Willingham delivers a strong recruiting year
Tyrone Willingham's overall read on Washington's 2008 recruiting class was short and to the point: "It's a good, solid class that will hopefully...
Seattle Times staff reporter
How they stack up this year14th | 25th
National rankings for UW's recruiting class by scout.com and rivals.com
75th | 87th
National rankings for WSU's recruiting class by scout.com and rivals.com
28th | 35th
Average national rankings for Pac-10 recruiting classes by scout.com and rivals.com
Alabama given top national ranking by scout.com, rivals.com
Tyrone Willingham's overall read on Washington's 2008 recruiting class was short and to the point:
"It's a good, solid class that will hopefully help us be, three and four years from now, a better football team," Willingham said.
A pessimist might point out that Willingham likely doesn't have that long to wait.
But signing day — and the entire recruiting season, in fact — was a time when none of the uncertainty that has swirled around the program seemed to matter.
Despite talk of hot seats, a fired defensive coordinator and resigning athletic directors, the Huskies put together their highest-rated class since 2001 when the team was coming off its last Rose Bowl.
"There has been a lot of negative publicity, you could say," said recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach Chris Tormey. "But I don't think it really affected our recruiting efforts. In almost every case, kids didn't seem to let it bother them. It wasn't really an issue in our daily discussions with recruits, so it didn't really have an effect."
The class is highlighted by 12 signees from Washington, the most since 2000, including seven of the top 10 rated players in the state, led by tight end Kavario Middleton of Lakes High, generally considered the top prospect in the group. Middleton committed along with teammate Jermaine Kearse, a receiver, on the day before the Huskies left for Hawaii, a game UW lost to finish 4-9.
"That was huge for those two guys to jump in at that point in time and cast their lot with the Huskies and believe in the direction of the program," Tormey said. "That was a huge boost for our football program on a lot of different levels."
This is Willingham's fourth recruiting class at UW, and the third that could be considered his alone, and he said he thinks that longevity is beginning to pay off.
"Each year that you are in the program you are better able to know the area and know the region and do a better job," he said.
Kearse and fellow receivers Cody Bruns of Prosser, Jordan Polk of Portland and Chris Polk of Highland, Calif., all have a chance at immediate playing time at a position that lost five to graduation. Chris Polk, who originally committed to USC before switching, is already enrolled and the closest to contributing immediately.
"Some of those guys can walk on campus and be number two (on the depth chart) on day one," Willingham said.
Same could be said of each of the four defensive linemen the team signed — ends Everrette Thompson of Kennedy and Senio Kelemete of Evergreen, and tackles Alameda Ta'amu of Rainier Beach and Craig Noble of Woodland Hills, Calif. UW lost five of its top six linemen to graduation.
"All are going to get a chance," Tormey said. "It's not like we have a ton of depth there. If they can come in and beat out one or two players then they are going to be in the depth of competing for starting positions."
The Huskies also signed four running backs, four offensive linemen, three cornerbacks, two safeties, two quarterbacks and two linebackers.
Willingham said he was at the office by 4:30 a.m. feeling the nervous anticipation of hoping all would go as expected. By 10:30, all the letters were in. In a year when little went as planned, this was a happy exception.
"This year [recruiting] had a lot of special hurdles to it," Willingham said. "Probably a little unusual year at the conclusion of the season. But one of those things in life they tell you is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I think our program became stronger."
• The only player UW lost at the end of the recruiting season was QB Kevin Prince of Encino, Calif., who signed with UCLA, now coached by former UW coach Rick Neuheisel.
• UW had earlier lost linebacker Cory Mackay of Eastlake High, who decided to take an offer from WSU, which recruited him as a receiver. "You always hate to lose anyone, but we are at such a point that we can recover, and we did recover and we still feel like we have a very strong class and picked up some linebackers that will be very fine for us," Willingham said.
• Willingham said he didn't think Neuheisel's presence impacted UW's recruiting in any way this year but said "we know and respect him. He is a good recruiter and he does a wonderful job, so in the years to come, that will be a factor."
• Willingham said UW's efforts were aided by the presence of QB Jake Locker, saying great players want to play with other great players. "It was a tremendous help," Willingham said. "No question there was a 'Jake factor' in our recruiting class."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Rating the Pac-10|
|A look at how Scout.com and Rivals.com ranked the recruiting classes of the Pac-10:|
|1||UCLA (9)||USC (7)|
|2||USC (13)||UCLA (13)|
|3||Washington (14)||Oregon (19)|
|4||Arizona St. (16)||Arizona St. (21)|
|5||Oregon (24)||Washington (25)|
|6||California (21)||California (35)|
|7||Arizona (39)||Arizona (39)|
|8||Stanford (43)||Stanford (50)|
|9||Oregon St. (61)||Oregon St. (52)|
|10||Wash. St. (75)||Wash. St. (87t)|
|Note: National ranking in parentheses|
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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