Perhaps you have heard the phrase "you can sleep when you're dead" (or some variation thereof). While it's not exactly a healthy thought - sleep is important, yo - it's probably a sentiment that college football coaches can relate to. No sooner had spring practices concluded for the Washington Huskies and it was time to shift those resources into recruiting. Year-round recruiting is a fact of life, and coaches are never not recruiting, but it's now front and center as they are busy evaluating film, hosting recruits on unofficial visits and hitting the road to visit schools and high school coaches.
Washington currently sits at three known commitments: ATH Brandon Wellington, S Taylor Rapp and OL Luke Wattenberg. It's still assumed that the 2016 class will be on the smaller side as the Huskies graduate just 14 scholarship seniors and feature no obvious early-entry candidates at this point. While more attrition is likely, I still expect this class to number closer to (and possibly less than) 20 rather than a full class of 25.
That hasn't stopped the staff from handing out a lot of offers; according to the Scout.com database, they have 66 offers out to 2016 prospects. While that isn't terribly unusual (staff always hand out a lot more offers than they have open spots), the number of offers to kids from Texas is - they have 17 listed offers, whereas in most years they have less than a handful, and typically just 1 or 2. You can credit assistants Jeff Choate and Brent Pease who both have long histories recruiting in the Lonestar State. Choate recruits the Houston area while Pease has the DFW region. Don't expect those offers to turn into a lot of commits in 2016 - it's still difficult to pull good players out of Texas to the PNW - but this staff is laying the groundwork, and if they can pull 2-3 guys (on top of the 1 they got last year), they will be well on their way to building a nice little pipeline to supplement the PNW states, California, Hawai'i, Arizona and Utah as the UW recruiting footprint.
Everyone loves to focus on quarterbacks, and for good reason - it is the single most important position on the team. Given the nature of the position, this area more than any other is one where top prospects commit early. Much like a game of musical chairs, quarterback recruits want to secure a spot at their favorite schools, and they know that their commitment can help spur recruiting for their chosen school. Unfortunately for Husky fans, the top candidates on Chris Petersen's wishlist have committed elsewhere. Jacob Eason has been a verbal to Georgia for several months now, and while he still talks to Petersen and has visited often, it's unlikely that he'll flip. If he does waver, expect the Huskies to be all over him, but the coaches have proceed with the assumption he's not coming. Next on the list was Matt Fink, but he made it clear he wanted to stay in-state, and so when USC offered, it was just a matter of time before he pulled the trigger. So who's next on the UW's list?
Dillon Sterling-Cole out of Houston is the only current uncommitted QB prospect with a Husky offer. He's a good-looking dual-threat QB, but seems unlikely to leave the state, especially if Baylor offers. So that means the Huskies will need to more evaluations at the position to find their guy. I would expect the Rising Stars camp this summer to be key in this evaluation process, and depending now who shows up and how they perform, I could see prospects such as Justin Herbert, Kevin Davidson or Taylor Jensen potentially emerge as the next line of targets. Herbert missed most of last season after breaking his leg, while Davidson had to sit out much of the season after transferring. All three are kids with the physical potential to emerge as quality under-the-radar prospects.
Building the Line
After QB recruiting, offensive line is usually the place where Husky fans focus their attention. Where this once was a position of consistent strength for Washington, it has been well over a decade since that was true, and failures in this area - whether it be mediocre recruiting, injuries, bad luck or poor development - have been one of the main causes of the decline of Husky football. Petersen signed a terrific group of OL for 2015, and he's off to a nice start in 2016 with the commitment of Wattenberg. Given the probable small size of the 2016 class, it's possible the Huskies sign only one additional OL but if the right guys want to commit I'd bet they'll take two.
Probably the highest guy on their board is 4-star stud Michael Eletise out of Honolulu. The guard prospect has a huge list of offers including UCLA, Oregon, Auburn, Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska. He recently completed a visit of both Oregon schools and Washington and had great things to say about all three. He's impressed with the "Built For Life" pitch from Petersen, and I expect the Dawgs to be one of his final candidates and get an official visit.
Another interior linemen giving the Huskies a long look is fast-rising Mike Alves out of San Diego. His offer list is growing quickly, but he's already formed a strong bond with the Husky staff and has singled out the UW as one school he definitely wants to visit officially.
What's the Catch
The news that John Ross will have to sit out the 2015 season hit hard - this is a position group that now returns just four scholarship players, virtually assuring that most (if not all) of the four incoming freshmen receivers will need to see the field in 2016. It should be no surprise then that WR is an area of particular recruiting emphasis for the upcoming class to help restore proper numbers to the position and help balance the numbers across classes. Simi Fehoko - a stuf 4-star out of Salt Lake City - recently trimmed his list to five with Washington making the cut. While many project Stanford as the team to beat, he provided some hope to Husky fans recently:
Another stud receiver with serious interest in the Huskies is 5-star Tyler Vaughn out of La Puente, CA. He grew up a huge fan of USC, but as the recruiting process has gone on, Washington has really stood out. He's looking to get up to Seattle this summer for a visit. USC will remain a tough battle, as will MLB - he's a high level baseball prospect as well, and if he has any grade issues (he's got some work to do), a big signing bonus might be tough to pass up.
Out of Arizona, a couple of high-level targets are showing a lot of interest in the Huskies, including WR N'Keal Harry. Along with his teammate Byron Murphy (ATH/CB) he's strongly considering attending the Rising Stars camp at the UW this summer.
Also rising up recruiting boards with multiple offers is 4-star Dymond Lee out of West Hills, CA. He's very interested in coming up for a visit and has connections to the team in the form of JoJo McIntosh and Braden Lenius, both former teammates of his at Chaminade Prep. Washington hits many of the checkmarks he's looking for in a school, and he has the size (6'2") that the Huskies need.
On the TE front, top west coast prospect Devin Asiasi also completed a PNW trip to the Oregon schools and Washington and came away very impressed. The Huskies will have their work cut out for them as he's got a lot of interest in USC, UCLA, Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame (all but the Tide have offered) and offers from several other blue-blood programs. A big year by the TE group for Washington could help sell him on the Huskies as a good place to showcase his skills, but Oregon definitely made a big impression on him.
Running For Glory
While the position has taken a bit of a hit in prestige at the professional level, RB remains a glamor position at the college level. Husky fans got spoiled with having Chris Polk and Bishop Sankey back to back, and are looking anxiously at who can be the next great UW runner. One high level prospect is Sean McGrew out of powerhouse St. John Bosco H.S. in Bellflower, CA. While on the small side at a listed 5'8" and 175 lbs, he runs hard and effectively between the tackles - he's not just an explosive home-run kind of back, he can break tackles too. Long thought a heavy UCLA lean, the UW has also greatly impressed him. For a brief spell it was even thought that the Huskies had overtaken the Bruins, partly due to concerns about his preferred degree program. But it appears he may be back to being a UCLA lock, and we'll know sooner than later as he's said he'll announce later this month (May 20th).
Beau Bisharat is a big-back candidate out of Carmichael, CA that also projects at MLB. He's planning to trim his list soon to a top-10 or top-5, and I'd expect the Huskies to make the cut as they appear to be doing very well for him. Whether he ends up on offense (his preference) or defense is TBD, but he'd certainly give the Dawgs a bigger back than they've recruited thus far under Petersen.
Also hailing from California is Romello Harris, a 3-star prospect from Tulare. He appears to be high on the Huskies - they are currently his most prestigious offer - and has plans to visit this summer. He might not commit until the season starts, but at this point he's certainly one to keep an eye on.
In part two we'll take a quick look at some defensive prospects the Huskies are after.