Roughly an hour after Washington’s Spring Event ended, news filtered through the Twitterverse: The Huskies had landed another 2017 verbal commitment. The name? Alex Cook.
Cook is a 6-foot-2, 170-pound receiver prospect from Sheldon High School in Sacramento, California. That high school might ring a bell for fans of Washington Athletics: former basketball player Darin Johnson prepped at Sheldon.
And with that, Cook became the sixth public verbal commit for Washington for their 2017 recruiting class, and the second receiver in 10 days to commit to UW. Back on April 13th Terrell Bynum verbally committed to the Huskies.
What do the Scout.com national analysts think of Cook?
“Cook is one of my favorite WRs out West and has had a very good spring. He has a nice combination of size, speed and body control, catches the ball very well and is a physical WR who can bully smaller corners. His film is very good and he opened a lot of eyes at the Nike Camp in L.A back in late February. I liked him in Vegas as well and he's a kid who's only getting better because of how hard he works off the field. He's a great complement to Terrell Bynum and if UW is now done at the WR position, that's a very nice duo right there.” - Scout.com Analyst Greg Biggins.
Watching his 2015 junior highlight film, two things struck me. First, Cook is a finisher. Watch him get to the goal line on a long touchdown catch. Even when there’s no one around him, he finishes his run like a sprinter despite not having elite speed. When he is in jump-ball situations, he comes down with it and usually finishes the play with an aggressive takeaway from the defender.
When he is on defense, Cook plays with intent. It’s obvious he loves to hit, he loves to dole out punishment, and he loves to use his body as a weapon against the offense.
All that said, he’s also clearly a receiver. All the things Greg said about body control and his instincts as a receiver are spot on.
What does it mean for the receivers going forward?
Here’s one possible depth chart as to how the receiver group could look like for the Huskies in 2017:
John Ross III (5-11, 196, Sr.)
Dante Pettis (6-1, 187, Sr.)
Brayden Lenius (6-5, 228, Sr.)
Nik Little (6-5, 212, Sr.)
Isaiah Renfro (6-1, 207, Jr.)
Chico McClatcher (5-7, 176, Jr.)
Andre Baccellia (5-10, 166, So.)
Quinten Pounds (5-11, 170, So.)
Aaron Fuller (6-0, 177, RFr.)
Jordan Chin (6-0, 151, RFr.)
Terrell Bynum (6-1, 177, Fr.)
Alex Cook (6-2, 170, Fr.)
Connor Griffin (6-3, 225, Sr.)*
Forrest Dunivin (6-4, 200, Sr.)*
Taelon Parson (6-1, 195. Sr.)*
Max Richmond (5-9, 182, Jr.)*
John Gardner (6-3, 183, Jr.)*
Jamon Jones (6-3, 227, So.)*
Josh Rasmussen (5-11, 188, So.)*
That’s a ton of receivers! It makes you wonder how many of them will actually be around by the time a depth chart like this comes around. And though you can never say never when it comes to recruiting, it feels like two top receivers in a class of roughly 17 expected signees for 2017 sounds about right in terms of class and position balance.
The only downside to that is we’ve just started to see what Bush Hamdan can do as a recruiter. He’ll no doubt have an impact with other prospects as the recruiting cycle winds it way toward February, but is there any question about his prowess to identify and land top talent? If there was supposed to be a honeymoon of sorts for the first year UW Receivers Coach while he got up to speed on the rigors of the road, he bypassed it in a hurry.
One thing is for certain: After the 2017 season the Huskies will seriously have to reload at receiver. Who knows if a player like Nik Little comes good in the intervening years, but there’s no doubt Ross, Pettis and Lenius will be huge losses.
By that time, Baccellia and McClatcher will most likely household names. Whether that happens with Renfro and Pounds is a much bigger question, and Fuller and Chin will undoubtedly come off redshirt seasons with expectations for a 2017 breakout campaign.
Cook and Bynum have the look of players that could come in and contribute right away. Since they are still only high school juniors, who knows how much they will develop physically between now and the fall of 2017.
Either way, the loss of four scholarship players after the 2017 season will mean plenty of early opportunities for players like Cook and Bynum to make an impact.
What does this mean for Washington going forward in terms of landing more quality for the 2017 class?
Before Bynum’s April 13 verbal commitment, Washington fans that follow recruiting were frankly sweating it. The Huskies only had two commits up to that point and it seemed like UW’s efforts toward the 2017 class were stuck in neutral. There wasn’t any panic, but there was some low grumblings as to why the top players were just nibbling at the purple and gold-covered recruiting bait instead of taking a big bite.
How things have changed in 10 days. Now the Huskies have added three four-star prospects, including Bynum, kept a local stud home (Hunter Bryant), flat-out stole a U.S. Army All-American from under Oregon’s noses (Marlon Tuipulotu), and now took another prospect the Ducks wanted badly in Alex Cook.
Have Washington’s recruiting fortunes turned? Only if they can maintain their course, which means maintaining their current commitments and building on the generated momentum.
Chris Petersen and his staff have publicly been loathe to take early commitments, focusing more on the long haul and making sure that a pledge to the Huskies means the right fit for both parties. They make it crystal clear that a verbal commitment is not something to be taken lightly and not something a prospect can wield over the heads of others to do his bidding. Once they commit, as far as the UW coaches are concerned - you are a Husky. You are already part of the team.
As long as players like Cook and the rest of the currently committed prospects take that message to heart and honor their word, the UW coaches can take their sales pitch on the road this May with confidence knowing it was good enough to already land some of the top players on the west coast. And that’s a powerful tool, because the coaches can then walk the talk with their remaining targets and families, and actually mean it.
So much of college football recruiting is a smokescreen: official visits a 48-hour mirage. But the Washington coaches, starting with Chris Petersen, pride themselves on their transparency - and this is just one more way they can walk the talk with confidence.