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A "Titanic" class -- almost
Rich Linde, 2 February 2012

While it wasn't a Banner year for the house of Husky recruiting, the coaches found a Shaq to house their class in. (Credit Ted Miller, ESPN, for giving me the idea) ;-)

"When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales, and storms and fog and the like. But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident... or any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort." E. J. Smith - 1907, Captain, RMS Titanic


What about the offensive line and recruiting this year?


"You know all the clichés? `You have to win in the trenches.' `It all starts up front.' All those? They're clichés because they're true," UCLA coach Jim Mora has been quoted as saying.

"Football is a physical, demanding sport that demands great toughness. If you can't win the battle of the line of scrimmage, it's going to be tough to win. If you can't stop the run, you can't get off the field. You have to be pretty damn salty up front."

Not having a 4-star/5-star offensive lineman sign a letter of intent is perplexing; the Huskies need to sign at least one blue-chip offensive lineman each year. Last recruiting season, the Dawgs came a cropper in this regard, failing to sign any 4-or-5-star behemoths to the OL.

Fans were told by the recruiting gurus to wait until 2012; this was when a couple of local, much coveted offensive linemen would become available. Yep, and they popped up on the recruiting sites: Zach Banner (Lakes) and Josh Garnet (Puyallup); unfortunately, they went elsewhere, Banner to USC and Garnet to Stanford.

Signing that duo was a long shot for a team that had won just two of its last seven games. You can't fault Banner and Garnet for looking at warmer climes or blame the coaching staff for not fencing off the state.


Is there a method to Sark's hiring madness?


In its 7 wins this season, Washington held its opponents to 49.6 yards rushing, while in its 6 losses, UW gave up a whopping 307.67 rushing yards per game. Five of those six losses came from teams ranked in the AP top 25.

UW needs to rebuild a defense that ranked 106th in FBS football. Considering the defensive rushing stats this past season, the defensive front four, especially at the tackle position, is a key positional unit in the rebuilding process. In this regard, Tosh Lupoi, who was hired as defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator, is widely viewed as one of the top recruiters in the Pac-12.

An improved front four -- and pass rush -- will help with pass defense which, of course, in itself deserves serious consideration.

Lupoi and UW's newly hired defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, need to think "SEC front four"  when out on the recruiting trail and settle for nothing less.

Note that Wilcox was hired away Tennessee, which is in SEC country.


Did Washington act as a catalyst in Oregon's recruitment of 5-star rated lineman Arik Armstead?


In a way, the Huskies catalyzed the recruiting process. Armstead seemed headed to Cal before Washington lured Lupoi away from the Bears. After Lupoi left Cal, Armstead opened up his recruitment, eventually considering the Huskies, this following a foray by their coaches (including Lupoi) in the Sacramento area. Ironically, he chose Oregon, Washington's most hated rival, which effectively strengthened Oregon's class and weakened Cal's. Meanwhile, the Huskies had mush on their faces.


What do you think of Washington's recruiting class?


Up until the final week of the recruiting period, the Huskies seemed headed towards the proverbial iceberg, until a phenomenal mid-course correction was made. After almost shearing off some ice, the lumbering "Titanic" appearing rudderless, the RMS Sarkisian crossed the Atlantic with all boilers lit, pulling in a class rated 22nd in the nation by scout.com and 5th in the Pac-12. Rivals.com ranks it 20th in the nation. (Photo left of the Titanic's captain E. J. Smith, who, heroically, went down with the ship).

Two 4-star quarterbacks -- Jeff Lindquist, a local product, and Cyler Miles, out of Denver -- highlight the class. Rivals.com ranks the Dawgs' QB class as the second best in the nation.

Coach Sarkisian's bountiful haul proudly boasts of Shaquille Thompson (5 stars), who is rated the number one safety in the country. A capable punter (Korey Durkey) and kicker Travis Coons, who has touchback capabilities, replace the departing triplet of Will Mahan (punter), Kiel Rasp (punter) and Erik Folk (kicker). Look for Pio Vatuvei (DE), Jaydon Mickens (4-star WR), Thompson and the two QBs and kickers to play next season.

On the negative side, the Huskies failed to replace Senio Kelemete (LT), Alameda Ta'amu (NT) and running back Chris Polk (RB) with players of equal quality. Kelemete, Ta'amu and Polk were 4-star recruits that were members of former coach Tyrone Willingham's class of 2008.

Some back peddling here. Arguably you could say that Mickens and Thompson, who was a running back at Grant Union HS last season, make up for the loss of Polk in a way. Some fans say that legacy recruit Shane Brostek (from Hawaii) is a 4-star lineman in 3-star clothing.

Willingham's trio notwithstanding, the coaches did an outstanding job of turning the tide, which was running against them up until last week, when the class was ranked 45th best. Not getting all of the highly-rated local kids is no big deal -- perfectly understandable -- and shouldn't be used to detract from an evaluation of this class or otherwise be used to denigrate the coaches or the young men involved.

Signing 5-star recruit Shaq Thompson is a harbinger of things to come, of being able to win the battle for highly sought after athletes. Credit coaches Lupoi and Wilcox for signing Thompson and coach Sarkisian for hiring them. The strong pitch made for Armstead shows the insightfulness of the coaching staff and its determination to build a top-25 team at Washington.
A potential-student-athlete's tour of the Washington campus should first visit Gilmour Dobie, his likeness, and his meaning to the glory of Washington.

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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