First up, the quarterbacks.
Any time you can pick up a Gatorade State Player of the Year - especially at a position as crucial as quarterback - you do it and figure out the rest later. That’s what Washington did with Daniel Bridge-Gadd, considered a late-bloomer in this world of 7th graders committing to BCS schools. He was originally committed to New Mexico State, but the 6-foot-3, 191-pound Bridge-Gadd had a monster senior year for Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix. He threw for over 4250 yards and 47 touchdowns, leading the Trojans to the Division III state championship game. In one playoff win, Bridge-Gadd threw for 512 yards and seven touchdowns. Over his three-year career as a starter for Paradise Valley, Bridge-Gadd not only threw for over 9300 yards and 115 touchdowns, but he also ran for over 1200 yards. He was 23-3 his final two seasons leading the Trojans, so the kid is most definitely a winner.
But Bridge-Gadd wasn’t the best available player, and that’s the rub of this analysis. That player was Jacob Eason, the can’t-miss U.S. Army All-American out of Lake Stevens. I’m certainly not going to re-hash the reasons why Eason isn’t going to Washington (he’s already enrolled at Georgia), but suffice to say there was late interest on Eason’s part after Georgia decided to make a head coaching change - enough that he took an official visit to Washington. Obviously there’s no way to know who the better college player will be, but objectively-speaking we know who the better college prospect was before they signed, and that was Eason by a country mile. Again, it’s a comparison made in a vacuum, but that’s what we do. We have to assume both were high on UW’s wish list, or else they wouldn’t have been asked to visit officially.
That’s why, as high as Washington fans should be on Bridge-Gadd - and they can’t possibly put the loss of Eason to Georgia on his shoulders - the coaches didn’t get their top man. In fact, you could make the argument they went well down their ‘A’ list before Bridge-Gadd’s name appeared: Eason signed with Georgia; Dillon Sterling-Cole signed with Arizona State; Max Gilliam signed with California; Matt Fink signed with USC. Eason was considered by Scout.com to be the number-one quarterback prospect out west, Bridge-Gadd 20th in the same ranking. That’s a vast discrepancy no matter how you slice it up.
So, on his own merit, Bridge-Gadd is a very productive, winning quarterback who competed at the highest levels of Arizona football. That, in itself, should give Washington’s quarterback recruiting a very reasonable grade for 2016. But it was an iron they were able to pull out of the fire relatively late in the process. If Bridge-Gadd hadn’t been available, it didn’t appear as if the Huskies had a K.J. Carta-Samuels scenario up their sleeve to save the day. And as unfair as it may seem, the specter of Eason’s recruitment put a bit a shroud over the Huskies during the entire process, and it has to be reflected in the final grade.