With a year to build relationships at Washington, Chris Peterson has proved he can recruit at the Pac-12 level.
Maybe even at the national level.
Last year, with just a month and a half to work before National Signing Day and a class stripped bare by the sudden departure of Steve Sarkisian, Peterson and his staff put together a decent class that included some major, high-profile flips and a couple gets that seemed impossible in mid-December.
The one most Huskies fans will come to admire was hometown product Budda Baker. The guy was committed to Oregon forever and de-committed out of the blue and chose Washington just before signing day. It was massive. It had Washington recruiting boards going ape-poop. It was amazing. It felt good to beat Oregon in SOMETHING football related for once (it kills me to say that). From what I'm told, this is how Oregon fans felt about him spurning Oregon and going to Washington.
Then they get 4-star cornerback Naijel (pronounced Nigel) Hale, son of late singer/rapper Nate Dogg, after he told Arizona he wanted to visit Washington and they politely told him if he boards a plane he no longer has a scholarship offer from them. He went to Seattle, and got some PT as a Dawg.
Then they got 4-star quarterback KJ Carta-Samuels, the younger brother of Austyn Carta-Samuels who played quarterback at Vanderbilt where KJ was originally committed. Then the Commodores head coach James Franklin was hired at Penn State and KJ re-evaluated, picking Washington.
Washington's class went from "Uh-oh" status to "You know, that's not bad."
This year it's very apparent what the "new" staff can do with, I don't know, an actual recruiting cycle to deal with.
They've put a fence around Washington. That's huge. That's what Don James did and we know how successful he was. He's getting guys that fit his style, guys who want to buy in to his way of doing things. That's huge, too.
Let's take a look at some of the guys Washington has committed, most — if not all — are not wavering on their commitments.
Jake Browning, a 4-star quarterback from the Sacramento area, is a pretty god player. He's set the national record for career touchdown passes (229) and single-season touchdown passes (91). He said after he committed to Washington he would pick Washington over every other school. That appears to hold true, as he turned down Alabama to go to Seattle. This kid has Washington fans drooling, and no, that's not because they're Huskies. When you consider how mediocre the UW's quarterback play was this season, people are talking about him earning the starting job for next fall. He's already enrolled and will be eligible to practice in the spring. That's good news, but he'll redshirt. Why waste a year of him if you can have four more? Plus KJ is going to be a redshirt freshman next year, and Cyler Miles is coming back. Personally, my money is on Miles. But hey, I'm not a coach.
Austin Joyner, a 4-star ATH, although he will play corner or safety, had one of the stranger recruitments of this class. He originally committed to Washington, de-committed when Sark left, committed to Washington State, de-committed when their DC was fired, and now is back at Washington. For good. He's not ranked as the best player in the state, but in my opinion he is. He's a top-shelf athlete that would be a national prospect had he not been from the small-ish community of Marysville. (Small side-story: I bought a mattress in Marysville when I was in college and I can see why he didn't get a whole lot of national recognition...not a huge place). He won't redshirt, he'll start right away in the defensive backfield with Baker, Sidney Jones IV (who was a great, great get last year, some of us compared to him to Richard Sherman: comes in as an under-recruited wide receiver and turns into a pretty damn good corner. Still yet to be seen), and...
Ezekial Turner. Just a 3-star, but his evaluation came late, and somehow that matters. Man, this guy can play. Big safety, played a year in junior college and is a four years to play three guy. It came down to Washington and Oklahoma and he picked Washington, which is a great sign moving forward. It'll be him and Baker at the safety spots, with Baker playing free and Turner playing strong. I've only watched his tape a couple times, but I like what I see. The JC league he played in consistently produces FBS talent, to that's that a good excuse to make about his dominating play. (Another quick side note: do we go back to D-1A and D-1AA now that both divisions have a playoff?)
Here's the full list. Those three guys are just the three I'm most excited about, but I'm excited about all of them. I think they all can play. But hey, I'm a fan.
Tevis Bartlett, ATH, 3-star, Cheyenne, Wyo. (watch out for this guy).
Now, for the guys still on the board.
There are a few big names left that Washington is still in play for, and some stuff going on that I'm not privy to.
The biggest name is Chris Warren, a 4-star running back from Rockwall, Texas. I haven't gotten my hopes up about him, so I haven't watched his film, but apparently he's pretty good. It's basically come down to Texas and Washington, and most think he will "stay home" in Texas. I only put that in quotes because his mom is from Seattle and his dad played for the Seahawks, so it's not like he's moving away from everyone he knows because he's going to Seattle. It's actually one of the main reasons Washington has a shot at him. His last official visit is to Seattle the weekend before signing day, and Peterson gets the final in-home visit, so his ability as a closer will be tested with this one. It's going to come down to signing day. It has to. I don't want to make any claims, and I don't even necessarily trust what I've read, which is that he really likes Washington, but we'll see. It would certainly be a good get.
Something that helps Washington is Warren's Rockwall, Texas High School teammate, a 3/2-star WR named Xavier Castille is high on Washington and they've talked about playing together in college. Washington is one of two schools to be high on both guys' lists — the other is Oklahoma State — and the Cowboys appear to be out of the Warren race. So, if they're a package deal, that could really help Washington land Warren.
The last, but not the only one, is the last Washington-native on Washington's board and that's DE Benning Patoae. He's a 4-star from Tacoma, and his older brother, Sione, played at Washington and right now it's between the UW and UCLA. He's one of those in-state guys that Washington has to get to claw its way back to Pac-12 relevancy before becoming nationally relevant. He's one step in the right direction. He's visiting this week, and has already visited UCLA. UW fans expect him to commit this weekend, but you never know.
I think Washington gets Patoae, and I hope they get Warren and Castille. This class is very good already. The deal here is that Peterson is getting his own guys in the program, guys who have already bought into his system because they choose to go play at Washington.
As of Friday, January 16, Washington has the 25th-best class according to 247 sports and the 21st-best according to Scout. This is a very, very good class. One of the best Washington has had in the last decade.
I can't wait to see how they perform.