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Recruiting and some side notes
Malamute, July 13, 2007

As Lee Trevino once said, there are three things that are not long for this world, "dogs who chase cars, pros that chip for pars and coaches who lack stars."

Well, almost.

While Trevino was concerned about dogs and professional golfers, our focus will be on football coaches who lack stars, that is, the four and five-star variety.

Short of having a five-star recruit on board, just making a series of mundane mistakes in recruiting can eventually cost a coach his job. In fact, failing to fill holes gutted by graduation can be inimical to a coach's entire future. 

Washington has lost 26 seniors, mostly out of its 2002 and 2003 classes, classes that scout.com ranked 23rd and 18th in the nation, respectively.

It is our contention that most of those holes left by graduation last season have not been adequately filled and that rather than Washington's football fortunes being on the upswing, as the media claim, we believe their claim is so much drivel. (Photo: Stanley Daniels).  

Washington's last four recruiting classes (2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007) were ranked 22nd, 55th, 35th, and 29th, respectively. Two four-star recruits out of the 2004 class never played a down -- Matt Tuiasosopo and Keauntea Bankhead – their loss certainly worsening its relatively high ranking if computed again. And the same is true for the 2007 class, where WRs Anthony Boyles and Devin Aguilar have apparently been lost to non-qualifying SAT scores. 

Side note 1: However, there is still the possibility that Boyles (four stars) and Aquilar (three stars) could enroll at UW should they obtain qualifying scores on the SAT test given on September 15. According to data on scout.com, neither UCLA or USC offered a scholarship to Boyles, who is out of Gardena. Will Boyles' situation eventually translate into a mistake in recruiting?

Side note 2: When my wife asked Coach Willingham whether having QB Jake Locker on board had helped with recruiting, he mentioned WRs Boyles and Aguilar. That conversation took place within earshot of AD Todd Turner and school president, Mark Emmert, both of whom were with their wives and seated next to us at an outdoor restaurant in Palm Springs.

Side note 3: Over the past four years, some highly-rated local products have left the State of Washington, something that, for the most part, never occurred under Rick Neuheisel's controversial regime (1999-2003). Think Isaiah Stanback, Nate Robinson and Reggie Williams on the one hand and Jonathan Stewart, Steve Schilling and Taylor Mays on the other. Until he was injured and lost for the season, Isaiah comprised most of the offense in 2006. Robinson was the catalyst that brought UW basketball back to prominence. Williams was a first-round draft pick.

None of the local media will ever credit Neuheisel for recruiting Nate. They hope that using Neuheisel as a scapegoat for the Huskies' recent collapse diminishes their role in bringing UW down in the eyes of the public. Whew, we're off the hook, they say.

Side note 4. It was fun to watch Sean Douglas's booming punts in the practices that took place in Olympia. Charles Frederick's recent success in the AFL must confound those local sportswriters who have been on Neuheisel's case since 1999. Note that Neuheisel recruited Frederick out of Florida and Douglas out of Nebraska. Frederick was fun to tease because of his good sense of humor, like in "I thought that Dash Crutchley was the fastest man on crutches, ET?" Charles was on crutches at several practices in Olympia, much to Gilby's chagrin.

These facts champion the notion that UW certainly had talent last season (from Neuheisel's 2002 and 2003 classes) ... but not enough of it, being shortchanged from Keith Gilbertson's 2004 class and Willingham's 2005/2006 classes. Based on the recruiting rankings, it is logical to assume that Neuheisel's two classes, then experienced veterans last season, explain the 5-7 record that was an improvement over Willingham's first year at Washington when he went 2 and 9. The lack of support for Neuheisel's classes accounts for the close games the Huskies lost, where depth was an issue. Support for the starters on the OL (four of them Neuheisel's recruits), which, as a unit, wore down in October, turned into vaporware. The starting five on the OL played virtually every down last season. Starting guards Stanley Daniels and Clay Walker have departed. A huge drop off in talent between the first and second team offensive lines was noted in the spring game.

The Stanford game from last season stands out as an important indicator as to what could happen to the Huskies this season. For its only win of the season, Stanford beat Washington 20-3 at Husky Stadium in the penultimate game of the season. Throw out the five big plays from the Apple Cup, played the very next week, and UW's stats looked very much like they did against Stanford -- deplorable.

Side note 5: Unfortunately, "Montlake Jake" is just a redshirt freshman, who, for one thing, needs to work on his footwork to become a more accurate passer. It is unlikely that  he will be another Stanback, at least for this season.

On paper, considering the mediocre recruiting that has taken place in recent years and the tough schedule this season, the coach and UW appear to be in deep yogurt, e.g., on soft footing. 

But do recruiting rankings mean about as much as a willy-nilly promise from a politician, you might ask?

I hope I'm putting too much emphasis on the rankings, at least for my alma mater's sake. Yet, I keep thinking of the nation’s elite and how they recruit each year, e.g., Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, USC. They all bring in top-ten-to-top-twenty classes annually. Are their classes just artifacts of their success on the gridiron and not germane to being a football powerhouse, with coaching, conditioning, motivation and, perhaps, a weak schedule being the prime ingredients? 

Certainly, Michigan and Ohio State play weak schedules. They play in the soft Big Ten, where each of the 11 teams only plays 8 conference games, leaving plenty of room to schedule powder puffs and miss playing the conference's elite. This season, the Buckeyes gang up on such power houses as Division I-AA Youngstown State, Akron, and Kent State, all three of those games played at home, not to say that playing UW on the road will be a blowout for Jim Tressel.  

Look for one of the overrated Big Ten "biggies" to get clobbered in a BCS bowl game after the regular season is over.

Still, soft schedules aside, a good percentage of five-star recruits end up playing on Sundays. Five-star PSAs are rarely misidentified, as they are usually men among boys, as was Reggie Williams, for example.

Two five-star recruits, one on each side of the ball, would make a heck of a difference to UW, and give Tyrone a coaching-span at UW that extends beyond the 3 years left on his contract. 

Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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