National letter of intent signing day isn’t until Feb. 4, but two players have already written in ink their intentions to play for the Washington Huskies: record-setting quarterback Jake Browning from Folsom (Calif.) High School, who signed a financial-aid agreement in September; and safety Ezekiel Turner from Los Angeles Pierce College, who last week signed a midyear letter of intent as a junior-college transfer.
Speaking publicly about Turner for the first time Sunday, Huskies coach Chris Petersen said he likes Turner’s size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and that he has four years of eligibility remaining to play three seasons.
That’s rare for a junior-college player. But Turner is young for a JUCO transfer – he graduated from high school in 2014, and was a true freshman this past season – and Petersen said he wanted to recruit a defensive back who could increase the competition for playing time in the secondary.
“I think first and foremost was the tape itself,” Petersen said. “Then when we found out that he had more than just two years, that was attractive, (and) that he was a really good student. You do all your homework, you kind of put this together. There’s a lot of good players out there who aren’t going to necessarily fit what we’re all about here. But we feel great about him fitting the whole puzzle.”
Browning, a 6-2, 185-pound high school senior who set the national record for career touchdown passes this season, set another record Friday when he threw his 91st touchdown pass of the season in Folsom’s 68-7 Division 1 CIF state championship victory over Oceanside.
Browning and Turner will both enroll at UW in January and participate in spring practices.
“I just think the guys coming in early have a tremendous opportunity to compete from the get-go,” Petersen said. “Whether it’s an o-lineman, whether it’s a DB, whether it’s the quarterback — that’s what we want to do and play our best guys. And so to get him here in the winter time and all through spring ball and they’ll be there for summer … it really gives those guys a true advantage to compete for something for real in the fall.
“Not that we won’t play a guy that comes in in the summertime with us — we’ve got six or seven guys doing that now. But it really helps those kids, certainly at certain positions, to have a legitimate chance to compete.”
UW currently has 21 known oral commitments for the 2015 recruiting class. Petersen said his recruiting approach hasn’t changed since coming to UW from Boise State, and that he and his staff simply continue to pursue “really, really good players who we think are really good kids who are into getting a world-class education.”
Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha, who is also UW’s recruiting coordinator, said the coaching staff has been able to recruit “a different caliber of player.”
“It’s the Pac-12, so you’re looking at some different guys,” Bhonapha said. “I think the thing that’s exciting for us with how much we focus on developing guys, there’s going to be some guys down the road that might be those lower-tier’ guys in the scouting world’s eyes that are going to develop into some great players.”
Home for holidays
Petersen and the Huskies will do something a little different this holiday season.
Enjoy the holiday season.
Last year, Washington played in the Fight Hunger Bowl, which was held Dec. 27 in San Francisco. That meant UW players had to spend Christmas on the road, while Petersen, newly hired at the time, was preoccupied with all the duties that accompany a coaching transition.
This year, the Huskies don’t play until Jan. 2 when they face Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.
So UW held its final practice in Seattle on Sunday, and Petersen is giving players a week-long break to travel home and visit family for the holidays.
“It’s been a little bit different. We’ve never had one where we’ve given this much time off,” Petersen said Sunday during his final media availability before UW departs for Tempe on Dec. 28. “But it is what it is. It’s just the way the schedule falls. These guys need time off and need to get rested and ready to go.”
Also: “It’ll be the first time in a long time I get to do some real Christmas shopping, so it’ll be good.”
After the break, UW will travel to Arizona and practice there.
“It’ll be interesting to see what these six days do,” Petersen said. “You watch the bowl games up to this point, and I think it’s hard on the offenses. They lose a lot of rhythm and timing. When we get down to Arizona, we have to figure out some way to create that so we’re not too far in the hole.”