Recruiting is the lifeblood of every college sport, and Signing Day is the culmination of years of effort by coaches to woo prospects to join their programs, so it's no surprise that this annual event has become a Big Deal around the country. While it's not Chris Petersen's style to do a daylong media circus with and endless list of guest stars as Jim Harbaugh has launched at Michigan, his staff - in combination with video editor extraordinaire Chris Mitchell - put together some cool videos highlighting each recruit, a great new feature this year. And while you would expect them to be excited to talk about their new recruits, it's clear they really do feel strongly about this class. They're not the only ones - while Petersen isn't all that fond of recruiting service ratings, they all feel that he's brought in his best class yet at Washington. Here are the year by year player rating averages from each:
As you can see, each service thinks Petersen's classes at Washington have improved each year, and while the 2016 class is a smaller one due to a small graduating class, it's the best of his three classes on a per recruit basis. Scout.com is the most bullish on the class - in their view it ranks 18th in the country on a per-player average, and third in the Pac-12 behind USC (3.84) and UCLA (3.55). This is a significant step up from past classes that have fallen in the middle of the conference, and puts UW ahead of Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State.
Of course, it's not just recruiting services that like this group - when you see which schools were after these recruits, it's clear Petersen has landed a number of potential impact players and opposing Pac-12 coaches certainly have taken notice. From guys like Levi Onwuzurike out of Texas, Byron Murphy out of Arizona, Luke Wattenberg and Camilo Eifler out of California, and Isaiah Gilchrist from right across the lake, this class is filled with extremely talented players that had a wealth of offers from high-level programs around the country. There are also exciting "under the radar" types like Myles Rice, Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Brandon Wellington, Taylor Rapp, and Jordan Chin that have skills that make you think they could be the next guys to emerge in a long line of gems that Petersen has mined from outside the spotlight.
Some may quibble with the Huskies missing out on a big-time DT/NT in this class, not landing any of the highly rated receivers on the west coast this cycle, or only signing two offensive linemen. Those are fair critiques, but on the whole this class has really nice balance and depth considering the limited number of rides available. The Huskies have some nice young talent stockpiled at NT and along the OL, so they can weather things until the 2017 class, and the hope is that some fresh blood at the WR coaching position will spark the players already here and lead to more significant development at that position.
Chris Petersen held his press conference at 1 PM to discuss this class, and here were a few things that stood out from what he said:
- "Uneventful" and "Honesty." While there's no doubt he would have loved to have added Boss Tagaloa or Devin Asiasi to this class, there was once again next to no drama today for the Huskies as all the players expected to sign did so, and nobody committed elsewhere or flipped at the last minute to Washington. Petersen talked about his approach - he believes in honesty and open communication, and he wants players to feel 100% certain about their decision if they commit - if they harbor any doubts, he will tell them to hold off committing until they know for sure. Knowing that he can count on his commitments following through allows Petersen and his staff to do a better job of predicting how they will be able to finish out their class and where they need to focus to fill the needs they have.
- "They know we'll play the best guys." One of the ways Petersen is able to sell recruits on the attraction of coming to Washington is that they will get a chance to earn playing time from the moment they arrive on campus - if you're ready, you put in the work and you show you can play, you'll play. With more and more true freshman not redshirting around college football, Washington is able to show recruits that they will get that opportunity here.
- "This place is as good as any in the country...it's a special place." Academics are not an afterthought for Petersen - the academic reputation of the University of Washington was a big draw for him in taking this job and is a significant part of his pitch to recruits. He wants kids that take their academics seriously and can thrive here in the classroom, believing that those that get the work done in class are also usually the ones that get it done on the field too.
- "Talent is overrated - everyone has talent." It's no secret that Petersen - like many coaches - doesn't put a lot of stock in recruiting service ratings. Part of that is evaluation; he mentioned Trey Adams, saying he had never seen better high school film of an offensive lineman in his life. A bigger part though is intangibles - Petersen and his coaches do a tremendous amount of work vetting the transcripts of recruits and finding out what they are like as people. As he noted, there are lots of physically talented players out there and it's fairly easy to spot that when looking at film, but who are the guys that can overcome adversity, handle being away from home, are good teammates, and have the drive to succeed? Those are the things they look for to differentiate whom they decide to pursue.
- "Our players should be our best recruiters." Given Petersen's push for honesty in the recruiting process, it's no surprise he feels his players (and former players) should be his best recruiters - they can verify for recruits whether the staff just talks the talk or actually walks the walk. If the coaching staff is who they present themselves as to recruits, the players will be able to verify.
- "Balance." Petersen places value on having balance across his classes (as well as position groups) and acknowledged this class is at the small end of what he would ideally like to sign. Accounting for attrition, he would be more comfortable bringing in around 20 per year. With another small senior class coming up, you should expect that some of the decisions they make with the roster moving forward will be with an eye toward getting the class sizes more balanced.
In the coming days we will take a closer look at the class and make our best guesses on which players might see the field right away and which are in line to redshirt. We will also take a look ahead at the 2017 recruiting class and see which players the staff is already pursuing, and we'll have a roundtable among the UWDP staff to provide you our thoughts on this class.
As a recap, here are the 17 new signees for the 2016 class (not including DE Myles Rice, who originally signed in 2015 but delayed his enrollment):