Coach's Corner

You can't help but notice the obvious northwest influence in Keith Gilbertson's first recruiting class. Getting over a dozen prospects from right out of their own backyard signifies a change in at least geographic emphasis for the Washington Huskies.

Gilbs and his staff are definitely making a statement and the line in the sand has been drawn around the state of Washington. Right at the borders. There are just enough prospects in the state to feed the programs at both Washington and WSU. There are usually about 20 kids each year from this state who are good enough to play at the Pac-10 level.

Year in and year out, Washington should continue this trend of getting the top dozen of those prospects, and it will eventually result in championship caliber teams.

Let's establish one thing right now. I don't care how this class is rated by the experts or recruiting guru's. I don't have to read their stuff anymore, and quite honestly the only ones I did read, worked for

The Huskies are always picked about third or fourth in this conference no matter if there are 20 five-star players or one. This year, I know they landed the kind of kids they wanted and kids who wanted to be Huskies. People from outside this region don't realize it, but you don't have to go too far to find the types of football players in order to be successful at either the UW or WSU.

This state plays very good high school football and has excellent high school coaching. The state has traditionally produced top flight quarterbacks for both in-state colleges. The linemen produced by the State of Washington have been consistently of high quality as well. A good ratio would seem to be 60-65% of the overall team being from Washington. The majority of the walk on's should be and are right out of the local high schools.

There are always at least 10-15 really good high school players in state. The rest are usually projections. The significance of this is that if you're going to take a flier on a kid who you think will contribute after 3-4 years, then that kid ought to be an in-state kid who you have more information on and really "wants to" be a Husky. It just makes sense.

I think local kids would be hard pressed not to look hard at the two in-state colleges. Both schools offer top tier football programs and has the added advantage of parents being able to watch their sons in person makes it a family friendly decision. This also really helps the local high school coaches because their kids have a much better chance of landing a scholarship from one of their own state colleges. No one knows their kids as well as Bill Doba or Keith Gilbertson. How can they?

WSU does well in eastern Washington while the Huskies tend to dominate the greater Seattle area. They usually split Tacoma and the northwest corner of the state. Oregon has become a factor in the southwest part of the state, (again because of proximity) but both UW and WSU have gotten great kids out of that area as well.

Each year that Gilbs is in charge, you will to see he and Scott Pelluer and Randy Hart will continue to dominate the state of Washington. Gilbs is from this state and is right out of this state's football legacy. He knows the coaches and he knows the culture. He will get the kids who have good work ethics and have that element of toughness. The coaches of the state know and trust Gilbs, and the local coaches can really be a huge key in recruiting. All of these factors helped the Huskies in their success of recruiting Washington this year. Randy Hart is excellent with the state coaches and is well respected. Pelluer is from the state and went to WSU, which I always thought of as an advantage whenever I was recruiting against the Cougars.

Looking to the south just for a second, the reopening of the greater Los Angeles area for Washington is fantastic to see. A long time strong hold for Husky recruiting, it had all but dried up over the past few years. Thanks to the hard work by Bobby Kennedy and Cornell Jackson the Huskies made another statement in an area that kids frequently decide to leave for school. Seattle is still a big city compared to the other towns in the conference like Eugene, Pullman, Tucson, and Corvallis. I have always found that this appealed to kids from LA, San Diego, and San Francisco. They felt at home and more comfortable in a city type environment. The key was to always recruit all of the good players in the greater LA basin and realize that there was only so many that the two LA schools could take. Once that was established, then you go hard after those that wanted to get away for school.

Through the years Notre Dame would come in and take kids from the Catholic schools and occasionally Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan, and Nebraska would sneak a kid out but basically next to the LA schools, Washington had one of the most consistent presences in LA recruiting. I really think that once the Huskies get their alumni reorganized to support these kids that you will always see a handful of LA prospects coming north.

Obviously a number of factors play into the exclusive Washington and LA connections to recruiting. Whenever you have an off year, as the Huskies did this past season, there will be a tendency to circle the wagons and defend the home turf first. The local kids know the traditions of Husky Football. They know the atmosphere of Husky Stadium. They know the integrity of the Huskies coaches. They want to play at home and therefore it makes it a lot easier to convince them and their parents that they should stay local to play. You try to put your efforts where there is the most likelihood of positive returns. If there is no built in connection to get a kid to Washington then you are just about wasting time by flying all over the country. The rules allow you to see a kid only once a week during the contact period. To fly a coach all the way across the country takes three days - one to get there, one to see the kid, and one to get back. Unless there is a real connection there, it's a waste of time. There is no way to disguise that Washington is the furthest point from anywhere in the continental USA.

When recruiting on the road, in three days a coach can usually see five kids in his primary recruiting area. Therefore you have to recruit and travel where you are the strongest. When you recruit your own back yard, you can see as many as 8-10 prospects in a 7-day period. Gilbs and his staff did just that and the results are tremendous. There was a serious advantage to not playing in a bowl game, but regardless, the Huskies have taken back their own state.

Sure Oregon slipped a kid out but that's going to happen. Klovas, the offensive lineman, went south. Some kids merely want to leave and you can't really dwell on those who get away. You had better worry about the ones you got and whether or not they are tough enough to play and whether or not they'll ever quit. That's what you get paid to do.

After seeing this class, I firmly believe that it is one of the best classes in the last decade. I'll let you know for sure in five years when we have all of the statistics that are the most relevant. The areas I'll be looking at are:
- Of the 22 or so who sign on Wednesday (not counting the JC kids) how many will still be in the program after 5 years?
- How many of those will have their degrees?
- How many championships did their class win?
- How many bowl games did they go to?
- Did they all stay out of major trouble?
- How many were starters?
- And finally how many got a chance to play at the next level?

None of these questions can be answered by any rating system right now. It takes five years to rate a recruiting class, but the way coaches are fired now, those rankings might not be relevant to anything, either.

Recruiting Coordinator Chuck Heater did a great job this year and so did Gilbs. They really busted their rears to bring in a lineman dominated class. Football games are still won up front and by the teams that block and tackle the best.

That is what you get in this class. Look at the number of safeties and linemen. Remember big safeties can become real fast linebackers so look to see some of these kids move up during the years to come.

Count the linemen. It is the first time in over seven years that the Huskies have brought in a whole offensive and defensive front in one class. That wasn't an accident. Don't worry about the number of stars in front of any of these kids. The true stars will rise to the challenge and over the next five years will make their own stars. This is a really well balanced and solid recruiting class.

Print this out and see how I did on this prediction five years from now:

  • This class will win a championship or two
  • 18 of them will graduate
  • Seven will get to play at the next level.

    So it is said. Let it be done. So say the gardening coach.

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