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Recruiting to UW in the Chris Petersen Era

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any football program and is the one big question surrounding Chris Petersen's resume as he moves from the friendly confines of the Moutain West to the ultra-competitive Pac 12.

Otto Greule Jr

Chris Petersen was hired as the 28th head coach in UW history on Friday, Dec 6th.  Most Husky fans actually woke up to the news that Joe Schad of ESPN reported and did an immediate double-take.  Chris Petersen, the great white whale to so many elite CFB institutions, the world's only 2-time winner of the Bear Bryant award, and the winningest coach in FBS was coming to Montlake.  After the average Husky fan took a couple of minutes to collect their brains following the head explosions that occurred in front of laptop screens everywhere, it took almost exactly 45 seconds for them to return to panic mode.

How was Chris Petersen going to succeed in recruiting the "blue-chip" style prospects that UW needs to compete in the Pac 12?

Heads explode again.



It is understandable that Husky fans would be concerned.  Despite posting a near 90% winning percentage at Boise State, a run that included victories over some of the most celebrated programs in the nation such as Oregon, Georgia, Virgina Tech and Oklahoma, Petersen has never gotten much credit for recruiting the blue chip prospect.  During his entire run at Boise State, he landed just one four-star recruit (a JC transfer to boot) and has never had a class in the Scout top 25 .

It is not surprising that in his eight years, despite amassing 92 wins, Petersen has never been able to land the big time prospects.  In fact, in 2013 there were zero 4-star or above level players signed in the Mountain West.  Compare and contrast that to the 59 that signed in the Pac 12.   Or the 132 that signed in the SEC.  Heck, even Cal signed a single Scout 4-star last year (but Utah didn't, nor did Colorado).  It is well understood that the best high school players want to maximize their opportunities in the grandest forums.  The Boise States and the TCUs of the world, no matter how exceptional their coaches and their results, just have never been able to compete with what the major programs have to offer.

And therein lies the rub.

Chris Petersen and his staff can dazzle you with the 92 wins.  They can strut out their highlight reels of all the giants slain.  They can brag about their track record of player development and the 21 alums who have been on NFL rosters this year (3 of whom are current NFL pro bowlers).  They can talk about their integrity and OKGs.  They can demonstrate the passion of a very dedicated Boise fan following.  They can even awe you with a blue field.  All of those things are great attributes.  But it isn't enough.

Competing in the Mountain West in a national system that demonstrably stacks the decks against the non-East coast schools, not to mention the non-mainstream schools, was a liability that Petersen had to carry and pay for every season that he was in Boise.  Not for a lack of trying, Petersen and his staff attempted to compensate by trying to get in early on the best players and to recruit based on loyalty returned.  However, the dawning of the Internet recruiting era made it nearly impossible to hide the diamonds in the rough in the most remote areas and, ironically, the offers that Petersen and his staff would make often turned into homing beacons for larger schools looking for fresh talent.  In a way, Petersen and his team had evolved into an adjunct scouting department for national schools and often put his best recruits in the impossible position of choosing between Boise State and a likely BCS bowl contender.

But now the tables have turned for Chris Petersen, his staff and all of the prospective athletes with whom his integrity and messaging will resonate.  With the UW behind him, Petersen will walk into the same living rooms that he has always walked into, but with a new bag of goods to offer.  In addition to the system, the skill development, the character development and the integrity that Petersen always could credibly offer, he will now be able to add in a world-class education, an exceptional metropolitan lifestyle, a close proximity to a professional football franchise (that just happens to be the hottest thing going), unparalleled football facilities and an opportunity to compete in what people perceive to be the best division in the second-best conference in the nation.  Not too shabby.

The consternation amongst Husky fans is quite understandable.  While there is always an element of our fan base that simply must have something to worry about (its in our nature), there are legitimate questions related to whether or not Petersen and his eventual staff will be capable of landing the bigger recruits.  There is not tangible evidence to suggest that they have had success in doing so.  With just one 4-star prospect signed in his tenure at BSU, it is a legitimate question.

But play that logic out one step further and the situation crystallizes a bit more.  The question as to whether or not Petersen will land higher caliber athletes than he did at Boise starts with an analysis of whether or not Petersen couldn't land those types when he pursued them at BSU or if he just simply didn't pursue them at all.  Most Husky fans have already read much on this and understand that Petersen frequently tried to get in on the athletes that would go on to be higher ranked and that he, in fact, leveraged his reputation to reach out to markets as distant as Florida, Texas, Georgia and Hawaii.  Clearly, Petersen is willing to target the kinds of athletes that UW needs to access in order to ascend.

Now the question of whether or not he is incapable of landing the top athletes must be addressed.  The idea that Petersen has some kind of kryptonite associated with the star-levels of athletes that he recruits is an absurd notion.  Kids are kids and parents are parents.  There is no univsersal personality attribute there that is going to override how individuals react to Petersen's relationship development and trust earning capabilities.  However, it is a valid concern as to whether or not the total recruiting machine - the staff, the system, the development process - is attractive to the elite athlete.   After all, those things are all going to play a role in the professional aspirations of these kids and they go above and beyond both the reputation that Peteresen brings into the living room and all of the tangible benefits of the University of Washington.

The truth is, we don't yet know how all of that is going to work out.  There is every reason to be optimistic given Coach Pete's track record, but there are still unknowns.

To his credit, Petersen has already acknowledged the importance of recruiting the superior athletes in adjunct to his OKGs.  He has prioritized and succeeded in securing the services of the best recruiters from his staff in Boise and the rumors I've heard are that he's already offered Tosh Lupoi, one of UW's remaining ace recruiters, the chance to stay with his staff if he so desires.  He's already started making inroads with in-state programs and he just hosted an unofficial visit with Bellevue super-recruit Budda Baker.   He's saying all the right things and doing what he can in his first week on the job.

But, how it will go in the end is still an open question.  One to which we won't have an answer for a couple of seasons.  So my advice to my fellow Dawg fan, in this festive but already stressful time of year, is to not count this issue amongst those that you are going to fret this winter.  Coaches are going to come and go.  Recruits are going to flip (and flip back).  Pundits are going to paint opposing pictures of roses and lilies versus doom and gloom.  Don't fall in the trap.  Enjoy the process and welcome in the dawn of the Chris Petersen era.

But, if you want to lose your mind, our comments threads are at your disposal.