Now that the smoke has cleared and we’re nearly a week away from Signing Day, it’s time to break down just exactly what the Washington Huskies have gotten with their 18 signees (if you include current enrollee Myles Rice).
The Recruiting List
Biggest Get - Byron Murphy. Getting Murphy was huge for a number of reasons. First, they were able to pry a top, top prospect - Arizona’s top prospect, according to Scout.com - right from the clutches of a Pac-12 foe (Arizona State). Secondly, they were able to finish his recruitment, despite a late Sun Devil push. Third, just look at the offer sheet. It’s the most impressive of anyone Washington picked up for 2016. He could have gone anywhere. And lastly, in Murphy the Huskies have a true three-phase threat. He could just as easily be an impact receiver for UW, but he’ll start out at defensive back.
Runner-up: Camilo Eifler
Biggest Miss - Jacob Eason. This one is obvious. When arguably the number-one quarterback prospect in the country lives less than 45 minutes from Husky Stadium, you have to get him - no questions asked. For whatever reason, it never materialized. In the long run, who knows if Eason would or wouldn’t have been a success at Montlake; what is not in dispute is the fact that Washington has to prioritize and land prospects like Eason to compete at the top end of the Pac-12.
Runner-up: Javon McKinley
Biggest Disappointment - Jacob Eason. See above.
Runner-up: Chris Taylor-Yamanoha
Biggest Surprise - Levi Onwuzurike. A lot of people might point to an early commit, like Luke Wattenberg, Sean McGrew or Camilo Eifler, but Onwuzurike’s recruitment - especially for a top defensive lineman from Texas - flew spectacularly under the radar. First, Onwuzurike took an official visit very early in the season, and those typically are forgotten about by mid-December. But clearly that visit made a huge impression on Onwuzurike, who picked UW over Baylor, Arizona State, Michigan, and many others. And he did it via his Twitter account - no hat dance, no ESPN announcement…that’s about as low-key as it gets nowadays. It’s the social networking equivalent of when Donald Butler verbally committed to Tyrone Willingham via snail mail. And just like that, Washington picked up arguably the top defensive end in the Lone Star State. And that was a surprise.
Runner-up: Kamari Pleasant
Most Underrated Prospect - Taylor Rapp. Rapp committed to Washington early - in March - yet still had offers from schools like Oregon, Nebraska, and Notre Dame. Does that sound like a three-star prospect to you? On top of that, Rapp is currently enrolled at Washington, so he’ll get the benefit of spring ball before his freshman season begins. The safety position is pretty stacked, but there are also some returners whose future is uncertain. Who knows if Brandon Beaver and Trevor Walker come back from injury 100 percent. If not, Rapp could certainly find himself right in the mix for playing time on special teams at the very least.
Runner-up: Aaron Fuller
Highest Ceiling - Camilo Eifler. In a bit of an ironic twist, Washington’s highest-rated signee is the one that has played the least amount of competitive football. Eifler didn’t start playing organized ball until his sophomore year at Bishop O’Dowd. That means he’s just starting to understand how to play the game and what he’s capable of doing. At 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, expect Eifler to become a starter by his third year in the program. By then he should be at least 225-230 pounds and rock-solid.
Runner-up: Amandre Williams
Biggest Position Filled - Defensive Back. Jimmy Lake went out there and did some serious work, and it’s clear Washington’s reputation as the best defense in the Pac-12 was used to great effectiveness on the recruiting trail. Byron Murphy, Kentrell Love (in the photo), Isaiah Gilchrist and Taylor Rapp would be a phenomenal haul in a big recruiting class, let alone one of average to slightly-below average size like 2016. The two out-of-state signees - Murphy and Love - specifically cited their relationship with Lake and his ability as a developer of talent as key reasons why they signed with the Huskies.
Biggest Position Disappointment - Receiver. This isn’t necessarily an early indictment on the two players Washington did sign. This is more about the sheer number of top talent on the west coast that looked hard at Washington, yet the Huskies weren’t able to land one of them: N’Keal Harry, Javon McKinley, Chase Lucas, Zach Farrar and Chris Taylor-Yamanoha all officially visited. Aaron Fuller and Jordan Chin may absolutely exceed expectations, but they are going to have to in order to overcome any initial disappointment Washington fans have in not landing a top-tier receiver to go with the other burgeoning skill players at UW’s disposal.
Runner-up: Defensive Tackle
Quickest To Play - Van Soderberg. A bit of a cop-out here, but 100 percent accurate. Soderberg, the 5-foot-11, 199-pound punter out of Olympia Capital, was brought in this class specifically to replace senior Korey Durkee. And Soderberg is expected to enroll at UW in time for spring football, so that should give him all the time he needs to get used to whatever new Special Teams Coordinator Bob Gregory dials up for him - traditional sets, rugby sets, etc…
Runner-up: Sean McGrew
Most Likely to the NFL - Byron Murphy. Given his athleticism, as well as the glowing reports from both Chris Petersen and Jimmy Lake about his ball skills, it should be just a matter of time before Murphy follows in the path of recent UW defensive backs that have made their way to the NFL; Marcus Peters, Greg Ducre, Desmond Trufant and Dashon Goldson. But Murphy will have company. Love and Gilchrist have all the size, speed and athleticism to make their mark as well.
Runner-up: Levi Onwuzurike
Recruiter of the Year - Jimmy Lake. Another pretty easy call, especially if you look at the talent Lake accumulated for 2016. His message clearly resonated with a lot of top athletes, not just the signees; David Long was right there for the taking before Jim Harbaugh climbed a tree, and Myles Bryant was so enamored with Lake and what UW had to offer he was willing to pay his way to start his Husky career despite Pac-12 offers. Recruiting is a results-oriented business, and Lake produced results.
Runner-up: Bob Gregory/Camilo Eifler