Huskies Insider Blog

Is top 20 recruiting class satisfying enough at UW?

Getting to this pretty late. National Letter of Intent day (NLI for short) is as hectic a day for copy as a lot of us sportswriters, who turn it out from morning until night.

Lots of action - surprises for some, disappointments for others - on this 2011 Signing Day, of which I stayed tuned into until West No. 1 recruit De'Anthony Thomas made his announcement to sign with Oregon and spurn Southern California.

As far as coach Steve Sarkisian's third class at the UW - I'd rate it pretty solid. Sarkisian and his coaching staff had a plan to really pinpoint those athletes who can play multiple positions, especially ones who play defensive end and linebacker - both areas of need heading into the future.

At night's end, Scout.com had the UW's class of 23 signees ranked 19th nationally. Rivals.com and ESPN.com had the Huskies at 23rd. A fair assessment?

They kept the in-state blue-chippers in Skyline High's Kasen Williams, Gig Harbor High's Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Auburn High's Danny Shelton - all three players Sarkisian identified Wednesday as candidates for playing time as true freshmen.

Safety James Sample (Grant High in Sacramento, Calif.) might have the same kind of impact for the UW on the back end of the defense as what the coaches expected from Sean Parker last season.

Questions that linger: Did they get enough big bodies for now and the future (four guys of 265 pounds or heavier)? ... Seferian-Jenkins could be a star, but where will the depth behind him at tight end come from? ... Have the Huskies solved their linebacker issues, especially with Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa graduating?

* On the linemen issue: Sarkisian said he was "totally fine" with the number of blockers the UW signed in this class - but added he likely will rely more on the five big men he redshirted last season.

"I just didn't want to settle, just to take linemen for the sake of taking a number," Sarkisian said. "And there is a very good class coming up."

Also, Shelton - if need be - could be moved to offensive guard. Some thing he would have been the state's top offensive lineman; instead he's a nose guard.

* On the tight end depth: Let's face it - on paper, this appears to be Seferian-Jenkins' job to lose.

The Tides' standout will enroll early (as will 3-4 others; who isn't real certain at this point) and be part of spring ball.

The UW is high on Michael Hartvigson, who is coming off injury and should be healthy at fall camp. He's well-rounded as a pass catcher and blocker. And the other two - Marlion Barnett (receiver) and Marek Domanski (blocker) - can serve specific roles.

If something does not pan out, Juanita High's Jarett Finau could move to tight end from the defensive line spot.

* The four "hybrid" players (DE/OLB) - Finau and the California trio of Scott Lawyer, Matthew Lyons and Corey Waller - signify a change in defensive philosophy. Sarkisian admitted as much Wednesday, saying the coaching staff is looking at ways to implement more of a 3-4 look.

"Our ability to find guys that can play on the edge, play in space, that have the ability to rush the passer but yet play zone (pass) coverage, play man-to-man coverage on tight ends and on running backs I think is going to be critical for us to take the next step here," Sarkisian said.

Looks like in this case, returner Cort Dennison and junior-college transfer Thomas Tutogi will man the inside linebacker spots, and that any of these "hybrid" players (along with incumbents such as Josh Shirley, etc.) could drop back and play outside linebacker, if need be. They are that level of an athlete.

Other stuff:

* After the whole Bishop Sankey switch-a-roo from last week, Sarkisian was asked his feelings about the concept of an oral commitment in recruiting.

"It's the nature of the beast right now. This is the landscape of ... recruiting in college football. Do I think it's perfect? No. But if you're not playing the game, you're getting beat, so you've got to continue to battle.

"Some of the guys (recruits) you feel like are as entrenched in your program and you feel great about are the same guys that are wavering the night before Signing Day. It's challenging."

He added it's imperative to keep recruiting the players already committed to you, because if you don't, "somebody else is and you can lose them."

Pressed if he feels weird about taking a recruit from another school, Sarkisian was blunt: "It's not weird to me, because the same (recruiters) are recruiting our guys."

* Asked about which recruiting battles for 2011 were high-pitched, he pointed to the ones involving Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, whom he secured commitments from last summer.

Seferian-Jenkins had Texas as a finalist, and Williams virtually had the entire Southeastern Conference breathing down his neck.

"Those are big wins for us," Sarkisian said.

* I spoke with three UW recruits - Skyline High's Connor Cree, Shelton and Seferian-Jenkins - on Tuesday about the importance of class rankings.

Was a top-10 billing something they cared about?

Shelton: "That would be cool!"

Cree: "Not really. It’s nice and rewarding to know you are in a top 10 class in the nation. If they (recruiting experts) don’t rate it that high, I know how good these guys are. The rankings, it’s just a number, whether it's fifth or 20th."

Seferian-Jenkins: "We have a great class as it is."

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