Regardless of the fact that the Huskies have yet to break through the seven-win ceiling that has been built in Seattle during Steve Sarkisian's first four seasons at Washington, there is no denying that the man, and the staff that he has assembled, can recruit well. Other than his first class that had to be slapped together in a couple of months after an 0-12 season, every one of his classes has been ranked in the Top 25 nationally by at least one major recruiting publication.
Though Sarkisian and his staffs have been able to put together highly-regarded overall classes, there is a lot more to recruiting than that and spreading talent and depth across positions is a key component of putting together a good team. So while these recent classes have been praised and analyzed for their overall talent, I'm not sure if they have ever been analyzed from an overall positional standpoint that could paint a picture of where and why many of Sarkisian's Husky teams have excelled and failed.
*Note that these are grades analyzing players when they were signed. So you can't mark down for signing a highly-rated guy who didn't pan out unless he simply didn't get into school, or mark up for signing a sleeper type recruit. Also note that for the average star ratings, I use FoxSportsNext/Scout's as I feel they are the best representations of how highly-rated West Coast and especially Northwest prospects are.
Quarterback - A-
Number signed: 7 Average star rating: 3.4 Biggest fish: Cyler Miles
Somewhat known as a quarterback guru at USC, it's no surprise that Sark has recruited the quarterback position maybe better than any other position on the field. With that said, he had only done a little above average until 2012, when he hit a grand slam with Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles. Signing two elite quarterback recruits in one class in modern college football is a major feat, especially with one of them being a guy from 1,300 miles away who got the full-court press from USC to be the only QB they would sign in that class.
Sark was also able to bounce back after missing on 5-star Skyline quarterbacks in 2010 and 2013 with guys that were arguable the next-most highly-rated quarterbacks on the West Coast in Nick Montana and Troy Williams. Montana also generated some great PR for the program early when it really needed it and some think Williams might fit Sark's offense better than Max Browne would have.
He also gets some serious points for being able to hang onto Keith Price after taking over in 2008/2009 as losing him without being able to sign another quarterback would have put the Huskies in a perilous position at quarterback once Jake Locker graduated. Price wasn't an elite recruit, but it would have been nearly impossible to grab an equally-skilled quarterback that late in the game.
The only knock would be how much he struggled to sign a quarterback in 2011. The Huskies were in dire straits before they flipped Derrick Brown from Utah late in the game. Even though Brown was a solid recruit, it was kind of a punt for the Huskies as they had to steal a quarterback from a school that was in the Mountain West at the time.
Running Back B-
Number signed: 8 Average star rating: 3.1 Biggest fish: Bishop Sankey
Sark had a little bit of a grace period to sign big time running backs once it became clear that Chris Polk was an absolute beast that could carry the team for three to four years, but he still wasted little time, signing Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier and Zach Fogerson in 2010. Cooper was the crown jewel as he was one of the highest-rated backs on the West Coast and was recruited by most the Pac-12, but committed to the Huskies early.
While Cooper, Callier and Fogerson was probably the best overall running back class, flipping Bishop Sankey away from an early commitment to Washington State the next year, is one of Sark's biggest recruiting victories as a head coach thus far. Sankey was the best running back to come out of Washington since Jonathan Stewart and a must have even though he was from the Coug-friendly East side of the mountains.
It hasn't been the easiest sledding since Sankey signed on the dotted line though, with the Huskies signing sleepers Erich Wilson and Psalm Wooching in 2012 and hanging onto Lavon Coleman in 2013. Coleman was one of the highest-rated running backs out West in his class but had a strange recruitment where it appeared the Huskies may have been backing off at times while his stock fell a bit late in the process.
Overall, like a lot of performances during Sark's tenure, running back recruiting has been good, but not great either.
Wide receiver - A-
Number signed: 13 Average star rating: 3.4 Biggest fish: Kasen Williams
Sark has signed more receivers than any other position on the field and it is also probably where he has brought in the most top-level talent on signing day.
This group got a huge boost on signing day 2013 when he brought in three guys who arguably could have been the three best receiver prospects on the West Coast in Damore'ea Stringfellow, John Ross and Darrell Daniels. The trio is the cornerstone of the class of 2013 and probably the second-best receiver group ever signed at Washington, trailing only the one that brought in Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick.
Still the three combined, probably don't match the level of excitement that the signing of local 5-star prospect Kasen Williams did in 2011. Among the best prospects in the country at any position, Williams is likely the best offensive prospect ever signed by Sark and showed at the time that Sark can reel in local talent even if he is fighting it out with every school in the country.
Unlike a lot of other positions, Sark has also regularly been able to beat out other top programs for 4-star level guys like Kevin Smith, Jaydon Mickens and James Johnson and has rarely had to resort to relying on sleepers to fill out classes.
Tight End - B-
Number signed: 6 Average star rating: 3.1 Biggest fish: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Signing Seferian-Jenkins in 2011 pretty much makes this position and Sark has done a good job at also regularly filling it out with good, but not great local guys to provide depth like David Ajamu, Michael Hartvigson and Jarett Finau. You don't need a ton of tight ends and Sark has hit his home run and backed it up with singles. The fact that he has never really been able to land other guys coveted by Pac-12 other than Seferian-Jenkins keeps him at a B- though.
Tackle - D
Number signed: 9 Average star rating: 3 Biggest fish: Micah Hatchie
Ugh, I perpetually try to not be one of those lack of offensive linemen signed harpers that populate Husky nation, but there is no getting around it. Sark's recruiting of tackles has not been good. It probably peaked in 2010 when he signed Hatchie, who was one of the top players from Hawaii that year, along with Ben Riva, Mike Criste and James Atoe, and that doesn't say much as Riva was just a solid local guy and Criste and Atoe projects.
To be brutally honest, the only guy they have signed under Sark that came out of high school as a tackle that was truly coveted by other Pac-12 schools was Hatchie. Tackle might be the most important position on the offense after quarterback (And I might even say more important than that), and for whatever reason Sark can't seem to win recruiting battles for upper-level talent.
The bad news is that it only seems to be getting worse as he has signed only three in the past two years, and two of those guys were last second offers as signing day approached in Taylor Hindy and Coleman Shelton. I wish I had better things to say here, but at the same time want to be realistic.
Guard - C+
Number signed: 7 Average star rating: 3.4 Biggest fish: Erik Kohler
The good news I guess is that guard has been a little bit better. Sark has signed good talent here every year other than his first when he got a goose egg. They have signed a few guys who were highly-rated in Kohler, Colin Porter and Shane Brostek and only brought on a couple of true sleepers in Colin Tanigawa and Siosifa Tufunga.
Still, Sark hasn't won a lot of battles at this position either and hasn't brought in a guy given more than three stars by any publication since he doubled up with Kohler and Porter in 2010 and this makes it hard to really give a good grade here.
Center - C
Number signed: 2 Average star rating: 2.5 Biggest fish: Dane Crane
Really thought about just rolling this into guard, but figured since it is listed as a completely separate position, I would judge it on its own. Not much to grade here though, as Sark has only signed two centers which seems like a decent number since the majority of centers slide over from another positions on the line and there are only a handful of guys each year that sign with major programs specifically to be centers.
Crane was the big catch in 2013 as he drew rave reviews in camps and all-star games and was rated among the best centers in the nation. The only other prospect signed was Cory Fuavai in 2012 who was lightly recruited, but a much needed body up front for the Huskies.
Defensive End - B-
Number signed: 12 Average star rating: 3 Biggest fish: Joe Mathis
Sark hasn't pulled in a ton of elite recruits here, but he has done a great job of consistently bringing in quality defensive ends each year. He has scored big a few times - getting on Mathis early and holding onto him in 2013, flipping Pio Vatuvei from USC on signing day in 2012 and keeping Taniela Tupou home in 2011.
He has also done a good job of beating out other Pac-12 schools for mid-level recruits like Andrew Hudson, Damion Turpin and Marcus Farria.
Overall, he has always brought in sufficient numbers and good, but not great talent.
Defensive Tackle - C+
Number signed: 9 Average star rating: 3 Biggest fish: Sione Potoae
While I think that Sark has done just a little above average here, I also would like to note that recruiting big time defensive tackles on the West Coast is a massive struggle, as for whatever reason, the region just doesn't produce as much as others so the pool is very small to pull from. So if I was actually grading here on a regional scale I might go a little higher, but that also isn't to say that he isn't doing a pretty good job.
Potoae was a borderline 5-star guy and the first truly elite prospect from the state of Washington that Sark kept home in 2010. This, along with keeping Danny Shelton home the next year were huge victories, considering the Western reality I pointed out in the previous paragraph.
Sark made his first big score here outside of Washington's borders by pulling in arguably the best defensive lineman on the West Coast in 2013 in Elijah Qualls. While he had struggled previously to bring in quality out-of-state guys at this position, I have a feeling that will no longer the case as long as Tosh Lupoi is in town.
Outside Linebacker - C
Number signed: 12 Average star rating: 3.1 Biggest fish: Chris Young
I'm not sure why, but this seems to be the position on defense where Sark just never seems to win battles with other schools on Washington's level and frequently settles or takes guys that other schools don't' seem to be hot after. To add insult to injury, the most highly-rated prospect at the position he has signed, Chris Young in 2010 didn't qualify and the only other prospect of that level, Josh Shirley was initially a loss, but was picked up only after he was kicked out of UCLA.
That's not to say that Sark hasn't signed enough players here that are legitimate Pac-12 recruits. Players like Corey Waller in 2011, Keishawn Bierria in 2013 and Darius Waters in 2010 were recruited by other Pac-12 schools. It's just overall, they he has yet to really get over the edge here.
Inside Linebacker - C
Number signed: 8 Average star rating: 3 Biggest Fish: Victor Burnett
Well, I guess it is both form of linebacker where there is a little bit left to be desired, but once again, the job done here has been mostly sufficient. You don't need as many inside linebackers, but Sark has regularly signed a good amount of prospects.
I would say that the level of guys signed in the inside has been a little bit more consistent than outside, but it is one of the few position where he has never signed a player rated as higher than a 3-star by a major publication. Overall though, the position has been strong with guys like Victor Burnett in 2010, Ryan McDaniel in 2012 and Sean Constantine in 2013 being pried away from other Pac-12 programs.
Cornerback - B
Number signed: 11 Average star rating: 2.9 Biggest Fish: Jermaine Kelly
From a pure ratings standpoint and outside perspective, I am probably overrating this position, but I have really liked a lot of the corners that Sark has brought in and feel like almost every year, he has brought in for the most part the guys he wanted.
Keeping Desmond Trufant from following in his brother's footsteps and going to Washington State is probably even a bigger win than hanging onto Keith Price for Sark in 2009, especially because I think he was the best prospect in-state that year.
In regards to the earlier reference to getting the guys they really wanted, I think Sark has done a great job of getting the tall, rangy athletes he likes at cornerback, starting with Trufant in 2009 and Marcus Peters in 2011 and going on to Cleveland Wallace and Brandon Beaver in 2012 and Jermaine Kelly in 2013. Because of this, I feel like have lost far fewer battles at cornerback than other positions.
Safety - B+
Number signed: 12 Average star rating: 3.1 Biggest Fish: Shaq Thompson
Far and away the strongest recruited position on defense for Sark as far as ratings goes. Not only is the level of talent consistent with some nice sized hits like Sean Parker in 2010 and James Sample in 2011, the biggest fish Sark has ever reeled in at any position was Shaq Thompson in 2012. The rest of the prospects who have filled out the position has also been strong and interesting with Trevor Walker in 2013, Jamaal Kearse in 2010 and Nate Fellner in 2009.
He has had to take on some projects here too, but for the most part they have all brought something intriguing to the table with Jordan Wallace being the brother of a sleeper recruit who had similar measurable skills in C.J. Wallace and Travis Feeney having a versatile skill set and body and the same could be said for John Timu too.
Kicker - B
Number signed: 2 Average star rating: 2.5 Biggest Fish: Cameron Van Winkle
The world of kicker and punter recruiting isn't that interesting or vast, which is clear in that Sark has only given out two scholarships to kickers in his five years as head coach. Van Winkle was regarded as one of the best kickers in the country this year and since his only other signing, JC kicker Travis Coons was very much needed with no kicker returning on the roster.
Punter - C
Number signed: 2 Average star rating: 2.5 Biggest Fish: Korey Durkee
Like kicker, not much intrigue here with only two guys taken, one out of high school and one out of JC. Can't really knock or praise Sark for taking a solid, local recruit and a JC guy to fill a hole.