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Originally published February 1, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Page modified February 3, 2012 at 7:24 PM

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Frantic finish boosts Huskies' recruiting class

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian happy with Huskies' 25-man recruiting class.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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In his opening comments to reporters discussing Washington's 2012 recruiting class, coach Steve Sarkisian referred to it as "very complete."

Even if, at the moment he was talking, it was still officially unfinished.

Fitting the nature of recruiting these days, UW was waiting to process one last letter-of-intent — from quarterback Cyler Miles of Denver — when Sarkisian addressed the media shortly after 2 p.m.

The delay was due to Miles' somewhat unexpected indecision about staying with a longtime commitment to UW or signing with USC. He had told several reporters earlier in the week he would sign with the Huskies. And it only added to the intrigue of an especially dramatic Signing Day for Washington, which added 25 players.

Three letters arrived from players either thought committed to other schools or not even on UW's radar, including two committed to Pac-12 schools — defensive end Pio Vatuvei (USC) and cornerback Cleveland Wallace (Oregon State).

Sarkisian said UW coaches worked on Vatuvei until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday before the Huskies finally "knocked him into the boat."

Washington also announced it received a letter from cornerback Brandon Beaver, a highly-sought player who was undecided until Wednesday afternoon.

The late additions, coupled with the Monday commitment of safety Shaq Thompson of Grant High in Sacramento — considered the No. 1 safety in the country — helped propel UW up the recruiting rankings. The Huskies were ranked No. 20 nationally and fifth in the Pac-12 by Rivals.com and 22nd nationally and fifth in the conference by Scout.com. Washington had been in the 40s nationally and ranked in the bottom half of the conference heading into the week.

Washington's five new assistant coaches, four on defense, were given much of the credit for the late haul.

"From where Washington was a couple of days ago to where they are now with Shaq Thompson and some of the others, it's a pretty solid class and there's a bright future ahead with that coaching staff," said Adam Gorney, the West recruiting analyst for Rivals.com and Yahoo Sports.

The one pin to the balloon on Signing Day was the shocking decommitment of four-star receiver Jordan Payton, who announced on ESPNU on Tuesday he would sign with UW but on Wednesday signed with UCLA. Payton had earlier been committed to USC and California.

Payton told The Los Angeles Times he reconsidered the commitment he had made to UW on Tuesday night and was on the phone with Bruins coach Jim Mora until 1 a.m. and ultimately decided, "I thought I'd be most successful at UCLA."

Sarkisian, though, said it was all part of recruiting, as was the fact that UW was unable to keep all of the best in-state players home, as the Huskies had in 2011. The Huskies signed just five players from Washington compared to 15 from California (as well as three from Hawaii and one each from Arizona and Colorado).

"In a perfect world, you sign every kid you want and you get every kid you want," he said. "But the reality of it is, recruiting is recruiting, and kids make decisions that are best for them, or at least in their own eyes. And I can't fault any kid for that. ... The reality of it is, you have to try to assess and then ultimately put the pieces together so your football team can get better because of your recruiting class. I think we did that in this class."

Sarkisian said that knowing that Miles was coming, even if he couldn't talk specifically about Miles, who didn't send his letter until after an afternoon announcement at his school, was a boon.

Miles' father, Brian, told The Denver Post, "The last week and a half has been agonizing for him," as he mulled what to do, saying the departure of UW offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier caused him to rethink his plans. But Cyler Miles said he ultimately "Just had to go where my heart's at and where it's been at since June."

Miles' signing gave UW two four-star quarterbacks, joining with Mercer Island's Jeff Lindquist. Each will battle with redshirt freshman Derrick Brown to back up starter Keith Price with Nick Montana having transferred.

Sarkisian said Montana's transfer made it critical that UW sign two quarterbacks.

"Our numbers are a little scary right now, quite honestly," he said. "You should have five on your roster. Right now, we will be sitting on four come the fall. The dynamic is we have to get these young guys ready to play."

One who figures to be ready from the start is Thompson, who will arrive in the fall with as much fanfare as any freshman in recent memory, especially one on defense, an area of much-needed improvement.

Asked if Thompson was one of the biggest recruits he'd ever signed, Sarkisian gave an answer that now applies to all the signees.

"We'll find out," he said. "He's got to produce now. We'll see."

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

On Twitter @bcondotta

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