Huskies coach Chris Petersen talked for about 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon about the 18 players the Huskies added to their program in the 2016 recruiting class. Here is most of what he said, and this will be updated later with all of what he said.
(Opening) “Awesome, exciting, uneventful day. And I’m really proud of these kids we signed. In this day and age, to make it uneventful takes a little bit more work and a little bit more strongness of will, so to speak. Because there’s a lot of good players here that were recruited by a lot of people, and just to keep the drama out of it and stay true to what they decided to do - were really proud of those guys.
“Really proud of the coaches. I can’t tell you how many miles we traveled and how hard these guys worked and how much research they had done. I think it really turned out how we were hoping it would. I think there’s really good balance of where the kids came from; we’ve got seven kids that came from California, five from Washington, three from Texas if you’re counting Myles Rice - who I’m counting in all this and all the things we’re talking about today - two from Arizona and one from Oregon. And I think the footprint that we go with, it should look like that.
“I think there’s balance on offense and defense. I think there’s nine defensive guys, seven offensive guys and a kicker. At every position we addressed a need, took a guy.
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“These days are certainly different than they used to be way, way, way, way, way back in the day about five years ago when maybe you guys didn’t know everything about - more than we know - about these recruits. I should just start asking you about who we missed, who are guys you know we don’t. But really pleased with these guys.
“The next thing is, I like this next period where a lot of these guys can just relax and they don’t have so many reporters calling them, so many other coaches calling them. They can concentrate on being a high school senior, concentrate on finishing their grades strong, going to the prom, running some track - whatever they are going to do. I think that’s important. And then we’ll get ‘em here in the summertime and excited to start the development process.”
(What’s your post-recruiting process?) “They’re so used to hearing from us all the time and they’re so used to hearing from other coaches, and really - the reporters are the ones that kill these guys. It really is. A lot of that goes away, which I think is really healthy and good so they can get back to some normalcy. We’ll stay in contact with them for sure and now we can text these guys. They don’t really like to talk; 18-year olds, they just want to text. So we can text them back. Some of these guys will come up, maybe do spring ball, check us out a little bit. And then we’ll get ‘em up here the end of June and they’ll be here before they know it.”
(How different was it putting together this class knowing you’d only have 17-18 spots?) “It’s a little bit different because you’re starting to make some decisions early on…and that’s why we always say this recruiting thing is a two-way street: when a kid commits to us that dramatically changes our recruiting as well. You don’t have all these extra scholarships. It’s like, okay. We are locked in now. If somebody comes down the pike, so be it. We’ve already committed to this guy. So you have to make good decisions and a lot of times you’ve got to make them early. It’s probably more fun when you have a bunch of scholarships and you can start getting as many guys as you can. But we don’t have that luxury. And you’re going to have that every year. With our senior count, for next year it’s going to be a small class again. As we move forward, we’re always trying to work the balance in terms of all the five classes. I don’t know what the ideal number is; it’s probably somewhere between 17 and 19 to 20 if your classes are all balanced equally. Seventeen times five is 85, so…but you’re always going to lose some to attrition of the four or five-year process. But that’s hard to do. That’s very hard to do is try and keep that type of balance throughout. What we signed is kind of in the ballpark of the type of balance we’re okay with.”
(One kid that really put a smile on your face?) “That’s a really hard question to answer because we get so connected to all these guys. And there’s certain guys that you feel really connected to because they decided early, and that was that. It’s not really as simple and easy as that because, as you know, there’s some relentless people that don’t let up that can be very hard on these kids and their families. I think there were some other kids that had choices that might have been easier for them to make but not necessarily better. And at the end of the day they made the right choice in terms of what was in their heart, but it wasn’t the easy choice. Some of those guys really proud of leaving home and coming up here and make this their new home. There was a couple guys like that where it was like, wow - that’s impressive. Because I know that’s not easy to do.”
(Did playing so many frosh last year help you attract talent for this class?) “I think they know that. We really didn’t talk a lot about that. They know the depth chart, we show ‘em that. They know we’re going to play the best guys, and if you’re one of the best guys coming in you’re going to play. It’s really that simple. We live in the here and now. So, if you’re the guy that can make us better right now, you know we’ll give you that chance.”
(On being able to convince local recruits to play for UW) “I think one, it has to do with this university. I really say this. It’s kind of one of the reasons that I’m here. I think this is a special place. I think the University of Washington, I think you start with the academic part of things, I really do. I know these kids are so passionate about football, and sometimes that’s even more their priority sometimes, if we’re being realistic, than the academic thing. But they also get the importance of the academics, and by the time we get here and get them in our program and they understand what we’re all about, they know that the academic thing is equally as important as anything we do football-wise, and this place is as good as anything in the country in terms of academics, so I think it starts there. I think this area, the Seattle area is passionate about football. I think everybody wants to go where football is important, not just on this campus, but in this town. I think they see that and feel that. They grow up, they see the Seahawks. They see about the Huskies on TV. And if we can continue to take steps in the right way, everybody loves a winner. And if they grow up seeing the Huskies win and win and win, that starts really getting this ball rolling, and that’s how it should be. Kids around here should want to stay here and play for their hometown school.
(On whether getting local players early helped) “There’s no question. I mean, we come in here getting Budda Bakers and Kaleb McGarys and all these guys that have offers across the country, and they’re choosing to stay right here. I think all their coaches and their families and the people who know them to come and see them play, I think that matters. Brandon Wellington’s another guy that we’re extremely proud of. I think he may have been one of the biggest … I don’t want to say under the radar guys, but I kind of think that, because he just said, this is where I’m going. He could have gone to a lot of places. But I think he’s a Dawg, I think his family’s all about the Dawgs, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
(On being able to keep committed players committed) “It’s really a unique and secretive deal, so I hesitate to say it – it’s just called honesty. We just try to be as honest with these guys as we can. It blows my mind when people are talking about kids aren’t flipping – and I get it. The problem with these kids who change their mind is because they get so much pressure on them from professional salesmen, is what it is. And so that can be very confusing not only to the 17 or 18-year-old, but to the families who have never been through this. So that’s a really hard thing. but what we basically try to do is educate them on the whole process the best we can. Like, what will be coming if you commit to us. Because it changes our process as well. So we think we’re in this together, and we don’t want a kid to commit to us unless he, in his heart, feels like ‘this is really where I want to go.’ So we just try to be honest, we try to paint the picture of where the recruiting process would go from here, and if you’re good with all these things, and your family’s good with that, then we’d love you to commit. But if there’s any shakiness, you probably shouldn’t commit until you check out some other things because in a lot of ways, you committing to us just means you’re going to get committed harder and more, so if you’re not 100 percent, don’t do it.”
(And you tell them that?) “I say those exact words. So it just creates, I think, a little less drama. And you’re still going to have kids that – it’s hard. I think what’s hard about it is, there’s a lot of good places out there. And the trick in this whole thing is finding the best place for you and the right fit, so then you get these guys that are pretty good doing their deal, getting these kids thinking a different way, so they really need to have already kind of worked a lot of this stuff out in their head before they commit.”
(Byron Murphy says he wants to play football and basketball, have you ever had a guy do that?) “We’ve never had a guy do that. I think this – I think a guy needs to come here and get adjusted to football, get adjusted to school, and if a guy can handle those type of things … we’ve had never with basketball, but with the track situation. That can come up. But you just want to feel like a guy can be successful and you’re not putting too much on his plate. And the one thing that they have to go through is to come here and see how much is on their plate, and sometimes those aspirations change a little bit.”
(Think he can do it?) “I’m telling you, that guy is very, very athletic. He’s very athletic. I haven’t studied him as a basketball player, but as a football player, there’s no doubt in my mind he can play either side of the ball with probably just as much success.”
(Could some of these guys play two ways, like in the secondary?) “Those are really the guys that we’re looking at in the secondary, those four guys. So most of the time, the way not just this league, but football in general with the spread offenses, you’re seeing three receivers and four receivers most of the time, so most of the time, we’re playing with five defensive backs, and so you really need – we look at our numbers continually, every year, every three months, what we’re doing on defense, what we’re doing on offense, and how does that change our strategy and how many we need at each position – and the one thing we know is that we can’t get enough good defensive backs. With the style of offenses we’re seeing, you need a bunch of good DBs.”
(On the “star system” of ranking recruits) “I don’t know. I need to be careful, because I’ve got a chip on my shoulder about that. I think at Boise we were 75 and then when you look at the real rankings, at one time in the year with the class that ranked No. 75 we were No. 3 in the country. Those are the rankings you need to pay attention to. So we thought all along we were getting really good players there. Now, things change a little bit being in this league and this university. I know this – there’s a lot more competition for some of these guys. And so people have asked, is it easier recruiting here? No, it’s harder recruiting here. Who you’re recruiting against, there’s so much parity, it’s much harder. But I don’t know about those stars. I mean, I even know my first year here, and even last year, I saw some stars on Trey Adams, and I’m like, are you kidding me? That’s the best high-school lineman I’ve ever seen. And whatever he was ranked. And so yeah, that’s why we just don’t get caught up in them. We take pride in doing so much research and then all of a sudden they say, ‘oh, this is a really good recruiting class, this is the highest ever,’ and it’s like, who’s saying that?”