Much has been made about Steve Sarkisian and his staff's recent struggles to get the top high school football players from the state of Washington to sign with the Huskies. It has yet to be seen whether or not missing out on players like Max Browne, Joshua Garnett and Zach Banner will affect the program, but there were plenty of years during the Keith Gilbertson, Tyrone Willingham and even the early-Sarkisian eras where we can look back now and see how not only missing out on local prospects hurt the program, but how the overall talent in the state of Washington ended up panning out.
Let's take a look back at the last 10 classes signed out of the state of Washington, how they were ranked, and how the top guys in the state panned out along with giving the Huskies a grade for their ability to keep the local guys home each year based on the perception and the time and in hindsight.
Elite prospects - LB Tahj Bomar (Kent-Kentwood) Washington, WR Craig Chambers (Mill Creek-Jackson) Washington, QB Johnny DuRocher (Spanaway-Bethel) Oregon
2003 grade- B - There wasn't a ton of top local talent and the Huskies signed the two best guys in Bomar and Chambers. DuRocher was a blow, especially since he signed with Oregon as most thought that he was one of the best quarterbacks on the West Coast that year.
The Huskies only lost out on one three-star level guy in Olympia safety Jordan Carey who also went to Oregon and signed the other 3-star level guys in Mukilteo cornerback Derrick Bradley, Edmonds tight end Casey Tyler and Moses Lake defensive tackle Jordan Reffett.
Hindsight grade - A - This has to actually be one of the worst classes in state history in hindsight as the none of the elite guys panned out and the best guys were actually sleepers in Lakewood defensive tackle Ropati Pitoitua who signed with WSU and is now a starter for the Chiefs and Yakima center Juan Garcia. Carey washed out at Oregon and DuRocher ended up transferring to Washington and not doing much so not offering Pitoitua was the only miss and he actually has been a much better pro than he was a college player.
Elite prospects - QB Matt Tuiasosopo (Woodinville) Washington, S Keauntea Bankhead (Ballard) Washington, G Aaron Klovas (Spanaway-Bethel) Oregon, WR Chancellor Young (Seattle-O'Dea) Duke
2003 grade - B+ - Signing Tuiasosopo and Bankhead was almost all that really mattered, though losing another elite guy in Klovas to Oregon hurt and Young was seen as a special athlete that people hated to see go. The Huskies signed pretty much every other guy in the state that they pursued except for 3-star Mukilteo guard Bobby Dockter who chose Stanford over the Huskies due to academics.
Hindsight grade - A - Wow, did I saw the class of 2003 was the worst? It might actually be 2004 and this absence of talent probably has a lot to do with UW and WSU collapsing in 2008. Tuisaosopo and Bankhead never even played college football, Klovas washed out at Oregon and Young at Duke before transferring to Washington anyway. The Huskies did sign some solid contributors in guys like Woodinville tackle Casey Bulyca, Federal Way safety Darin Harris and Everett linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo but that was it as there wasn't even any sleepers in the class either.
Elite prospects - RB Jonathan Stewart (Olympia-Timberline) Oregon, LB Anthony Felder (Seattle-O-Dea) Cal, RB Leon Jackson (Pasco) Nebraska, RB J.R. Hasty (Bellevue) Washington, LB E.J. Savannah (Bellevue) Washington
2005 grade - C- - This was the original "The sky is falling" class for Washington fans as the three best prospects in the state left, including the top rated running back in the country, and a number of the mid-level guys also left the state like Vancouver tackle Mat Webb for Oregon and safety Taylor Rank for South Carolina. This was blamed on the disastrous 1-10 season that Keith Gilbertson put together and the limited time Willingham had, though he was able to avoid an F by reeling in Hasty and Savannah.
Hindsight grade - F - Everything about this class ended up being a failure for the Huskies. Stewart became a star at Oregon and Felder a very good linebacker at Cal while Hasty washed out as a Husky and Savannah did before being rescued by Sarkisian and having a decent senior year. The Huskies also missed out on a number of mid-level guys including Webb. But even more painful was missing out on Puyallup receiver Brandon Gibson who they didn't offer and ended up with WSU where he was all-conference and torched the Huskies and tight end Adam Grant who they actually had committed but let go to Arizona where he would become an all-conference tackle.
Elite prospects - G Steve Schilling (Bellevue) Michigan, S Taylor Mays (Seattle-O'Dea) USC, QB Jake Locker (Ferndale) Washington, DT Cameron Elisara (Spokane-Ferris) Washington, Andy Mattingly (Spokane-Mead) Washington State
2006 grade - C- - Willingham's recruiting abilities immediately came into question as he let two five-star talents leave the state, including one that was a legacy recruit. Locker immediately being anointed the savior did take a little bit of the sting off though and the Huskies were able to land some much needed linemen like Elisara, Pasco guard Ryan Tolar and Sammamish tackle Cody Habben who they had to fight other big time schools for.
Hindsight grade - C- - Signing Locker was the only saving grace of the class and Elisara, Tolar and Habben ended up being solid starters. Mays ended up being a star for USC and though he was never a star, Schilling started for Michigan for four years and is now in the NFL. The Huskies also whiffed on not offering Olympia center Alex Linnenkohl who was all-conference for Oregon State along with Orting tight end Joe Halahuni who also was for the Beavers.
Elite prospects - TE Chris Izbicki (Kirkland-Lake Washington) Washington, QB Kellen Kiilsgaard (Auburn) Stanford
2007 grade - A- - This class was seen as being relatively weak and quarterback heavy as four of the top five prospects were QBs, and with Locker signed just the year before, quarterback wasn't really a priority for the Huskies. Of the four QBs - Kiilsgaard, Jake Gelakoska (Mill Creek-Jackson) Oregon State, Kellen Moore (Prosser) Boise State and Jason Munns (Kennewick-Southridge) BYU - the Huskies only really pursued Kiilsgaard and lost him to Stanford due to academics. The Huskies signed pretty much every other guy that they pursued in-state.
Hindsight grade - D - Kind of hard to grade this class since only two guys really actually even panned out, but the Huskies missed on both. Not offering Moore was understandable with Locker expected to be the starter as a redshirt freshman and Moore being seen largely as not good physically enough to play in the Pac-12. The Huskies missed on Auburn tight end David Paulson who signed with Oregon and had a great career there, but I remember Oregon being his ideal destination anyway. The only in-state players the Huskies signed who ended up being real contributors were Seattle cornerback Quinton Richardson and Burien safety Nate Williams and neither were spectacular.
Elite prospects - TE Kavario Middleton (Lakewood-Lakes) Washington, C David DeCastro (Bellevue) Stanford, G Alameda Ta'amu (Seattle-Rainier Beach) Washington, WR Jermaine Kearse (Lakewood-Lakes) Washington, DE Everrette Thompson (Burien-Kennedy) Washington, DT Trevor Guyton (Redmond) Cal, T Senio Kelemete (Seattle-Evergreen) Washington
2007 grade - A- - Seen as the saving grace for Tyrone Willingham at the time it was signed, the Huskies took full advantage of an overflowing amount of talent in the state and signed a number of highly regarded in-state guys, highlighted by Middleton, who was a five-star recruit and arguably the best tight end prospect in the country. The Huskies only missed out on DeCastro, who was the best center prospect in the nation, and Guyton who never really appeared to be interested in Washington.
Hindsight grade - B - This actually ended up being a very strong in-state class for Sarkisian instead of Willingham. Missing out on an All-American like DeCastro really hurts, but as I have said before, it is hard for kids to turn down Stanford if they can get in academically. Middleton ended up being a huge disappointment, but Kearse's success probably makes up for that. Kelemete and Ta'amu ended up being all-conference guys and NFL Draft picks and was more valuable than Guyton. The Huskies also signed some guys who were solid starters and contributors like Thompson, Redmond tackle Drew Schaefer, Prosser receiver Cody Bruns and Mukilteo safety Justin Glenn.
Elite prospects - None
2009 grade - B - Hard to really grade here as this was such a poor class overall that Sarkisian didn't even have many guys to offer. The only guy it appears that they really went after was Tacoma cornerback Desmond Trufant and they got him.
There was a bit of hype about Sammamish receiver Gino Simone spurning the Huskies for the Cougars but who really knows. The Huskies biggest loss was probably actually Seattle defensive tackle DeAndre Coleman who they actually had committed at one point but signed with Cal, though many said that he would almost assuredly end up at a JC. The Huskies also signed Federal Way linebacker Andru Pulu, but with little fanfare and competition for his signature.
Hindsight grade - B - Trufant ended up being the gem of the class with Spokane tight end and WSU signee Travis Long being the only other all-conference level guy and he fits the bill of a guy who was set on being a Cougar so no real blame there. Coleman actually ended up being the only real loss as he ended up getting into Cal and being a good defensive lineman.
Elite prospects - QB Jake Heaps (Sammamish-Skyline) BYU, DT Sione Potoae (Lakewood-Lakes) Washington
2010 grade - B - Losing Heaps, who was widely regarded as the best quarterback prospect in the country seemed like a huge blow at the time, but the Huskies did a good job of scooping up the rest of the guys in the state who seemed like they were Pac-12 caliber including Potoae, Bothell guard Colin Porter, Auburn linebacker Chris Young and some other guys.
Hindsight grade - C- - This is when hindsight starts to get blurry as a lot of these guys haven't finished their careers, but it looks like this will end up being a very weird in-state class. Heaps didn't pan out at BYU and is now at Kansas, so he didn't end up being a big loss and Potoae has failed to do much heading into his senior season. Young and Porter both could have ended up being huge signings, but Young didn't qualify and after a stint at a JC, is now a good linebacker for Arizona State and Porter had to retire due to injuries after a promising first two years. The biggest miss actually ended up being two-star Tacoma defensive end Scott Crichton who is on the verge of being an All-American and a first round draft pick with the Beavers.
Elite prospects - WR Kasen Williams (Sammamish-Skyline) Washington, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor) Washington, RB Bishop Sankey (Spokane-Gonzaga Prep) Washington
2011 grade - A - The best year of in-state recruiting the Huskies have had in years, the Huskies signed every single high-level recruit in the state of Washington with the exception of Spokane defensive end Charlie Hopkins who chose Stanford.
Hindsight grade - A - It's very early, but this class has looked great with Seferian-Jenkins living up to the hype as the best tight end in the nation and Williams and Sankey becoming equal stars. Throw in Auburn defensive tackle Danny Shelton becoming a standout on defense and the fact that Hopkins has yet to establish himself at Stanford, this class looks great.
Elite prospects - G Joshua Garnett (Puyallup) Stanford, T Zach Banner (Lakewood-Lakes) USC, QB Jeff Lindquist (Mercer Island) Washington, RB Keivarae Russell (Everett-Mariner) Notre Dame
2011 grade - D - Other than snagging Lindquist, who was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the country, this class was an utter failure for Steve Sarkisian and his staff. Missing out on Garnett and Banner was the biggest failure, as both were highly-rated, legacy recruits at positions that the Huskies have long been in dire need of. Throw in Russell spurning the Huskies and a number of mid-level recruits passing on the Huskies and you have a full on nightmare.
Hindsight - Too early