2015’s Most Important Signees, Pt 1

Now that Signing Day is behind us, it’s time to figure out how Washington’s 2015 class will fit into Chris Petersen’s short-term plans. The Huskies used eight true frosh last year; who will this year’s be?

Obviously there’s a few things to take into account when determining who could be UW’s most valuable signings for 2015. Clearly, as they did in 2014, Washington will look to redshirt all their offensive linemen. That should be a given for any incoming class. So while a player like Trey Adams may end up being one of 2015’s best signings when looked at from an overall perspective, in the short term his inclusion in this list doesn’t mean much.

The same can be said about the defensive linemen, but to a lesser extent. We saw with Will Dissly last year that the Huskies weren’t afraid to throw a big body in the mix, and with the entire 2014 starting defensive line graduated that need will most likely resurface. So who will be this year’s Will Dissly?

Injuries will impact this list, as will the notion of delaying enrollment. It has been talked about with a couple of the signees, and we’ll get into that shortly. A lot of what this list is about is also who is just ready to play and make an impact now, and who needs time to get bigger, faster, stronger and develop their full potential. Much as you would expect with a balanced Petersen class, there’s plenty of both types.

We’ll break this list up into two parts, so Tuesday we’ll focus on 24 through 13 and Wednesday we’ll complete the list. A lot of this list will simply be about common sense and normal practices, but some of it will also be about need and also about a few special athletes that just might show the UW coaches they can’t be taken off the field.

On to the list!
24. Myles Rice - This pick simply has to do with Rice’s knee injury suffered during his senior season and the need for a full rehab to make sure he’s ready to go his redshirt freshman year in 2016. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive end probably would have redshirted anyway due to players like Jarett Finau, Joe Mathis, Psalm Wooching, Jaylen Johnson, Shane Bowman ahead of him.

23. Jared Hilbers - The 6-foot-6, 279-pound offensive linemen from Beaverton, Ore. is the classic redshirt case; Hilbers has all the physical tools and size you could want in an offensive linemen. But as a third-team All-Metro performer his senior year, you would expect a more dominating performance heading into college. It’s clear Hilbers needs time to absorb Chris Strausser’s training, as well as take his lumps while he makes the transition into a college OL.

22. Jusstis Warren - Warren was a bit of a surprise pick, but one of my recruiting tenants is to err on the side of the local studs - and Warren is physically a stud at 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds. At linebacker, though, the Tacoma Lincoln grad will have plenty of time to share at the middle linebacker spot with guys like Scott Lawyer and Azeem Victor, so Jusstis can bide his time in 2015, sit at the knee of Bob Gregory, and take in all he has to say. Then Warren will come out of the gates swinging in 2016.

21. Henry Roberts - It seems slightly counterintuitive that a player as highly-rated as Roberts - a Scout.com top-300 pick and four-star lineman - would be so quickly slotted in as a slam-dunk redshirt candidate, but in my mind there was never a doubt that Kaleb McGary was going to redshirt too. This is what you do with the big boys; you stick them in the weight room, throw away the key, and see what they look like in 6-9 months. That’s the ideal situation, and I don’t see any reason why they won’t deviate from the plan with the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Roberts. The other reason why Henry is an easy redshirt decision is because it may take 2015 for Chris Strausser to get a great handle on whether or not Roberts’ best position is inside or outside. Henry did it all for Butch Goncharoff at Bellevue, so it’s not a matter of if; it’s simply a matter of where his talent will be best utilized.

20. Michael Neal - Neal, who wowed the coaches at one of their California-based junior college camps, is just another in an already long line of new-age, hybrid WR/TE types that’s trying to impress Jordan Paopao for 2015. That means he’ll show up this summer behind Joshua Perkins, Darrell Daniels, David Ajamu, and Drew Sample. At 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, Neal will have all the time he needs to get bigger, faster, and stronger so by the time Perkins graduates he’ll be ready to step into the mix for playing time in 2016.

19. Ben Burr-Kirven - Linebacker definitely seems like one of the positions - defensive backs as well now - that has a glut of young talent available, so that makes it uncertain that players like Burr-Kirven are going to make an immediate impact on the program. At 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, Burr-Kirven isn’t the biggest ‘backer out there, but UW fans can look to a player like Keishawn Bierria as a blueprint when looking at the near term for Burr-Kirven, as well as D.J. Beavers. Bierria came to UW at roughly the same weight as Burr-Kirven and Beavers, but after a redshirt year emerged for spring ball in 2014 at 221 pounds and ready to play. He ended up playing in all 14 games for the Huskies, starting four times.

18. DJ Beavers - See: Ben Burr-Kirven. At 6-feet and 202 pounds, I suspect Beavers and Burr-Kirven are going to be attached at the hip; eating the same meals, doing the same workouts, etc… in an attempt to get bigger, faster, and stronger for 2016. The only reason Beavers is listed here a notch above the California Small Schools Player of the Year is because of the fact that Beavers played at Crespi Carmelite in the Mission League, one of the tougher leagues in California. Crespi played alongside teams like Bishop Amat, Serra, Bishop Alemany, and others. That competition should, at least on paper, put Beavers slightly ahead of Burr-Kirven when it comes to experience playing against college-level athletes.

17. Tevis Bartlett - So you’re wondering; while on this run of listing linebackers and explaining just why they won’t play in 2015, what makes Tevis Bartlett the most promising of the group? What would make me think he’d have a better chance to play than all the others? I have to admit to a particular bias; I’m always going to favor a wrestler. When it comes down to it, I think that’s a big reason why Chris Petersen and his staff fell in love with Bartlett, a 6-foot-2, 218-pound athlete from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Petersen noted during his Signing Day press conference that wrestlers have the kind of tenacity and ethic he’s looking for in OKG’s, so I think that gives Bartlett just the slightest edge over the other ‘backers. Not that I think he’s going to play in 2015; ideally they should all redshirt. But with Drew Lewis as the only LB taken for 2014, I doubt Gregory would hesitate to use a player like Bartlett, especially if he happened to be the right fit at the right time.

16. Trey Adams - A lot of what I just said about Roberts can also be said of Adams, except for one substantial difference; Trey is most definitely a tackle. At a mammoth 6-foot-8 and 283 pounds, the word on Adams from those in Wenatchee that have been watching is that he’s getting better. A lot better. Maybe to the point where he could compete with the current UW tackles for a spot in their two-deeps eventually. And the only reason I have Trey listed as high as 16 is because we saw with Coleman Shelton last year that Strausser isn’t afraid to go young if he feels that’s the best guy for the job. Shelton was a redshirt frosh, which is why I’m hedging my bets on Adams; I just don’t think he’ll play, nor do they want him to play. But if he comes in physically ready to dominate, there’s no doubt he’s got the requisite size and ability to compete and get in the two-deeps.

15. Kyler Manu - Manu, the 6-foot-1, 224-pound linebacker from Pocatello, Idaho has one thing going for him the other linebackers I’ve listed don’t; he’s enrolling this spring in time to take part in spring ball. It may not matter in the end, as it seems like there should be enough bodies already in Bob Gregory’s room to go around, but with a possible move to more 3-4, coupled with the 15 extra practices Manu will have, you just never know. If there is one linebacker that plays as a true freshman in 2015, my bet is on Manu. He already has decent size and those practices will most definitely give him a leg up when it comes to any position battles with the other frosh ‘backers.

14. Bryce Sterk - Now we’re starting to get to the point where we talk about finding the Will Dissly of this class. Sterk certainly fits the profile; the most-underrated defensive lineman of the 2015 class, a player Petersen and staff did a ton of research on before going full-tilt on their recruitment. The 6-foot-4, 229-pound Sterk is athletic enough to probably make a mark, but with Benning Potoae and Jason Scrempos also involved I think it’s going to be tough to get past them right away. Yet, we didn’t necessarily see Dissly playing last year either, so I’ll never say never.

13. Ricky McCoy - Normally, a guy like McCoy would be the type that you would absolutely want to stick in the weight room and bring him back out in 12-18 months. But the 6-foot-3, 294-pound McCoy is a rare species on the UW football team; a run-stuffing defensive tackle. Elijah Qualls, Taniela Tupou, Will Dissly, Vita Vea, and Greg Gaines are the inside linemen right now, but really only Qualls, Vea and Gaines have the requisite size to be true two-gap nose tackles. That’s where McCoy may step in. It’s never great policy to play true freshmen inside, but Dissly showed it can be done, and I could see short yardage/goal-line situations where a player of McCoy’s size and ability would come in handy. Is that enough to burn a player’s redshirt? Ideally no, but they did it last year with Dissly and they could do it this year with McCoy.

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