Want to hear Chris Petersen get a little defensive?
Ask him, in general terms, about the players who were not listed among the 18 prospects on Washington’s official signing day release, but who said at one time that they would play for the Huskies.
There are only two of those — Sumner High running back Connor Wedington, who flipped from UW to Stanford, and Independence, Oregon, defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu, who shunned the Huskies for USC — but both are considered four-star prospects, and both had been committed to UW for several months before changing their minds.
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Such decisions are common now in college football, though the Huskies had mostly been immune to them in their first three seasons with Petersen as coach. This year, though, they felt the sting, even if they still signed a recruiting class on Wednesday that Scout.com, 247 Sports and ESPN each rank among the top 25 in the country.
“We never worry about the kids that don’t come here,” Petersen said. “That has nothing to do with the success of our program.”
“What has everything to do with our program, how good we’re going to be?” Petersen said, motioning to the list in front of him. “These guys better be able to play. When we don’t miss on these guys, that’s everything. The guys that don’t come here, that has nothing to do with nothing. Because I’ve tracked it for a long time, and (for) a lot of years, and it’s just amazing how that has so little effect on anything that we’re doing here.”
Asked a question about UW’s reception on the recruiting trail since its appearance in the College Football Playoff, Petersen continued, “People can say whatever they want. We know who we want in our program, and we know what we can do with them. And I think the results this year spoke loud. I think we feel similar about these guys.”
He has good reason to. The Huskies again signed a smaller class — 17 this year, 18 last year, well below the customary 25 or so — which Petersen said he prefers. “I don’t ever want a class of 25 or 26,” he said. “That’s a problem for us.”
UW signed three receivers, all ranked among Scout.com’s top 300 prospects (Ty Jones from Provo, Utah, Terrell Bynum from Long Beach, California, and Alex Cook from Sacramento). The Huskies also signed two tight ends, both local products: Eastside Catholic standout Hunter Bryant (UW’s highest-rated recruit at No. 73 overall, per Scout.com), and Tumwater’s Cade Otton.
The Huskies added a quarterback — three-star prospect Jake Haener out of Monte Vista High School in Danville, California — and Petersen said Juanita High School running back Salvon Ahmed, another four-star prospect, is “as good as anything we’ve been around.”
Scout.com considers 10 of UW’s signees to be four-star recruits — only 14 schools signed more — and the Huskies signed players from five states plus one, junior-college punter Joel Whitford, from Australia. Whitford is already enrolled at UW and will participate in spring practices.
Seven of UW’s signees are ranked among Scout’s top 300, including four-star cornerback Elijah Molden, the son of former Oregon Ducks All-American and NFL defensive back Alex Molden.
There was one pleasant surprise for the Huskies on Wednesday: Salt Lake City defensive end Jordan Lolohea, a three-star prospect, announced a commitment to UW over Utah and Brigham Young. Lolohea will reportedly serve a two-year Mormon mission before enrolling at UW in 2019.
“I feel very similar to these guys that I have the last couple years, the classes that we signed,” Petersen said. “Which I think is saying a whole heck of a lot. I hope I’m not overstating my bounds on that one, because that’s pretty good, (what) the guys that we’ve signed the last couple years have done.”
BROWNING ‘DOING REALLY GOOD’
Petersen said quarterback Jake Browning is “doing really good” after surgery to repair an injury to his right throwing shoulder, and that the junior quarterback should be healed in time to participate in spring practices.
Petersen said Browning’s surgery, reported in January by The Seattle Times, was “a minor procedure,” and not something UW had planned during the season.
“It wasn’t like we were in the season and said, ‘this guy’s going to have to have something done after the season.’ It was after the season, kept looking at it, kept looking at it, doctors thought, you know, if we do this one little thing, that might help him down the road,” Petersen said at Wednesday’s national signing day press conference. “So he’s doing really good.”