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Sarkisian signs a heavy-weight class
Shirley says relationship with Neuheisel was key
Rich Linde, Updated 6 February 2010

In 2008, former coach Tyrone Willingham told a group of us alums and fans, gathered in Palm Springs for the Chow Down to Washington Banquet, that the offensive line was the most important unit on his football team.

Obviously, Steve Sarkisian is like-minded. He signed seven offensive linemen to his 2010 class on LOI day, which includes 4-star OL Erik Kohler of Oaks Christian high school, who the recruiting gurus rate as the best offensive lineman in California. Out of Hawaii, Micah Hatchie, also rated 4-stars,  joins Kohler to the OL. Other highly-rated UW signees to the wide-bodies include Colin Porter and Ben Riva. One of just four players named to the Seattle Times blue chip squad, Porter from Bothell is rated 4-stars by scout.com and ranked the ninth best at his position. The Times named Riva out of O'Dea high school to its red-chip squad, which consists of 18 players from the state of Washington.

Washington also signed OT James Atoe (6-foot-6, 339) from the Dalles, Oregon. "This guy (Atoe) is a potential top-five NFL draft pick,'' Sark said at his news conference, citing his size and athleticism.

"It wouldn't surprise me,'' said his high school coach Andy Codding, in responding to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, who asked him about Sark's assessment. "He's got all the tools and he's got a great work ethic. He's a smart, big, powerful lineman with much better feet than you would expect of a 320-pound kid. He needs to improve his strength but when he does that, I don't know what the knock on him would be,'' he told Condotta.

Sark noted that the average size of the seven OLs UW signed is 6-4.5, 295 "and that's bigger than our starting O-line that we have right now.''

The need for a "beefier" line at Washington has been our hue and cry since 2002, at a time when the running game began to deteriorate at Washington. Apparently, that hope has finally become reality.

Three out of the four Times' blue chippers have signed with Washington, along with five members of its red-chip team. The Huskies also have inked 13 players who are members of the Tacoma News Tribune's Western 100.

On Wednesday, Safety Sean Parker from Narbonne high school announced his intentions to go to Washington on ESPNU. Scout.com gives him 4 stars and a number-6 ranking at his position. "I'll be attending the University of Washington," he said, "The up and rising program that they are, the family atmosphere and the beautiful city of Seattle."

Parker is a huge get for Washington, and puts the Huskies among the nation's elite in their ability to recruit outstanding athletes to their football program. ESPN ranks Parker number 49 on its list of 150 best athletes.

On the same side of the ball, DL Sione Potoa'e (6-foot-2, 266) from Lakewood is rated 4 stars by scout.com and is said to be the top defensive tackle prospect in the northwest. He chose Washington over six other schools, including USC and UCLA.

Certainly getting QB Nick Montana (6-foot-3, 191) to commit early in the recruiting process helped with the perception of this class. In September, Montana outdueled QB Jake Heaps statistically, when his Oaks Christian team beat Heaps and Skyline, 28-25. Heaps, considered the number one quarterback prospect in the nation, is headed to BYU. Montana is the son of legendary hall of famer Joe Montana.

Four-star running back Deontae Cooper from Perris, California, at 6-feet, 205 pounds, gives the Huskies an inside running threat. His career 7,450 yards' rushing are second in Inland Empire history, only behind Toby Gerhart (Norco), runner up for the 2009 Heisman Trophy.

How about giving Cooper the redoubtable number-8 -- you know, the same number Nip, Willie and Kenny wore?

It's a very complete class from front to back when you talk about 16 players on offense and 14 on defense," Sarkisian said. "It's one that can help us immediately and have an impact this fall for us in 2010 but also when we look at 2011, 12, 13 down the road.''

Losing kicker Alejandro Maldonado, who had been committed to Washington for some time, to Oregon was a big disappointment. UW finished eighth in conference kickoff coverage last season, and could have used a fresh leg to spell Erik Folk this season. UW averaged 38.4 yards per kickoff and registered five touchbacks in 2K9.

Click here for a list of athletes who have signed with Washington.

USC has an oral commitment from scout.com's number one recruit, offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson (6-foot-8, 338), by way of Saint Paul, Minnesota. He chose the Trojans, among ten schools who offered him a scholarship, they, in particular, over Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma. His recruitment is considered a major coup for new coach Lane Kiffin and his recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron. 

"It's the one that would really send a message to everyone in the country that USC is going to be a factor with Lane Kiffin as head coach as they were with Pete Carroll," Jeremey Crabtree, national recruiting editor for rivals.com, told the Los Angeles Times this morning.

However, according to the Los Angeles Times on Friday morning, Henderson is waiting to sign his letter of intent until after USC officials meet with the NCAA infractions committee on February 19. USC is under investigation concerning improper benefits allegedly given to former basketball player O. J. Mayo and former footballer Reggie Bush.

Crosstown rival Rick Neuheisel proved to be one of the best closers in college football by signing defensive backs Dietrich Riley of La Cañada St. Francis and Anthony Jefferson of Los Angeles Cathedral, linebacker Josh Shirley of Fontana Kaiser and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa from Portland, Oregon.

Shirley told the Riverside Press Enterprise, that "UCLA was always in my head, but Washington is a great program...it came down to the final seconds."

He said location (California) and Neuheisel were the deciding factors, but the relationship with Neuheisel was key.

"We've had some real in-depth conversations, some real heart-to-heart conversations," Shirley told the Enterprise. "I feel we have a real good relationship."

Table 1. How the recruiting services rank the Pac-10. (Updated 6 Feb 2010).

  scout rivals average espn
uw 11 28 19.5 20
usc 5 1 3.0 7
ucla 8 8 7.0 10
oregon 13 13 13 22
stanford 24 27 25.5 18
cal t28 11 19.5 15
asu 27 35 31  
ua 40 36 41.5  
osu 64 44 57.5  
wsu 39 89 64  


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

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