Every year on Signing Day there is a great deal of attention paid to recruiting classes and the stars or ratings applied to them by the various experts. Fans will check the various recruiting networks to see how their favorite teams stack up in the rankings and debate the merits of this grade or that, and a few (usually among a select group of Alabama, USC, LSU, Ohio State, Florida State, Texas and Florida) will get to proclaim their team has the best class in the country.
This makes for good entertainment, and the voracious appetite for recruiting information and discussion has spawned three major recruiting networks (Scout.com, Rivals.com, 247Sports.com). And while a number of studies have shown that there is indeed a statistically significant correlation between recruiting rankings and on-field success, it is still far from an exact science, and every year you can find numerous examples of recruits that significantly out-perform or under-perform their rankings.
It's a given that at some point on Wednesday you will hear (or read) a pundit cautioning that the real test of a recruiting class will come 4-5 years down the road when we can look back and see how they actually performed. This then is one person's attempt to do just that.
The 2010 recruiting class was the first full cycle for Steve Sarkisian at Washington. He arrived in December of 2008 in the wake of the worst season in Husky football history, and inherited a shambles of a recruiting situation. With less than two months available and against the backdrop of a 12-47 stretch of putrid football, he scrambled to assemble what he could for that 2009 class, but it was predictably a patch-job and not highly regarded (last in the Pac-10 and 66th nationally according to Scout.com).
There was thus a great deal of anticipation as Sark headed into the 2010 recruiting cycle - with a full year, could he put together a class that could help restore Washington football and get them back to competing with the conference heavyweights? Things got off to an encouraging start as he accumulated commitments from a number of solid to very-good local prospects in the spring and summer of 2009, and then in early June he got a major bump in publicity when 4-star QB prospect Nick Montana committed. That commitment raised the profile of that class, and Sark rode that wave to what was considered a particularly strong recruiting effort, ranking as high as 2nd in the Pac-10 and 10th nationally by Scout.com (Rivals.com was more skeptical, slotting them 6th in the conference and 28th nationally). The class was notable not just for having a number of 4-star prospects (as many at 10 by Scout.com evaluations) but also for overall size - at 31 commitments, it was a huge influx of new players as Sark was looking to re-stock the cupboards and put his own stamp on the program. For fans of trench play, they had to be happy seeing seven OL recruits (quickly dubbed "the Cascade Front") and four DL recruits. Here's a list of those recruits and the 247Sports composite recruiting rating for each (or Rivals.com where 247Sports has no rating):
Let's go through that list and see where the services got it right (and wrong) and how many of those players stuck around; we'll go alphabetically:
- 2-star OL James Atoe: A major sleeper prospect out of Aloha, OR that committed to the Huskies days before Signing Day, Sark famously said of Atoe that he had the potential to become a 1st round draft pick. That's not going to happen, but the massive OL did manage to become a useful player for the Huskies, starting 21 games in his career. He outperformed his rating.
- 3-star LB Victor Burnett: He never played for the Huskies, getting the boot prior to his RS-Fr season for an off-the-field issue. He ended up transferring to Southern Illinois and suffered a serious knee injury. He was a bust for the Huskies and underperformed his rating.
- 3-star RB Jesse Callier: He quickly made an impression for the Huskies, finishing 2nd on the team with 433 rushing yards as a true freshman and providing a scatback/3rd down RB option to starter Chris Polk. A knee injury in the 2012 opener allowed Bishop Sankey to claim the starting job, and then a 2nd knee injury this year finished his career. It was a tough bit of luck for a talented player who lived up to his rating.
- 2-star WR DiAndre Campbell: After being encouraged to move on by Sark after last season, he got a 2nd chance under Chris Petersen this year. He was a willing blocker and ended up starting most of the season this year. While never a star player, he did outperform his ranking.
- 4-star RB Deontae Cooper: By this point I think everyone knows the Deontae Cooper story - star RB in high school, impresses observers in camp before suffering a major knee injury; rehabs, comes back and injures the same knee the following year; rehabs, comes back and injures the other knee the next year; comes back and finally sees the field last year and becomes a part of the RB rotation this year in the wake of Sankey's departure. He's an extremely rare case (perhaps unique) of a player granted two extra years of eligibility by the NCAA due to his injuries, and could play 2 more seasons if he so chooses. So far he has underperformed his rating due to injury, but he's exceeded everyone's expectations in determination and heart.
- 3-star OL Mike Criste: Another unheralded member of the Cascade Front at the time, he emerged as a heady player and solid starter at C, picking up 20 starts over the 2012-13 seasons before the curious decision by the new staff to bench him. He finally re-emerged as a starter late in the year when Colin Tanigawa got the yips on his center snaps. He played a bit better than his ratings.
- 3-star CB Greg Ducre: Ducre took some heat for Husky fans over his career, but he was a solid player. He did not redshirt and saw action in every game as a true freshman, started 6 games as a sophomore, 1 as a junior and all 13 games as a senior before catching on as an UDFA with the Washington Redskins where he played in 5 games this past season. Ducre was a blazing fast player that struggled with his confidence and technique, but he lived up to his recruiting rating.
- 3-star FB Zach Fogerson: Things did not end well for Fogerson; he saw action as a true freshman in 2010, but concussion issues ended up forcing him to quit playing the following summer, and less than two years later he was charged with first-degree robbery for an incident on campus. He was a bust for the Huskies and underperformed his rating.
- 3-star LB Princeton Fuimaono: An undersized LB recruit out of Long Beach Jordan, Fui nevertheless managed to earn playing time as a true frosh, emerged as a starter in 2011, shared starting duties in 2012 with Travis Feeney and reclaimed that starting spot as a senior. While never a star, Fui was a productive player for the Huskies and slightly outperformed his ratings.
- 3-star LB Garret Gilliland: Another attrition casualty, Gilliland redshirted his first year, saw some action in 2011 (including 1 start at OLB due to injuries) and then decided the following fall to retire. His contributions for the Huskies were limited, and as such he underperformed his ratings.
- 3-star TE Michael Hartvigson: An early commit to the 2010 class, Hartvigson saw action his freshman year before suffering a shoulder injury and getting a medical redshirt, and then watched the following season as Austin Seferian-Jenkins came in and claimed the starting TE job for the next 3 seasons. Hartvigson found a niche as an in-line blocker for the Huskies but never broke out as a receiver. He was a solid contributor over his five seasons and performed roughly equal to his ratings.
- 3-star OL Micah Hatchie: As one of the more heralded of the Cascade Front group (he was a 4-star according to Scout.com) Hatchie had a lot of expectations placed on his shoulders. He redshirted his first year, saw action as a backup in 2011 and then took over as the starting LT for his final three seasons. While he had some rough moments in 2012, he developed into a fairly reliable player, garnering Honorable Mention All Pac-12 status the last two years. He generally performed up to his recruiting rankings.
- 3-star DE Andrew Hudson: One half of the "Hudson boys", Andrew had an up and down career for Washington. After redshirting his freshman year and seeing action as a backup in 2011, he emerged as a productive DE in 2012 posting 6.5 sacks and 9 TFL, earning Honorable Mention All Pac-12 status. However he appeared to regress as a RS-Jr, losing his starting spot and appearing in only 8 games, and was encouraged to graduate by the previous staff. Given a 2nd chance by Petersen, AHud made the most of it, reclaiming his starting spot and posting 12.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL and once again earning Honorable Mention All Pac-12 status. A borderline star, he's outperformed his ratings.
- 3-star S Jamaal Kearse: As the younger (and bigger) brother of Husky WR Jermaine Kearse, Jamaal had been on the radar for a while before committing and probably had more expectations on him than other 3-star recruits. He quickly outgrew the S position and was moved to OLB after his first year. He saw a lot of action as a backup in 2011, but battled various nicks and dings and wasn't able to make a move up the depth chart. He opted to graduate last year and not use his final year of eligibility. He underperformed his ratings.
- 3-star DE Hau'oli Kikaha: As Hau'oli Jamora, he spent his first year shadowing fellow islander Daniel Te'o Nesheim and soaking up all he could, and it paid off as he ended up starting the final 7 games of his freshman season and flashing star potential. Things got derailed the following year when he went down in game 5 with a knee injury, and then he re-injured the knee the following fall and missed all of 2012. With questions swirling about whether he could recover his old form, he changed his last name and proceeded to begin his assault on the Husky record book, notching 13 sacks and 15.5 TFL in 2013 and topping that with a school-record 19 sacks and 25 TFL this past year on his way to consensus 1st Team All-American status. He greatly outperformed his ratings.
- 4-star OL Erik Kohler: A consensus 4-star recruit, he was the most heralded of the Cascade Front and expected to be a star. A teammate of Nick Montana, he was considered a direct benefit of Montana's commitment to Washington. He played right away as a true frosh, starting 5 games and then earning the starting RT job in 2011. But he couldn't avoid injuries, with a knee issue affecting him in 2012 and then ending his season. He then broke a bone in his foot the following off-season and was only able to play in a few games in 2013 before he had to call it quits and take a medical retirement. Due to injuries he ended up underperforming his ratings.
- 3-star DL Lawrence Lagafuaina: Laga generated some buzz as a recruit when a video circulated of him working out on a beach in Hawai'i and showing some very athletic moves, including a standing backflip. Visions of an ultra-athletic 330lb beast at DT swirled through the minds of Husky fans, but Laga found himself behind Alameda Ta'amu, Semisi Tokolahi and Danny Shelton and battling a knee injury that knocked him out for most of 2012. He was a useful depth player, but opted to leave after four years as he attempted to gain admission to transfer to Hawaii as a post-grad. He somewhat underperformed his ratings.
- 4-star QB Nick Montana: As the son of legendary QB Joe Montana, Nick was always destined to have the spotlight trained on him. While some questioned his star ratings and wondered if they were a function of his last name, he provided value in the buzz that his commitment gave to Washington and Sark and helped build up recruiting momentum in the 2010 class. He redshirted his freshman season and entered 2011 battling Keith Price for the starting QB job in the wake of Jake Locker's graduation. He lost that competition, looked overwhelmed when forced into a spot start later that year due to an injury to Price and then saw Sark land commitments from two high level QB recruits in the 2012 class and opted to transfer, first to Mt. San Antonio JC and then on to Tulane. He greatly underperformed his ratings.
- 4-star S Sean Parker: By announcing for the Huskies over Michigan on national TV on Signing Day, Parker put the bow on what was considered a terrific recruiting class for Sark. Parker wasted no time, playing right away as a true frosh and then earning the starting job the following year - one he would not relinquish. While a touch undersized as a S, he was a very good player and earned Honorable Mention All Pac-12 status his final two seasons. You could argue he was a touch over rated as a 4-star, but I think that would be picking nits - he provided a lot of value to the team in his four seasons.
- 3-star LB Cooper Pelluer: A legacy recruit (his dad Scott coached at Washington and his uncle Steve was a starting QB), Cooper saw action right away his true freshman year (mainly on special teams). But nagging injuries and a continuing influx of talent kept him down in the depth charts. He was moved to H-back before the 2012 season but a shoulder injury knocked him out for the year and he ended up taking a medical retirement. Due to injuries he fell well short of his ratings.
- 3-star OL Colin Porter: Big Red was a standout at Bothell H.S. and a key component of the Cascade Front. Drawing comparisons to past Husky standouts like Benji Olsen and Chad Ward, Porter played right away as a true frosh, starting 6 games at RG and was a full-time starter the following season. Unfortunately he had been battling shoulder problems since he was a freshman in high school, and off-season surgery in 2012 confirmed he had degenerative arthritis in both shoulders and he was forced to take a medical retirement. It was a tough blow as he had pro potential had he been healthy; as it was, his injury left him short of his ratings.
- 4-star DL Sione Potoa'e: Former DC Nick Holt famously said at the 2010 Husky Signing Day event that Potoa'e would be a 1st round NFL draft pick "...unless I screw him up somehow". Well, it's probably not fair to put the blame on Holt, but Potoa'e battled chronic knee issues throughout his Husky career and was a bit smaller than listed, leaving him a bit small for DT and not quick enough for DE. He played right off the bat as a true frosh, starting 2 games and seeing action in 11 total. He would make only 1 more start over the remainder of his career, though he saw plenty of action as a backup. You can put part of the blame on injuries as Potoa'e did not match his recruiting ratings.
- 3-star OL Ben Riva: The O'Dea product was a classic 3-star OL prospect that blossomed as he transformed his body in the weight room and developed into a valuable starter. He redshirted his freshman year, saw reps as a backup in 2011 and then claimed the starting RT job in 2012 (missing a few games early in the season with an injury) and starting all of 2013 at RT. He was set for a big senior year, but the injury bug bit again as he was able to start just 2 games. Even with the injuries, he had a good, solid career and lived up to his recruiting rankings.
- 4-star LB/DE Josh Shirley: Originally a UCLA commit, Shirley got into trouble along with Paul Richardson and Shaquille Richardson in a campus theft and were dismissed, and he ended up signing instead with Washington in late July, adding another 4-star player as a coda to the Husky recruiting class. He redshirted his freshman year and then made a splash the following year, starting 7 games and leading the team with 8.5 sacks from his rush end position. His career stalled after that however - too light to hold up vs. the run, too stiff for much pass coverage responsibility and relying primarily on his speed as a pass rusher, his playing time decreased in 2012 and 2013 and he opted to leave as a post-grad transfer and spent his final season at UNLV this year. While productive, he ultimately did not match his recruiting ratings.
- 4-star WR Kevin Smith: A former basketball player and latecomer to football, Smith nevertheless oozed athletic potential as a recruit. He saw action right away as a true frosh (mainly on special teams) and started to come on as a sophomore in 2011 before suffering a knee injury in the practices before the Alamo Bowl. Rather than redshirt in 2012, he and the coaching staff opted to have him return to the field to help shore up a depleted WR corps, but it was not a productive year. He finished his career on a high note in 2013 as he led the team with 50 catches for 765 yards and left fans wondering "what if?" had he redshirted in 2012. He didn't quite live up to his 4-star rating, but the potential was definitely there.
- 3-star S Taz Stevenson: You could say that Taz was a bit of a victim of the defensive staff coaching change; originally brought to Washington as a S, he played right away as a true frosh and sophomore, missing only 5 games in 2011 due to injury. When Justin Wilcox arrived Taz was moved up to OLB and asked to bulk up, but ended up mainly relegated to special teams. He moved back to S for 2013 but ended up missing the season due to injury and redshirted. Rather than return, he opted to transfer as a post-grad to play for Hawaii this past year. He somewhat underperformed his recruiting ratings.
- 3-star OL Colin Tanigawa: "Panda" (as he was known to teammates and coaches) was the least-heralded of the Cascade Front, but emerged as one of the best of the group, using a nasty attitude on the field and hard work to overcome being a bit small for the position. After redshirting his freshman year, he claimed the starting LG job in 2011 before going down with a knee injury in game 11. He came back to start the first two games of 2012 before losing the remainder of the season to another injury. He rehabbed again and won the starting RG job for 2013, and then was moved to C this past year under the new coaching staff before a case of the yips forced them to move him back to RG. He was an Honorable Mention All Pac-12 pick. As a "low" 3-star recruit (just 2-star according to Scout.com), he definitely outperformed his recruiting ratings.
- 3-star S John Timu: A high school QB and projected as a S, Timu joined his teammate Fuimaono in committing the Huskies and he quickly bulked up to also join him as a LB, gaining ~50lbs from the time he entered Washington. Due to an injury at Long Beach Jordan he ended up delaying his enrollment ("greyshirting") to 2011 to help rehab. He ended up starting 8 games that season at OLB, and for the next three seasons he was the starting MLB. A heady player - and one of the only on the roster with classic LB size - Timu drew a lot of criticism his first year for missed tackles and bad angles, but he progressed and was a valuable player for the Huskies, earning Honorable Mention All Pac-12 status in 2012 and 2014. Another "low" 3-star recruit, he outperformed his recruiting rankings.
- 3-star LB Darius Waters: The 2nd player to commit for the 2010 class back in March of 2009, the Lakes prospect was unable to gain admission to Washington and headed to Arizona Western with the hopes of getting his AA and returning to the Huskies. However he didn't get an offer as the coaching staff appeared to have moved on, and it doesn't look as though he continued his football career. Due to grades he was a bust for the Huskies and didn't live up to his recruiting ratings.
- 3-star DE Brent Williams: An undersized DE, Williams was asked by the staff to delay enrollment to help the numbers crunch and to allow him time to bulk up. Whether due to the surprise late arrival of Shirley or a lack of progress in his weight program (or both?), Williams had a falling-out with the coaches and never enrolled at Washington. He ultimately ended up at Colorado State as a LB but didn't see much action. He has to be considered a bust for the Huskies as he didn't live up to his recruiting ratings.
- 3-star OLB Chris Young: The first commit of the 2009 class, Young was a big S that projected to OLB at the college level. Unfortunately his grades weren't up to snuff and he was denied admission to Washington. He headed to Arizona Western to play JC football and get his AA, and despite interest from the Husky coaching staff to bring him back, he instead focused on Arizona State and played his final two seasons there in 2012 & 2013 where he was a 2nd Team All Pac-12 his senior season. He was a borderline star player and met (or exceeded) his recruiting ratings, but not for the Huskies.
So what to make of this class in hindsight? Obviously there has been some attrition as is almost always the case with recruiting classes. Of the 31 that signed, 14 did not use all of their eligibility at Washington. Two were academic casualties, one greyshirted and did not enroll, one was dismissed from the team, one transferred before graduating, one quit playing voluntarily, four took medical retirements and one declined to use his final year of eligibility and three took advantage of the post-grad transfer rules to play their final season elsewhere.
While some attrition is standard, this appears to be a higher than normal amount as just 55% of this class exhausted their eligibility with the Huskies. Given the amount of attrition it's fair to say that the loftier rankings for the class were overly optimistic. Looking at individual players, there's a roughly similar amount of players that exceeded or underperformed their ratings, but the class took some real hits with guys like Montana, Kohler, Porter, and Young not producing much or seeing their careers end prematurely.
With the way Petersen approaches recruiting and the types of kids he targets, I would expect few (if any) kids to be denied admission to the school and few to be dismissed for academic reasons. His recruits aren't angels, so there will be some discipline issues along the way and a few kids that likely fall by the wayside, but I expect we'll see less overall attrition under his watch than we did under Sark. As such, it will be instructive to take a look back in five years and see how tomorrow's signees pan out.