There are recruits, and then there are the building-block prospects that college football coaches make a personal investment in.
University of Puget Sound coach Jeff Thomas was an All-American defensive back at Redlands University. He knows how the back end of defense is supposed to be played.
So when it came to his rebuilding effort at the UPS, Thomas sought out two impact safety recruits who could control the middle of the field.
He has them in juniors Matt Gilbert and Jacob Wuesthoff, who easily make up the best tackling safety tandem in the Northwest Conference with a combined 125 tackles between them.
“They were my personal recruits,” Thomas said.
Wuesthoff looks the part: At 6-feet-1, 185 pounds, the Newbury Park, California, product looks chiseled out of granite, yet displays the closing speed necessary to swat away big-play passes deep in the field.
Wuesthoff’s 65 tackles are third in the NWC behind teammate Chris Beaulaurier’s conference-leading 79, and Lewis & Clark’s Stein Retzlaff (76). He also has two forced fumbles, a pair of interceptions and seven pass breakups in seven games.
Thomas considers Wuesthoff the “moral fiber” of the squad.
“With Jake, every coach talks about having a coach on the field,” Thomas said. “He has been that for us since his freshman year (in 2013). Sometimes people who develop a knack for how to play the game — you are talking juniors and seniors. He was immediately different than anybody I have ever put on the defensive side of the ball.”
Wuesthoff’s final three schools were UPS, Willamette and NWC powerhouse Linfield — the Loggers’ opponent Saturday.
“I chose UPS because of the opportunity for growth,” said Wuesthoff, who also plays on the school’s club lacrosse team. “If you are Linfield and winning the league every year, there is nothing new in that. Here, going from last place to contender for the league title — that makes it so worth the three years here.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442