Washington football coach Chris Petersen is assembling the strongest recruiting class in school history.
Washington basketball coach Mike Hopkins is walking on sunshine (figuratively speaking, of course) after his team beat two ranked opponents in a span of 48 hours.
For a handful of college athletic programs – Ohio State comes to mind – the notion of enjoying simultaneous success at both football and basketball is not all that unusual. But for the Huskies, it’s a phenomenon experienced, oh, every generation or so.
Spring football practice won’t begin until next month, and the Pac-12 basketball schedule won’t resume until Thursday, and yet Tuesday still was a UW banner day with the announcement former Lake Stevens quarterback Jacob Eason will spend the rest of his college career with the Huskies.
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Washington lost out on the five-star prospect in 2016, when he chose to take his talent to Georgia. Eason played well as a true freshman, then suffered a knee injury in the 2017 opener. When he recovered, the starting job belonged to Bulldogs freshman Jake Fromm.
“You can have my football,” Fromm told Eason, “when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”
Just kidding. Fromm and Eason apparently got along fine, but there was a quarterback logjam at Georgia that figures to be exasperated by incoming freshman Justin Fields, regarded as the overall No. 1 high school prospect in America. Eason pondered his future, saw what looked like a bench, and decided to leave the Dawgs for the Dawgs.
As a transfer yet to graduate, he’ll be required to sit out the 2018 season, which means he’ll have accumulated almost two years of rust upon replacing senior Jake Browning. But he’ll be able to participate in practice, and by the time he takes his first real-game snap, Eason will know the playbook as thoroughly as Gary Oldman knows Winston Churchill.
Official word of Eason’s transfer followed more good news on Monday night, when it was learned Tuli Letuligasenoa had flipped on his verbal commitment to USC and will be joining a Huskies recruiting class loaded with four-star athletes. Letuligasenoa – any chance can we just call him Tuli? – is 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds, rated by most college scouting bureaus as the No. 8 defensive tackle in the nation.
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from discussing specific recruits until National Signing Day, scheduled Wednesday. Which is OK, because it allowed Petersen a few extra hours to work on pronouncing Tuli’s last name.
While Petersen has been restocking behind the scenes, Hopkins has been been overseeing the very public resurrection of a basketball team few expected to contend this season. And though achieving national prominence remains a challenge – the Huskies, with a 17-6 record that includes upsets of two Top 10 teams, did not crack the most recent Associated Press poll – the scribes haven’t all been asleep at the wheel.
On Monday Washington power forward Noah Dickerson was named NCAA national player of the week as well Pac-12 Player of the Week. Dickerson, a 6-8 junior, averaged 23 points and 11.5 rebounds during last week’s home victories over Arizona State and Arizona.
On Tuesday, Dickerson earned the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week.
Under Hopkins, Dickerson has developed into what his head coach calls an “offensive force with a ton of moves.” He’s also become a consistent threat to draw fouls, which he converts – at a 75 percent rate – into made free throws. College power forwards who are offensive forces, hungry for rebounds and shoot 75 percent from the line tend to gravitate to the NBA.
From the True Confession file: Before the season, I didn’t think Dickerson had NBA potential. Then again, I didn’t think he’d ever win NCAA Player of the Week honors, either.
Dickerson came to the UW from Atlanta, not exactly a Huskies recruiting hotbed. But he’s entrenched on a Seattle campus that soon will welcome an ex-Georgia quarterback into the fold. Two guys associated with the Deep South combined on Tuesday to brighten another gray winter day.
The Washington football team is shaping up as a powerhouse destined to contend for another big-time bowl game, and the basketball team is putting together solid credentials for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.
In 2011, Steve Sarkisian’s football team started strong, winning six of eight games before losing four of its last five. The second-half slump culminated with 67-56 loss to Baylor in an Alamo Bowl that could have been re-titled as “The Painful To Remember Alamo Bowl.”
When the Huskies struggle on the football field, the basketball team tends to excel, and vice versa. Last season’s 9-22 wreck, for instance, was preceded by Washington’s advancement to the semifinals of the College Football Playoff.
Harmonic convergence – a major bowl game in the winter, an NCAA Tournament bid in the spring – is difficult to achieve but good for both the heart and the soul.
I’m no longer wonder wondering what it’s like to be an Ohio State fan.