Impact Report: Luke Wattenberg

When Luke Wattenberg, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound offensive lineman from Junipero Serra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., announced via his Twitter account on April 12 that he was going to make his verbal commitment known between Washington and Duke, Husky fans were understandably excited.

For one thing, Wattenberg had eliminated USC and UCLA from his final choices, two local programs that had offered the four-star lineman - rated as the No. 2 tackle in the West. Offensive linemen with those offer rarely elude the grasp of the Trojans and Bruins, but Wattenberg apparently wasn’t interested in their approach.

"I fit in really well at Washington," Wattenberg told’s Greg Biggins Wednesday night when he declared his intentions to sign with Washington in February. "I fit them and they fit me, it's where I was most comfortable. They don't just build football players there, they have a 'built for life' program there, which prepares a player for life after football and that really impressed me.

"I took a handful of visits and after every one of them, I would come back all excited but then a couple days later, it would wear off. When I visited Washington, I kept getting more and more excited every day afterwards so I knew that was the place for me."
What kind of player is Wattenberg?: The Huskies are getting a three-sport athlete in Wattenberg. In fact, when he made his commitment it was right before a track meet. He also plays basketball. Washington is falling in love with offensive linemen who play basketball; Kaleb McGary, Devin Burleson, Trey Adams, and Jared Hilbers. You can add Wattenberg to the list. As a guy who will end up being a three-year starter in arguably one of the toughest leagues not just in California, but in the entire country - the Trinity League - Wattenberg has been tested against some of the best prep players around. He’s been through the wars, as much as you can at the high school level.

“In Wattenberg, the Huskies are landing a lineman with the talent and toughness to step in and play early in his college career,” Biggins said. “He's a natural tackle with very good feet and mobility but has the strength and flexibility to move inside and play guard, if needed as well. He has been very well coached and in terms of technique, is already well ahead of the game. He's the kind of talent who could have played for any program out West and beyond and was definitely a huge pickup for the Dawgs.
How does Wattenberg’s commitment impact OL depth going forward?: Here’s how the offensive line numbers stand right now.

Offensive Line (13):
76 Dexter Charles - Sr.
65 Siosifa Tufunga - Sr.
60 Shane Brostek - Jr.
52 Jake Eldrenkamp - Jr.
69 Cory Fuavai - Jr.
67 Michael Kneip - Jr. walk-on
79 Coleman Shelton - So.
55 Dane Crane - So.
73 Andrew Kirkland - So.
58 Kaleb McGary - RFr.
75 Jesse Sosebee - RFr.
74 John Turner - RFr.
71 Matt James - RFr.
77 Devin Burleson - Fr.

Add to that list the three incoming signees in Trey Adams, Henry Roberts, and Jared Hilbers, and the OL is looking pretty healthy in numbers for this fall. That’s 16 total scholarship offensive linemen, so it makes sense that there won’t be a ton of numbers set aside in 2016 for the OL. Obviously attrition could affect the overall number, but we’re not anticipating any linemen leaving after spring.

Delving into it a little deeper, the Huskies like Wattenberg as a swing lineman, meaning he could be available to play tackle or guard, depending on need. Ideally they’ll put him inside, even though he does play tackle for JSerra. Breaking down the numbers even more, UW will have eight tackles (Eldrenkamp, Shelton, Kirkland, McGary, James, Burleson, Adams, and Hilbers) and nine interior linemen (Charles, Tufunga, Brostek, Fuavai, Kneip, Crane, Sosebee, Turner, Roberts). Breaking it down even further by class, UW has a lot more interior linemen set to graduate or are current juniors, so it makes sense to find some more big bodies they can plug inside - so going after a top interior lineman like Wattenberg makes sense.

If we were to project the numbers out, even though I suspect the Huskies could go for three offensive linemen in the 2016 class (and again, attrition can play a part in bumping the numbers up), they will take one more for sure. Honolulu Kaiser OL Michael Eletise is a top-10 guard rated by nationally and is coveted by schools all across the country. He will be visiting UW soon, and if the Huskies were able to secure Eletise’s commitment they could very well be done recruiting OL for 2016. There’s always a chance a can’t-miss guy shows up on their radar that they would take in a heartbeat, but getting Eletise to join Wattenberg at Montlake for 2016 would be quite the coup for Chris Petersen and OL Coach Chris Strausser.

One additional piece to look for; Mater Dei OL Frank Martin is expected to make his decision known Thursday first thing in the morning. If he commits to USC as expected, that will take them out of the Eletise sweepstakes and eliminate a big potential suitor. As the dominoes fall, I suspect Eletise will become UW’s prime OL candidate left on their board. It could end up to be a great fit for both.
Can we gain any general recruiting insight into Wattenberg’s commitment?: I think the biggest takeaway from this news is that the ‘Built For Life’ thing is real. There’s no doubting it’s going to appeal to a certain recruit - or as Petersen would say - an ‘OKG’. The biggest thing for this current Washington staff is that they have a blueprint for the exact kind of player they want in terms of intangibles, the things that will take them far on and off the field. Now they just have to scour the natural recruiting areas to find those intangibles in Pac-12 ready-made bodies or ones that will develop in a year or so.

They did that in Wattenberg - just like they did with the other two verbal commitments for 2016 in Brandon Wellington and Taylor Rapp. That’s why this recruiting cycle is going to really show off what the UW staff is capable of. They are going to top off a process that has taken upwards of two years to complete, but started when these prep players were sophomores, or maybe in some cases freshmen.

To find OKG’s takes a ton of homework and due diligence. But when they latch on to one, they go after that player relentlessly. It’s clearly never been a case of the highest-rated prospect for Petersen; it’s nothing more than a coincidence if they are.

Secondly, Wattenberg’s commitment proves that Washington can go into greater Los Angeles and compete for top talent. They won’t ever go in there and just take who they want; no UW recruiting effort has yielded those results. But if they can take one or two prospects a class that were coveted by USC and UCLA it will send a signal that the Huskies are a player in SoCal. And they always need to be a player down there to compete with the Trojans and Bruins on the field.

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