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Washington Huskies Look to Finish Up 2016 Recruiting Class

How will Chris Petersen make room in a small class for the big names left on the board?

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Washington Huskies football program remains in the hunt for some big names on the recruiting trail, but with precious few spots left to allocate.  With the so-called "dead period" officially commencing tomorrow and lasting through the bowl season, Chris Petersen and his staff are making a tremendous push to lock up current commits and to fill out the remaining spots left open in the current class.

As Drew pointed out in today's Recruiting Roundup piece, the Huskies are still in the hunt for some big names.  Below is just a sampling of the key recruits that UW has been actively working on as we race into the dead period.

Recruit Position Ranking
Mique Juarez LB 5*
Jonathan Kongbo DE 4*
Jacob Eason QB 5*
Adawale Omotosho WR 4*
Chris Taylor-Yamanoha WR 3*
Javon McKinley WR 4*
Devin Asiasi TE 4*
Boss Tagaloa DL 4*
Rashard Lawrence DL 5*
Byron Murphy DB 4*
David Long DB 4*
Kris Vaughn WR 3*

That is a long list for a UW program that already has 14 commits to match the 14 seniors leaving the program (and, yes, I'm still counting Deontae Cooper here).

Senior Position Recruit Commits Position Rank
Deontae Cooper RB Daniel Bridge-Gadd QB 3*
Marvin Hall WR Sean McGrew RB 4*
Jaydon Mickens WR Aaron Fuller WR 3*
Joshua Perkins TE Luke Wattenberg OL 4*
Sifa Tufunga OL Nick Harris C 3*
Cory Fuavai OL Jacob Kizer TE 3*
Ryan Masel C Myles Rice DE 3*
Tani Topou DL Amandre Williams DE/LB 3*
Jarret Finau DL Camilo Eifler LB 4*
Travis Feeney LB Kentrell Love DB 3*
Cory Littleton LB Isaiah Gilchrist DB 4*
Scott Lawyer LB Taylor Rapp S 3*
Brian Clay S Van Soderberg P 2*
Korey Durkee P Brandon Wellington ATH 4*

Anybody that UW takes on as a commitment going forward is going to have to be worked in under the guise of "making room".  In basketball, we refer to this as Romar-Math.  There is little doubt that Chris Petersen is going to take more recruits.  Defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and linebacker remain critical position groups that Petersen needs to balance out on the roster.  In addition, most coaches know that you can't turn your back on transcendent talents when they want to come to your school, even if the position group they play in is otherwise full.

So, how does UW make room in a class that is theoretically full?  It's not an easy equation to work out if you are a head coach, but there are a few possibilities.

1.  Senior Class Assignments

Remember when Ty Willingham in 2006 pulled this tactic out of his bag of tricks and made several players with eligibility like K Michael Braunstein, S Chris Hemphill and WR Marlon Wood all expendable just before senior night?  The truth is that this is a common tactic utilized by coaches all over the country, even if they do it with a little more dignity than how Willingham pulled it off on that day.

Usually, the shifting of a player up a class only happens to redshirt players who have graduated and are eligible to transfer under the NCAA graduate transfer rules.  Coaches will often reveal these candidates during the season so that the player can be recognized in various honorary ceremonies.  This season, junior OL Cory Fuavai was so recognized.

It would not be unheard of for other players on this roster with a year remaining of eligibility to make a similar decision, but there aren't many such candidates.  Players like QB Jeff Lindquist, DL Damion Turpin, and DB Brandon Beaver might be possibilities based on their situations, but I've seen no indication to make me believe such a move is imminent with any of those players.

2.  Roster Transfers

We know that this happens every season.  Players looking for playing time, a change of scenery, or a personal move opt to transfer out of one program an into another.  Sometimes these kinds of moves are self-motivated and sometimes they are pushed by the staff.

I have no idea of the inner-workings of the program or what is going on in the personal lives of the players on the roster.  I don't wish to speculate on any particular names of players or anything of that sort.  However, I could easily see a cadre of three to six players electing to transfer this season for reasons ranging from depth-chart-related to proximity to home.  This will be the primary source for available slot openings that the staff will utilize to round out the recruiting class.

3. Medical Retirements

Medical retirements are a form of player attrition that UW has become all too familiar with over the years.  Recently, players like QB Cyler Miles, OL Dexter Charles, and OL Colin Porter have all had to end their UW careers prematurely due to chronic injury.

There are no obvious candidates this year, though we wouldn't necessarily know if there were.  Chris Petersen triggered some chatter when he once referred to RB Dwayne Washington as struggling with a "chronic issue."  In addition, we know that both WR John Ross and incoming RS LB Jusstis Warren are both bouncing back from major injuries.  Add in Brandon Lewis and you probably have your full pool of candidates who you might worry a little bit about.  That said, I'd be surprised if there were any medical retirements this offseason.

4. Early Enrollment and Greyshirts

In a normal "full class" year, schools are allowed to accept early enrollees and count that player against the previous class assuming that there are open scholarships.  This is the rule that allows a program to take more than the NCAA-allowed 25 players in any one class.  This rule doesn't apply to UW in 2016 as there will not be enough open scholarship slots to get UW up to the maximum 25.

However, UW has used the greyshirt tool to keep certain athletes engaged with the program and not go over the NCAA-allowed 85-scholarship limit.  Since Chris Petersen has arrived, players like Vita Vea, Myles Rice, and Devin Burleson have all been greyshirted, which effectively delays the activation of their scholarship until the following year.

Could UW greyshirt any active commits?  This is certainly a possibility, particularly with injured players or players who would volunteer to do so in order to preserve an extra year of eligibility.  Of UW's current 14 commits, I could only see two players potentially being put on greyshirt.  P Van Soderberg has a bright future, but UW has two scholarship kickers returning next season.  K Tristan Vizcaino has been used as a punter this season and, at one point, was considered a high-upside punting prospect in his own right.

The other possible candidate would be OL Nick Harris.  Harris is a raw talent who attracted the attention of the staff with his tenacity and his motor.  I'm just speculating here, but the staff might feel he could benefit from an extra year of physical development before entering his redshirt year.

Beyond Harris and Soderberg, it is difficult to envision any of the other 12 current commits being willing to accept a greyshirt assignment.

5. Scholarship Withdrawals

NCAA regulations allow for a maximum of 85 scholarship players to be enrolled (not signed) at any time.  However (and this may change in the near future), most of those athletes are only guaranteed their scholarships on a year-to-year basis.  Getting their scholarships renewed depends on them meeting the standards put forth in the scholarship agreement, AND - the fine print - scholarship slots remaining available per Title IX and NCAA regulations.

It is very unusual for a scholarship player to have their scholarship pulled and move into a walk-on status.  It has happened that some players will occasionally volunteer to do this.  Jake Locker did so his senior year at UW.  But walk-ons who have earned scholarships for a year may get returned to walk-on status from time to time.  The school won't ever confirm this kind of thing, but we do believe that Steve Sarkisian may have used this tactic once or twice.

Right now, UW has no former walk-ons on scholarship who are returning next year.  Two such players, Ryan Masel and Brian Clay, are both graduating.  There also do not appear to be any walk-ons ready to be put on scholarship in the immediate future, although guys like RB Ralph Kinne, WR Jomon Jones, and DL Jared Pulu are examples of players with the kind of talent that could transcend to scholarship levels in the future.

Besides those five categories of sources for churn, I should also note the very real possibility of UW's own commits getting flipped by another school.  It is a testament to Chris Petersen and recruiting coordinator Keith Bhonopha that UW fans have become almost immune to the notion of a Husky recruit changing his mind.  But the word has gotten out that the Petersen staff knows how to scout players.  Opposing coaches are putting the hard press on several Petersen commits, including guys like CB Kentrelle Love, DE Amandre Williams, LB Camilo Eifler, and OL Luke Wattenberg.  Even more under-the-radar guys like OL Nick Harris and QB Daniel Bridge-Gadd have seen their stock take off and could be competitive targets.  Another spot could open if one of these players flips to another school.

No matter how you evaluate it, UW is looking at an exciting close to the 2016 recruiting cycle.  The commitment of even just one or two of the big names left on the board combined with the churning of some key roster positions could turn this into one of UW's most interesting classes in recent history.  Who says recruiting under Chris Petersen is boring?