Coach's Corner

Don't look now, but Keith Gilbertson and crew are quietly putting together one of the better recruiting classes in recent memory, at least since the 85 scholarship limit came into play. The films do not lie.

This potential first-year group of Gilby's is going to be rated far above Rick Neuheisel's first haul, but that can be explained partially by the fact that Rick didn't get hired until after the first of the year. He only had about four weeks to keep together and finish his first group.

Still, as a former recruiting coordinator, I can tell you that the balance, the linemen, and over all size and speed might rate as high as any class over the past decade. I'm not kidding.

They won't be recognized by the guru's or rated even in the top ten nationally, but the quality and quantity of commits (17 as I write this) is excellent. The statement that "The state of Washington belongs to Washington" is not just ringing hollow. Gilby and his staff are putting a real emphasis on it, and it's paying dividends.

There are only two or three in-state kids (of the top dozen or so) that are not going to play for the Huskies. Gilbs has set certain requirements and they have literally rejected a couple of the highest rated in-state players. The tough questions are being asked again. Questions such as, "Will he ever quit?' and, "Does he have head hunter type toughness?" and, "Is he willing to come early and stay late?" are part of the Husky evaluation once again.

Adding a bulldog recruiter like Scott Pelluer to recruiting the home state along with long time veteran, Randy Hart, has also paid dividends. Landing Matt Tuiasosopo and Keuantea Bankhead, the two best players in the state, are proof.

The question was asked, a lot to me, "Will Gilbertson be able to recruit like Coach Neuheisel did?" Only time will tell that, but if you followed Pac-10 recruiting during the time he was at California (I did), you saw that he landed some of the best players in the conference during his brief stay there. There were more NFL players out of Cal from his recruiting than any other period over the past 20 years.

Can he recruit? Yes.

It's also about time that someone realizes what an important role that recruiting coordinator Chuck Heater has been playing. He is very professional, very thorough, and very organized. His assistant, Jamie Koehler, likewise is a wonderfully dedicated and committed recruiter. They share an office and share a passion and it is starting to show.

When prospective student athletes visit Seattle, Washington Football sells itself. Good people like Gertrude Peoples, Abner Thomas, and Bruce Hilliard all help out when the kids visit, which lends both a personal and team touch to it. Recruits and parents recognize this and it is one of the reasons why Washington is always so competitive when it comes down to recruiting.

So far, so good is really an understatement. I can't remember the Huskies having this many commitments before Christmas. This is often a reflection of not going to a bowl game but in this case it also reflects on the commitment to change. Linemen have priority and "character questions" take precedents over "star ratings". Toughness and character are the keys for the new direction the program is going to take.

One only has to know and understand kids to realize why Gilbs has such an appeal with them. Kids are looking for honesty and they want to know that you care. This is also why Bill Doba has such an appeal in Pullman. Gilbs is at ease with kids and that comes from a long career of working in the trenches.

If you want a pretty boy, smooth talker, Gucci man, you're looking at the wrong guy. Keith is a ball coach and a down to earth guy. Kids like that. How the heck do you think Bill Parcells does so good in the NFL?

Don't judge a book by it's cover. Judge it by what's inside. Get a read on it. Washington was just good enough to be decent in 2003 and just bad enough that kids would think they have a chance to come in and help if they chose to go to Washington. USC will get theirs and so will UCLA, but more importantly, the Huskies, by making a clean sweep in their own state, will also get theirs.

Gilbs is recruiting from his own state first but now greater LA again becomes the second most important recruiting area. Check out what Bobby Kennedy is doing down there. He is wonderful with kids and together with Cornell Jackson makes a good tandem of recruiters in what traditionally has been a Husky secondary recruiting stronghold.

The current class is liable to be a full 25 strong even though there are not that many spots available. Still, with respect to attrition, it will all fit easily. With only about a half a dozen spots left, the Huskies can concentrate on filling some need positions like a tight end that can stretch the field, another linebacker, a big running back, another defensive linemen (preferably a speed pass rusher) and maybe a wide receiver/corner, or just an "athlete" category. They are operating from a position of strength because they already have 17 in the boat. They will have three weekends in January to try to put some icing on the cake but when it's all said and done, Gilbs will emerge with a very solid and balanced class because he went out and got the best local beef early.

After all the trials and tribulations that the team went thru in 2003, it is a great way to start 2004. Top Stories