Immediate impact

Every single recruit in an incoming class of freshmen and junior college transfers is important. They were all evaluated based on the fact that they had something they could bring to Washington to improve their football team. Some have speed, others have a nose for the football, others have instincts, and others have leadership capabilities that make others around them better.

While it is easy in this day of internet site jockeys to be fed incredible hype that overestimates the impact a recruit can have on a team, you can still never underestimate what any one kid can bring to a football program.

Attitude, work ethic, respect, honor, scholastic aptitude, and of course, talent, all figure into that impact. Who would've thought Dave Hoffmann, ex-All American linebacker, would have the impact he did? Dick Baird did, but let's face it - if the internet was around back then, everyone would've focused on his 4.9 speed and said, "No thanks." Same with Jimmy Rogers, the safety on the 'Purple Reign' defense. He never ran better than a 4.8 but his heart and the ability to take perfect angles outweighed what guys that could run 4.4 40s and were forced to make arm tackles had because they didn't have what Rogers had.

I'm digressing a bit. Sorry.

The focus of this article is not to laud any one recruit from the most recent class Keith Gilbertson brought in, but rather to analyze which recruits might have the most immediate impact in terms of the product on the football field. Washington has some holes that need help this fall, and I see five kids in the current recruiting class that may have a chance to ply their wares as early as September in order to provide that help.

1) Dashon Goldson – At 6-2 and 208 pounds, Goldson is physically intimidating. He is bigger, much bigger, than any safety on the current roster. While not as tall as Chris Hemphill, Dashon is much thicker and physics would dictate that he would create a much more violent collision when running into a would-be ball carrier or receiver. Coach Phil Snow lamented to me last year that Washington hasn't had a safety in years that could make the Husky Stadium crowd go, 'oooooohhhhh' when delivering a big hit. You know, one of those hits that makes a receiver look up and find you when the huddle breaks and they line up for the next snap. Lawyer Milloy had it, as well as Tim Peoples and Tommie Smith before him.

As a safety, you want to be in the back of their mind so when the play is unfolding, they are not only thinking about where they are to go and where the ball is going, they are also thinking of where you might be planting your shoulder pads on their body. Goldson has that capability, assuming his shoulder will heal properly. All indications are that it will, and he should provide nice strong safety run support to complement Jimmy Newell's coverage over the top. Snow trusts Newell and sees him as another coach in the back line of defense. Goldson needs to be the guy that opposing receivers think about. He'll have his chance this fall.

2) Caesar Rayford - Rayford can run well enough to play some mean defensive end, but he may be needed more at tight end this fall. He is tall, fairly lanky, but has the ability to stretch the field. Washington desperately needs a big guy that can make linebackers play more laterally away from the box. Jon Lyon can do it sometimes and Dash Crutchley is learning, but Rayford has skills that would add a great dimension that has been missing. As big of a load as a healthy Joe Toledo is, Rayford could stretch zones and umbrella coverage because of his speed. It will remain to be proven this fall in practice whether he has the hands to do it yet, or even if Gilby decides to try him on offense. But opportunity is knocking on the Bethel lad's door.

3) Greyson Gunheim - Washington needs to find a way to improve their pass rush. Last year the defensive end's job was to contain while Terry Johnson collapsed the pocket. Once teams found out that they could single team Jerome Stevens they would double and triple-team Johnson and that strategy would backfire until Johnson would be moved outside or stunt. Then coordinators would roll the pocket or running plays away from his side and the Husky defense was exploited. Gunheim was a running back in high school, with some speed. I'm not sure I believe the 4.4 reported 40 speed, but if he can turn in a 4.6 and be strong enough to get off blocks, that's good enough for me. I love the idea of having a big guy with speed on the outside getting the corner. Washington hasn't really had much of that since Jason Chorak. Gunheim is big enough and fast enough, now it remains to be seen if he is strong enough. If he is, I can't see NOT playing him and seeing if he can help in this regard. Manase Hopoi is now too big and Mateaki is built more for power than speed around the edge. Gunheim may be the guy, but I have to believe that he'll get a crack at this job. Situational pass rushing is important, as it keeps the starters fresh when they don't have to chase the quarterback on third down.

4) Tyler Ashby - The Huskies are so thin at the interior offensive line positions, a true freshman may be forced to play some. Even if they don't play, they'll be asked to practice with the twos to provide the defense with some solid scrimmaging. Enter Ashby, the man-child from Ballard. While he wasn't as highly regarded as some of the other linemen in this class, Ashby has "the look" in his eye. At 6-4 290, his body looks ready for the next level. Of course he'll need to work on strength, what 18-year old kid doesn't to play at the Pac-10 level? But Ashby will bring his lunch pail to work every day and do whatever Coach Dickey tells him to do. He'll be green, but I think he'll surprise some with how well he does at this level because of his attitude. With Sa'au's back in question and Garcia's fibula broken, I think someone will be called on to provide immediate help in depth on the inside at both guard and center. That somebody could be Ashby, and if he cracks the two-deeps, he won't redshirt. You can't really redshirt a two-deeper because you have to have him battle-ready. He's the one that took all of the reps in practice in every situation, so unless you can move someone from somewhere else and feel comfortable that they'll perform well under fire . . . let's just hope that Sa'au returns and that Garcia's awful injury heals up nicely.

5) Matt Tuiasosopo - Now you think I'm crazy. I know. But with the new offense that will be run in 2004, Matt Tuiasosopo may be the best option (no pun intended). This is a kid that can motor, he has instincts that you cannot teach, he makes terrific decisions, and the offense that Washington is unveiling will suit him beautifully. Start a true freshman at quarterback? No, it won't happen, but Matt may not redshirt next year. That would not shock me in the least. His arm is very sound, as attested to QB guru Bob Johnson and former NFL QB Greg Barton. These are men who are very qualified to comment on the abilities of a quarterback, and both feel that Matt is ready and adaptable to just about any system you throw at him. With the Husky offensive line in such a state of flux, more than one quarterback will play. I think Matt will get his chance sooner rather than later. Unless of course, he opts to play professional baseball, in which case his impact will be on the negative side of the depth ledger for the Husky football program.

Based on what went down this spring, those are the five guys, in my opinion, that could have an immediate impact on next year's team. If I were to pick an honorable mention, it would go to FB Luke Kravitz. He's undersized but he will be a terrific blocking back for the Huskies. The ability to block a pass rusher is so underrated it isn't funny. It takes smarts, talent, fearlessness, and instincts. Nothing ever goes as it's diagrammed, so you have to be able to adjust on the fly. Not all backs can do it, and it is that talent (or lack thereof) that often determines who heads to the bench and who enters the huddle on third down.

Ideally you'd love to redshirt your entire class, but I don't see that happening.

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