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Originally published October 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 25, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Recruiting resonates with UW coach, fans

In the immediate aftermath of Washington's 55-34 loss to Oregon on Saturday, Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham laid down the mandate on himself...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Arizona @ Washington, noon, Ch. 11

In the immediate aftermath of Washington's 55-34 loss to Oregon on Saturday, Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham laid down the mandate on himself and his staff.

"We've got to get us a few more bullets in our gun to attack these guys," Willingham said. "That would help."

That, obviously, means improving the team's talent base, which is done mostly through recruiting.

Asked this week where the team needs the most help, Willingham said, "We are not good enough everywhere. I think I should ask you this question and you can come up with your own answer — how many of our starters, when we lined up against USC that night, would start for them?"

Willingham has had two full recruiting classes and part of another; 46 of the 75 scholarship players on the roster this week were signed by his staff.

The optimistic thought on Montlake is that as Willingham's recruits mature, the talent level will increase — only 10 of the 23 position players listed as starters this week (including three receivers) are Willingham recruits, but that number could double next season.

Asked about his recruiting efforts at UW, Willingham said, "I think we've had some success, but I don't think we've had enough. We've got to continue to get better."

Not that any class is any more important than any other, but given the growing impatience of the team's fan base, this year's group could be the most critical of Willingham's tenure.

And though it is more than three months until the Feb. 6 signing day, the Huskies are more than halfway done with their recruiting, having received a reported 14 commitments from high-school seniors, tied for the second-most in the Pac-10 with USC and trailing UCLA, which has 24.

UW's haul includes five players from the state of Washington and a preponderance of skill-position players — 10 are defensive backs, running backs, receivers or quarterbacks.

The highest-rated, however, is a trio of linemen — OT Drew Schaefer of Eastlake, OT Senio Kelemete of Evergreen and DT Craig Noble of Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif.

Analysts have mixed opinions of UW's class.

Scout.com ranks UW 29th in the nation and fourth in the Pac-10, but only eighth in the conference when considering the average star rating per player.

"The class they are bringing in doesn't look to be substantially better than the classes they have been signing," said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting editor of Scout.com. Scout.com rated UW's class last year 29th in the nation and fourth in the Pac-10, and the 2006 class No. 35 nationally and sixth in the Pac-10.

Rivals.com is even less enthusiastic, rating the UW group 43rd nationally and sixth in the Pac-10.

"They've gotten some kids who didn't have a lot of other Pac-10 offers that you thought maybe they could have waited on," said Greg Biggins, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "But you have to trust their judgment on them."

Both say, however, that the ultimate tale of how UW's class will be perceived is whether the Huskies can land any or all of the four top remaining undecided prospects in the state, all of whom are considering UW — tight end Kavario Middleton of Lakes, defensive end Everette Thompson of Kennedy, OL Alameda Ta'amu of Rainier Beach and receiver Jermaine Kearse of Lakes. Scout.com lists Middleton, Ta'amu and Thompson as the top three prospects in the state, while Rivals.com lists them as three of the top four (OL Nick Cody of Brush Prairie, who has committed to Oregon, is third on that list).

"The key is to protect their own boundary," Biggins said. "If they keep those guys, it will be viewed as a successful class. If they miss on those guys, it will definitely be tough."

Middleton is regarded as wide open, listing ASU, Miami, Oregon, Cal and UW as the schools he plans to visit. Thompson is regarded as likely to choose between UW and Oregon while most analysts expect Ta'amu to end up at UW. Kearse has trips planned to UW, ASU and Cal.

When teams struggle for several years, as UW has, recruiting can become more difficult. Willingham acknowledges this, though he thinks it's something the Huskies can overcome.

"It is always a factor," he said. "You can never dispute that. But I do believe that the kids we are talking to, they see that the future is bright."

Middleton said this week UW's five-game losing streak hasn't impacted his thoughts, saying he likes that the Huskies "have got a young quarterback and an up-and-coming program."

Biggins says he hears similar comments from recruits.

"I think people see it as still on the rise, a new energy, and they like how Locker is doing," he said. "I think they [UW coaches] are still able to sell that it is a new staff and they are going in a new direction."

UW athletic director Todd Turner said last week the school needs to do more to help the coaching staff bring in better players, namely improving facilities. Willingham seconds that notion, saying, "We've got to get moving, and all of those things make a difference when you are not at the top."

Biggins and Wallace, however, say they think facilities are overrated. Biggins says that other than Oregon — which has put a particular emphasis in that area — the rest of the conference schools are pretty much the same.

"USC probably has the worst facilities in the Pac-10 and they get the best recruits every year," Biggins said. "I really don't see that a kid doesn't go to a school because it has a lousy weight room. Initially kids are wowed by that, but in the end, they choose the school that is the best fit for them."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

UW commitments
Here are the 14 players reported to have committed to Washington
Name Pos Ht Wt Hometown
John Tate RB 5-11 189 Fresno, Calif. (Edison)
Also a standout baseball player
Jordan Polk WR 5-10 170 Portland (Lincoln)
One of fastest players in the West
Greg Walker S 5-11 200 Playa Del Rey, Calif. (St. Bernard)
Real sleeper listed as having no other offers at time of commitment
Craig Noble DT 6-3 285 Woodland Hills, Calif. (Taft)
Also pursued by UCLA but says he's solid to UW
Terrance Dailey RB 5-10 195 Vacaville, Calif. (Vacaville)
Recently set school career rushing record
Anthony Gobern RB 6-0 185 Fair Oaks, Calif. (Del Campo)
Also a cornerback
Demitrius Bronson RB 5-10 195 Kent (Kentwood)
Over 1,000 yards in first five games
Dominique Blackman QB 6-4 ½ 245 Carson, Calif. (Carson)
Returned to action after one-game suspension
David Freeman RB 5-7 ½ 178 Inglewood, Calif. (Inglewood)
Plays for former Husky Charles Mincy
Terence Thomas OT 6-8 295 Caldwell, Idaho (Caldwell)
Also had offer from Oregon State
Vince Taylor S 6-3 185 Bellevue (Eastside Catholic)
Could be a WR as well
Justin Glenn CB 5-11 185 Mukilteo (Kamiak)
Also had offer from Arizona State
Drew Schaefer OT 6-5 275 Redmond (Eastlake)
Also had offers from Stanford, WSU
Senio Kelemete OT 6-4 ½ 255 Seattle (Evergreen)
Committed in March, UW's earliest commitment ever

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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