While you don't have to be a math whiz to manage recruiting for a major college football program, it does help to be good with numbers. There are two numbers in particular you have to work with - 85 (the total number of players allowed on scholarship) and 25 (the maximum number of recruits allowed in each recruiting class). It seems simple enough, and in the case of the 85 number, it is. The second number however is more malleable; you often see programs sign more than 25 kids each year. How do they do it? Well, there are a few ways to manipulate that number:
- Qualifying: Some recruits might find themselves not admitted into school because their transcripts don't meet NCAA minimum standards.
- Delayed Enrollment: A recruit might opt to delay his enrollment (usually with the encouragement of the coaching staff) until the following year, usually in January. Informally called "greyshirting", this is a way for the coaching staff to potentially count the recruit against the following year's tally. For the recruit, this could be a way to get extra time needed to gain a qualifying test score (or re-take a class to boost their GPA) or to rehab from a recent injury. In these cases the recruit becomes a recruitable athlete again, and if they choose they have the option to sign elsewhere.
- Early Enrollees: If there are players able to enroll in time for the current academic year (typically Spring quarter/semester) rather than waiting for the following Fall quarter/semester, and there are spots left in the prior class tally of 25, those players can be counted back to that prior class.
Where things get tough for an outside observer in tracking this is knowing for sure how a program has counted each class size. Coaching staffs are always looking to maximize their available room for their current recruiting class, and since the deadline for finalizing the tally for each recruiting class falls well after Signing Day (I believe they have up until the beginning of the following school year), they have the opportunity to adjust that tally if there are players that leave the program or were not admitted for some reason.
All of that is a long way of saying that we can't know for certain how many total recruits the Huskies could sign this upcoming February. In theory the number could exceed 25, as there are multiple planned early enrollees among the current commit list (Devin Burleson - a greyshirt from the 2014 class; Jake Browning; JC transfer Ezekiel Turner; and Kyler Manu). The coaching staff will attempt to count as many of those players back to the 2014 class as they can. There's also the possibility that Myles Rice could be asked to greyshirt given his knee injury suffered this season.
On the other hand, there's still the hard cap of 85 total scholarships. When the 2015 season commences, they can't have more than that number. Looking at the current scholarship chart, it appears as though the Huskies are projected to be over that limit with 88 players with the current commits added in. However there's likely to be some attrition from the roster, as well as the very high likelihood that Shaq Thompson enters the NFL draft. And there's the possibility that some current scholarship players that arrived as walk-ons might not have those scholarships renewed, though I'll admit I'm unclear whether the new standards of 4-year scholarships adopted by the conference change that dynamic for this coming year.
The bottom line though is that there probably isn't much realistic room remaining in this class. To fit under the 85-man limit, the returning roster would likely need to lose at least 1 player, and every additional player on that commitment list would require another current player not returning. So how many more commits should we expect this staff to take, and which players appear to still be targets? Obviously without talking to the coaching staff themselves we can't know for certain, but we can make some educated guesses. The following are players I believe this staff is still vigorously pursuing and would accept a commitment from:
- RB Chris Warren - Warren is an elite RB recruit out of the state of Texas. Normally that would mean he's a near-lock to stay within the borders of that state, but he's the son of the former Seahawk All-Pro RB of the same name, and his mother hails from Seattle. He recently took his official visit to Texas, and by all accounts it went very well. Longhorn coach Charlie Strong embodies many of the same principles as Chris Petersen, and Texas provides a degree with as much (if not more) prestige as Washington, so if he bonded with the players there, they will be tough to beat. However hope lies in the fact that the Huskies will get his final visit and the chance to make the final pitch he'll hear, and his mother reportedly is a very big fan of Petersen and Washington.
- DL Benning Potoa'e - He's already announced that he's down to two finalists: UCLA and Washington. Jim Mora has done quite well recruiting in his old home state, but as with Warren, Washington gets the final visit for Potoa'e. Additionally, while Mora has already had his one in-home visit with the Potoa'e family, Petersen has not yet used his. There have been some that felt a less than ideal experience for Benning's older brother Sione as a Husky would push the younger brother away, but this is a different staff, and the lure of playing close to home in front of friends and family is often a deciding factor.
- DB/RB Austin Joyner - It's been a topsy-turvey recruitment for Joyner, as he initially committed to Washington back in November of 2013 as a RB. But then Sark left for USC and Joyner decommitted. After he decided he preferred to play CB in college, WSU jumped right in with an offer while Petersen wanted more time to evaluate him at this new position. Joyner committed to WSU, but when Petersen decided to extend him an offer as a CB also, word spread that he might end up back at Washington eventually. When Mike Leach fired his DC Mike Breske, that really opened things up and Joyner decommitted from WSU. He took official visits to Washington and Boise State this month, and was scheduled to take an official to WSU late next month, but in the past week he announced that he would make his decision January 4th at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. That would appear to eliminate WSU, and make this a two-horse race between Washington and Boise State, and I like our chances.
- WR Jaylinn Hawkins - Things have gone rather quiet with Hawkins in the last month or so; the 4-star WR prospect out of California had originally been thought to be choosing between Oregon and Washington, and he took his official visit here in early November during the UCLA game weekend. While he hasn't been talking much of late, it appears that ASU has entered the picture in a big way (he visited earlier this month) and may be taking a long look at Cal too. There was a period where I thought the Huskies were the team he was favoring, but now I'm not so sure.
- DB Dechaun Holiday - Most have felt that Holiday is a lock for UCLA, but the Husky coaching staff has been swinging away to keep themselves in the hunt, and it may pay off with an official visit next month. While I still expect the Bruins to land him, if he visits Washington then there's a chance he could be swayed.
Beyond those guys there are a number of other prospects on that are still on the radar, but I'm less certain they still have firm offers. Consider these as players the staff is still looking at, but they may be fall-back candidates if the Huskies are unable to land the guys listed above:
- WR Xavier Castille - Hailing from the same high school in Texas as Warren, some regard Castille as a means for the Huskies to improve their chances with the stud RB. I don't think that's how Petersen operates, but I'm also not sure they would take a commitment from him at this point no matter what - with spaces limited, he may be a contingency plan. He's still scheduled to visit the weekend of January 16th-18th (one would assume the coaching staff is trying to get Warren to visit that same weekend), but we'll see if that gets re-scheduled.
- WR Lavan Alston - Alston is another kid that has gone "dark" in terms of talking with the press, but he was widely considered a strong lean to Oregon State - if not in fact a commit - prior to the departure of Mike Riley to Nebraska. It's hard to know for sure, but it may be that the ship has sailed with him and Washington; on the other hand, it wouldn't shock me if he ends up on an official visit list here next month.
- WR Adrian Miller - Miller is a tall WR out of the Dallas area that has been a long-time Illinois commit. That hasn't prevented him from looking at other schools though, and the Husky coaching staff has been working on him to get a visit. It's hard to know if they are still actively pursuing him or if they've moved on, but even if he does visit, we might not know about it right away as he may choose to keep it on the down low so as not to jeopardize his status with the Illini.
- DT Kevin Scott - A former basketball player who has been a late riser up recruiting boards, Scott has the size and athleticism to intrigue coaches as a development project with major potential. The Husky coaches have been interested in the L.A. product, but it's not clear if he has an offer. With a lack of a true big-body DT in this class, Scott is someone the staff might decide to gamble on late in this recruiting cycle.
- DE Gabe Reid - A pass-rushing specialist out of Utah, Reid was originally looking to decide between Stanford, BYU and Utah. But late pushes by Arizona and Washington have complicated things for him, and he's considering trying to fit in a couple of mid-week visits next month in order to see all five schools. I think Washington is still on the outside looking in on this one, but if they get a visit out of him they could be a factor, and a commitment out of Reid might be a sign that the staff is looking to have Rice greyshirt.
- OL James Empey - Empey is a guy I'm pretty sure this staff would take a commitment from regardless, but that's partly because he's nearly certain to take his LDS mission right out of high school, which effectively makes him a 2017 recruit. That said, the feeling is that Utah is leading for him with BYU in close pursuit.
- ATH Quenton Meeks - A versatile prospect that could end up at WR, CB or S, the San Diego product appears to be focusing on Cal and Vanderbilt. He's considering additional visits next month, and for a while Washington was one of his main pursuers, but he's also thinking of calling it a day and making his decision soon. If Washington gets a commitment from Joyner, I'm not sure there would be room left for Meeks.
- DB Nathan Meadors - Originally thought to be visiting officially last month, Meadors was a late scratch and it's unclear at this point if he'll re-schedule. He recently picked up an offer from Oregon and promptly scheduled a visit for the middle of next month to Eugene, followed by a visit the next weekend to UCLA. Those two along with Cal are thought to be his leaders at this point, and much like Meeks, I'm not sure the Huskies would have room for Meadors if Joyner commits.
As always this time of year things are fluid - a recruit currently scheduled to visit might cancel (or have his visit canceled) and others that are off the radar could pop up at the last minute as the coaches look to fill out their recruiting classes. The dead period ends after the AFCA coaches convention concludes next month and visits will start again January 15th. We'll keep you posted as news comes.