Not only is it another recruiting win for the Dawgs over their feathered friends to the south (Alex Cook, Marlon Tuipulotu, and Keith Taylor have all currently picked UW over UO), but Washington also cherry-picks from fertile ground: Folsom is the same school that produced current UW quarterback Jake Browning.
So what are the Huskies getting in Ariel Ngata?
Let me defer to Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins, who was nice enough to give us a great breakdown on what he sees in the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ngata.
"Great looking kid with a long, athletic frame, rangy and covers a ton of ground. He was supposed to attend the NIKE Camp in Oakland and I really think he would have a chance to light that camp up. He's a high level athlete who moves very well, not just straight line but laterally, can change direction, stop and start and is a very active player. He's an explosive hitter and will run right through an opposing ball carrier. He also shows some things in the pass rush and his last few closing steps are tremendous."
Ngata's senior highlights can be seen HERE.
Are you sensing a certain theme with the type of player Washington is recruiting at linebacker? Going back to the 2015 class with Bryce Sterk, Tevis Bartlett, Jusstis Warren, DJ Beavers, Myles Rice, Ben Burr-Kirven and Kyler Manu - and later in 2016 with Camilo Eifler and Brandon Wellington - it's easy to find common traits among all nine of these linebackers: athletic, tough, rangy, and smart. Almost all the outside linebackers have 'long levers' - long arms. Bob Gregory and Pete Kwiatkowski love those type of long-limbed athletes that can make up for any mistakes by using that length and their athleticism to maximum advantage.
Ariel Ngata just continues the trend set by the departing senior outside linebackers Cory Littleton and Travis Feeney, both of whom were also smart, lanky athletes coming out of high school. Gregory and Kwiatkowski have seemingly hit on a winning defensive formula that includes having superior athletes on the outside that can hold edges and also wreak havoc in backfields when required, which is often.
That all sounds obvious, but it's much harder in practice because you have to actually find superior athletes capable of pulling all that off. In some ways, the UW defensive coaches were fortunate the previous staff had stockpiled some nice athletes that they could mold. It definitely worked out.
Now the UW staff has a chance to keep that momentum going by finding replacements that may or not be ready-made to hit the ground running. Whether they are good enough to step in right away as true freshmen clearly has a basis in depth and opportunity to play. The Huskies are getting to the point in their linebacker depth where immediate playing time may be hard to recruit on.
But playing for the best defense in the Pac-12 should trump all, and that's where Ngata should find himself as a true freshman heading into the 2017 season if everything holds to form.
What does it mean for the Washington linebacker group going forward?
Here’s one possible depth chart as to how the linebacker group could look like for the Huskies in 2017, NFL status and eligibility options notwithstanding:
BUCK (weak side outside)
Connor O'Brien (6-3, 240, Sr.)
Myles Rice (6-4, 246, So.)
Jusstis Warren (6-2, 250, So.)
WIL (weak side inside)
Keishawn Bierria (6-1, 226, Sr.)
Ben Burr-Kirven (6-0, 215, Jr.)
DJ Beavers (6-0, 224, So.)
Brandon Wellington (6-1, 205, Fr.)
Matt Preston (6-2, 219, Jr.)*
Gerran Brown (6-2, 213, So.)
Azeem Victor (6-3, 227, Sr.)
Sean Constantine (6-2, 232, Sr.)
Kyler Manu (6-1, 237, Jr.)
Camilo Eifler (6-2, 219, Fr.)
Jake Wambaugh (6-1, 230, Jr.)*
SAM (strong side outside)
Tevis Bartlett (6-2, 229, Jr.)
Bryce Sterk (6-4, 242, So.)
Amandre Williams (6-3, 223, So.)
Ariel Ngata (6-4, 215, Fr.)
How is that for depth? And Washington isn't done with their linebacker recruiting, despite very limited spots. Gone are the days of having to rely on true freshmen for depth. 2016 should be the last year that happens, barring the inclusion of a five-star, can't-miss prospect adding their name to this current UW recruiting cycle. At this point, that's what it's going to take - and frankly, if you're a UW fan you should find that thought a refreshing change.
Really, looking at every position there is a coverage of class that gives Gregory and Kwiatkowski opportunities to experiment and expand on roles. As we saw with Littleton and Feeney, the SAM and BUCK roles can often interchange, depending on offensive formation. Ngata will be asked to understand both outside linebacker spots, as is the case with all current UW OLBs.
What does this mean for Washington going forward in terms of landing more quality for the 2017 class?
Again, let me defer to the recruiting experts. Here's Greg Biggins' take on one possible scenario:
"(Ngata) actually has some similar qualities to Husky target Addison Gumbs and they would obviously kill to land both kids. Gumbs is probably a little more advanced as a pass rusher while Ngata looks very good playing in space and might be a little stronger in run support. Ariel is a really nice pickup for the Huskies and I can't say enough about how well the staff has things rolling right now."
That would be the sound heard around Montlake if Washington were to land Ngata AND Gumbs. Gumbs is currently the No. 6 OLB nationally by Scout.com, and could be moving up the ladder. And the Huskies will have to earn his expected June commitment over the usual suspects: USC, UCLA, and Oregon.
It's surface analysis, but the gist of a Ngata-Gumbs combo would - on paper - work just like it did this past season with Littleton and Feeney. One plays the SAM, the other plays BUCK - sometimes they stay at those spots the whole game, sometimes they mix it up. The more they understand the defense, the more they earn the coaches' trust and can play around with it. The more they play around with it, the more unpredictable they become to offensive coordinators.
So who knows if Ngata's commitment speeds up Gumbs's thought process, but there's no question he likes the Huskies. He visited Montlake during spring and clearly thinks highly of the UW coaches. We'll know soon enough if Washington's recruiting pitch seals the deal, but it feels so transparent even I could sell it. Gumbs slots right into a position tailor-made for his athleticism and ability.
One thing is for certain: with Ngata being Washington's eighth verbal commitment for their 2017 recruiting class, spots are dwindling by the week. We have forecasted for a long time that 17 is the working number, and UW is basically halfway there - and it's not even June.
And I haven't even discussed Ngata's impact for future classes, which could be even bigger. His younger brother Joe, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound WR/FS prospect from Folsom for the 2019 recruiting class, already has a Washington scholarship offer. Brothers in arms? Obviously Joe has just started his high school career, but the Huskies have put in a big bid that could pay dividends down the road. They were the first to offer older brother, and look how that turned out.
Chris Petersen and his staff have really worked their magic early in this cycle, and there's no reason to expect at least 2-3 more commitments before the season begins. Gumbs could certainly be one to watch for, and expect the quarterback situation to definitely be resolved before August.
Who could be the next? Could it be Gumbs? Could it be a quarterback, like Jack Sears or Chase Garbers? Could be one of the local studs still left on the board? Henry Bainivalu? Salvon Ahmed? Foster Sarell?
Who pops next is up for debate: what isn't is the fact that Washington's recruiting star is on the rise. Biggins said it himself. They have things rolling, and getting Ngata in the fold is just another example of the Huskies being proactive in the process.