan (Pacifica, CA) - All-American Blue Chip Magazine

Top Actual Performers: DT Steve Alvord, Chandler, Fenney, WR Darryl Franklin, Gogan, DT Brian Habib, WR Lonzell Hill

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1981: According to the media guide it was ranked as high as #7 by Blue Chip and #16 & #17 in two other polls

Notable Signees:

  • LB Fred Small (Los Angeles, CA) - recruiting competition from Nebraska, Texas, USC, UCLA, Oregon & Arizona
  • OL Dennis Soldat (Richland, WA) - a top-20 vote getter in the Best in the West poll; All-American Parade Magazine
  • RB Mike Vindivich (Tacoma, WA) - a top-3 RB in the Best in the West poll; All-American Parade Magazine
  • TE Tony Wroten (Renton, WA) - top TE and top-20 overall in Best in the West poll; top-50 nationally by Blue Chip Magazine

Top Actual Performers: DL Ron Holmes, CB Vestee Jackson, LB Joe Krakoski, LB Tim Meamber, RB Jacque Robinson, Small, Wroten

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1980: According to the media guide it was "...ranked #11 in the nation by one service."

Notable Signees:

  • DT Scott Garnett (Pasadena, CA) - recruiting competition from Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and all of the Pac-10
  • WR Danny Greene (Compton, CA) - the 4th highest vote-getter in the Best in the West; All-American Parade Magazine, Blue Chip Magazine
  • TE Leroy Lutu (Honolulu, HI - recruiting competition from all but WSU & Cal in the Pac-10, plus Notre Dame, BYU, North Carolina and others
  • DB Jim Rodgers (Aloha, OR) - All-American Parade Magazine

Top Actual Performers: OL Doug Crow, Garnett, Greene, RB Sterling Hinds, RB Ron "Cookie" Jackson, Lutu, WR Mark Pattison, QB Steve Pelluer, Rodgers

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