First, the analysis. Here’s what Scout.com thinks of the 6-foot-2, 275-pounder from Central High School in Independence, Ore: “Tuipulotu is a very good looking interior prospect. He has a great first step, is explosive off the ball and is very physical. He shows very good lateral mobility and short area quickness, can split a double team and is strong at the point of attack. He can move around and play multiple spots on the defensive line but likely projects a 3-tech in college. He needs to add some size but has the frame to do so and his upside is tremendous.”
Secondly, what does this mean for the defensive line numbers going forward? Well, Washington loses one defensive lineman after the 2016 class due to graduation, Damion Turpin.
So this is what UW’s defensive line could look like in 2017 when Tuipulotu arrives on campus:
Jaylen Johnson (6-3, 285, Jr.)
Shane Bowman (6-4, 290, Jr.)
Jason Scrempos (6-6, 279, So.)
Greg Gaines (6-2, 318, Jr.)
Vita Vea (6-5, 329, Jr.)
Ricky McCoy (6-2, 302, So.)
Elijah Qualls (6-1, 321, Sr.)
Benning Potoae (6-3, 271, So.)
Levi Onwuzurike (6-4, 262, So. or RFr.)
John Clark (6-4, 271, So.) *
So that’s nine defensive linemen for an odd front, which allows for a legitimate three-deep at each position. With Washington only taking 15-17 players for the 2017 class, it’s probable the coaches will want one more defensive lineman to shore up proceedings. Two linemen is well within the balance you’d like to have for the position groups. We’re seeing more and more that Washington Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski wants ultimate versatility with his front, and he’s told Tuipulotu as much: he expects to be available to play all three spots when required.
Next, what does this mean for Washington going forward in terms of landing more quality for the 2017 class? Clearly the coaches doing their homework early and scouting 2017 and 2018 players while putting the finishing touches for the 2015 and 2016 class is paying off. The recruiting cycles are coming faster and faster every season, and Petersen knows they have to change with the times. Publicly he’s not happy at all that they have to speed up their timelines with respect to evaluations and due diligence, but right now he’s seeing those moves pay dividends.
Case in point: Tuipulotu is the second Scout.com Top-300 player to verbally commit to Chris Petersen and the Huskies in a week, joining national Top-100 prospect Terrell Bynum. Overall, Washington has four verbal commitments, and three of them are Top-300 prospects: Tuipulotu, Bynum, and Keith Taylor.
In short? Four stars is starting to become the norm. If you take away the early enrollees for 2016 - Taylor Rapp, Van Soderberg, Amandre Williams, and Daniel Bridge-Gadd - more than half of the 2016 signing class are Scout.com Top-300 players. So far any Washington fan thinking Petersen needed to prove himself as the leader of a top group of recruiters, he’s passed that test with flying colors.
With the verbal commitments of Tuipulotu and Bynum, there’s one more positive sign for UW recruitniks: Ikaika Malloe and Bush Hamdan don’t need time to feel their way through the recruiting process. By landing a top defensive lineman and receiver, both first-year coaches have shown they can compete right now for top talent - no waiting period required.
Getting Tuipulotu is a huge feather in Malloe’s cap already. In fact, you can make a lot of comparisons to Chris Strausser landing fellow U.S. Army All-American Luke Wattenberg at almost the exact same time a year ago. Both Tuipulotu were highly-coveted linemen with strong pedigrees.
The main difference between the two is that Tuipulotu is a Northwest kid, plucked right out of the heart of the state of Oregon. And this was a player the Ducks definitely wanted, which makes it that much sweeter for Washington fans. They have suffered for a very long time on the scoreboard. This hardly evens things up, but it does represent a big step in the right direction for the Huskies.
Obviously there is still a long way to go in the recruiting process (2017 prospects can’t sign letters of intent until the first Wednesday in February), but Tuipulotu’s words to Scott Eklund Saturday night were definitive: he’s shutting down the process. And that is exactly what Washington fans want to hear.