After literally years of speculation the Huskies finally received the bad news that Eastside Catholic DL J.T Tuimoloau has committed to Ohio State live on CBS Sports. The 5-star is viewed by many as the #1 player in the class of 2021 and marks the 2nd 5-star player from Western Washington in the class to select Ohio State.
Tuimoloau had a final 4 of Washington, USC, Ohio State, and Oregon after deciding not to take a previously scheduled official visit to Alabama. The choice for JTT comes almost 6 months after virtually everyone else in his class made a commitment. With the extended dead period due to the COVID-19 pandemic JTT never got the chance to take official visits. He insisted that he would wait as long as he needed to in order to have complete information. And he lived up to that promise, delaying until June to visit all 4 of those schools again and then finally making up his mind.
The Huskies got the first of Tuimoloau’s visits back at the beginning of June and did everything they could to convince him to stay and be a hometown hero. From the start though it appeared that JTT bought in to the idea that he needed to go elsewhere to reach his potential. Ohio State DL coach Larry Johnson has to his name a trio of top-5 NFL draft picks who all started out as highly rated players, were drafted highly, and have shown stardom potential in the league. That’s a resume that can’t be topped anywhere in the country.
With the news that JTT is headed elsewhere it means that Husky fans can finally try to move on from an in-state class of 2021 that didn’t meet expectations after it became clear there was a record crop of local talent. There is still a tremendous amount of potential along the defensive front for Washington. Even with the injury to All-American Zion Tupuola-Fetui in the spring the Huskies will have either top-200 talents or highly productive players all over the line. Defensive tackles Tuli Letuligasenoa, Taki Taimani, Faatui Tuitele, and Jacob Bandes all were highly rated players and have shown flashes. While Ryan Bowman returns as a 6-year senior along with 5-star Sav’ell Smalls on the edge at OLB. It doesn’t take away the sting though of the missed opportunities and will leave Husky fans wondering what would’ve happened if a still-motivated Chris Petersen had still been in charge or if Jimmy Lake had gotten a full season this past fall to show the program hadn’t dropped off in the transition.
There’s no question that missing out on a talent like JTT hurts. But he made the decision he felt was best for him and there shouldn’t be any vitriol aimed at the player himself in this situation. In the transfer portal era (in addition to the benefit of just not being a bad person) there’s potentially a real detriment to alienating a kid who could theoretically in 2 years decide he’s home sick and come back with immediate eligibility.
The coaching staff after this will continue to soldier on and appear in a good shot to close with multiple 4-star defensive prospects for 2022 who visited last weekend in the coming days and weeks. Go Dawgs.