Recruiting: Start your engines

When looking at the need areas for any college that is on the road recruiting, you can always look at the ‘hosses' up front. Let's face it, whoever said the game was won or lost in the trenches knew what they were talking about. Washington is no exception, and they'll look to add talent and depth to their lines for the coming seasons.

On the defensive side of the ball, Washington has verbal commitments from Rogers High School's Dan Milsten (6-5 260) and Moses Lake's Jordan Reffett (6-6 250). Both project to play defensive end for now, a real need for the Huskies since they will lose Marcus Roberson to graduation and the status of Spencer Marona (two shoulder surgeries) and Ossim Hatem (blood clots) remains up in the air. Milsten is a big guy that could bulk up and move inside if needed but Reffett looks like a natural on the edge.

On the defensive interior, Washington picked up a very early verbal from Poly's Maurice Murray (6-4 300) , a very talented player who's academic status may be a tough hurdle for entry into the UW according to Student Sports magazine. The Huskies lose All-American Larry Tripplett in the middle so there is significant need there.

On the offensive line, Washington has done a marvelous job the past two seasons bringing in big athletic guys that will pay dividends in the near future. The Huskies already have a jump on this year's class because they will welcome CCSF's Francisco Tipoti (6-5 300) as a junior college transfer at tackle and will be in school this winter. Incoming freshman Jim Rains (6-5 290) from Anacortes will enroll at Skagit CC and take a quarter of classes to fulfill some academic obligations, and will also work on raising his SAT score. If all goes as planned, he would enroll in the spring quarter. Tipoti will take part in spring practices in March and April and should move immediately into the first rotation of eight linemen while Rains will learn the ropes for his first couple of seasons. Washington must replace three-year starter Kyle Benn at center.

The tight end position appears to be a real need, as Washington will likely lose three of them. John Westra and Joe Collier both graduate while junior Jerramy Stevens could very well declare himself eligible for the NFL draft and leave a season early. Stevens has not revealed his plans as of press time, but expect the Huskies to try to get at least two tight ends this year to go with Joe Toledo and Andy Heater, the two they took last year.

With these thoughts in mind, here is a possible projection for how the defensive line, offensive line, and tight end positions could shake out for the 2002 recruiting class:

Dan Milsten 6-5 260 Rogers HS, Puyallup – Dan is the earliest commit in the history of the University of Washington. His 345-pound bench press and 500-pound squat are impressive numbers. PacWest Football ranks him as the #11 DT prospect in the west.

Jordan Reffett 6-6 250 Moses Lake HS, WA – Reffett's stock was just beginning to soar when the Huskies secured a verbal from him. He is a double threat, playing both tight end and defensive end. The Huskies had him in their summer camp and loved what they saw, enough so to offer him early. He will be a defensive end.

Maurice Murray 6-4 300 Poly HS, CA – Murray only has one trip scheduled, to Washington. He verballed very early to Rick Neuheisel. The Huskies hope to get Murray into school and to perhaps tap further into the talent rich Poly pipeline. Murray's teammate last year, CB Kim Taylor, didn't qualify for the Huskies last fall.

DT Jake Kuresa 6-4 315 Mountain Crest HS, Utah – Kuresa may be the top interior lineman on the Husky defensive board. He's big, very mobile, and athletic enough to have played some fullback for his team. He runs a very impressive 5.09 and benched 185 pounds 34 times. At press time he had yet to set up a visit to Seattle, however.

DT Jonathan Mapu 6-3 265 Kahuhu, HI - Nebraska, Washington and BYU are his top three. He is of the Mormon faith and will take a two-year mission at some point in his playing career. Mapu has been a terror on defense for the past two seasons for the Raiders.

DT Chris Solomona 6-5 285 4.8 El Camino JC, CA – Solomona has been listed as a soft UW commit for quite some time but the Huskies have yet to entirely close the door and solidifying it. He has the mobility to play either inside or out, and was a JC all-American this year. He could be the closest thing to a "must have" at this position for Washington.

DT Loren Howard 6-5 270 Saguaro, AZ – Washington is in the hunt for Howard along with Northwestern, Stanford, ASU, and Nebraska. He has family in Washington and hopes to visit the Huskies in early January.

DE Donny Mateaki 6-6 262 Honolulu, HI – He favors Colorado after his visit to Boulder. Washington is hoping to make up that ground with a visit in early December. With a 405-pound bench press, Mateaki is ready to play immediately for a team with a need at defensive end. He is a beast on the edge of the defense.

DE Brandon Ala 6-3 225 Honolulu, HI – The anchor for Kamehameha, Ala is an active pass rusher from the end position. He won the IHL discus champion as a sophomore with a throw of 177 feet, 2 inches. Oregon and Washington are going head to head for him.

DE Albert Ma'afala 6-2 260 Honolulu, HI – Ala's teammate at Kamehameha, Ma'afala is also looking at Oregon and Wisconsin. He'll visit Seattle this weekend and he lists the Huskies as co-leaders with Oregon. He would like to play his college ball with Ala if possible.

DT Fred Matua 6-1 290 Banning HS, CA – "The Stare." All Fred has to do is look at you and you start looking for a place to hide. He'd be a terrible poker player. Matua is a fantastic football player, and is showing late interest in the Huskies after going a while with no contact from the UW coaches. His coaches initiated contact with Washington and he is now probably going to visit Seattle if the schedule can be worked out. It would be a HUGE comeback for the Huskies to land Matua after being off the radar for so long.

DT Manual Wright 6-7 305 Poly HS, CA – He is a beast, and he's looking at the Huskies. His quickness is amazing for a man of his size, and it's what separates him from the rest. Washington hopes that he and some of his Poly teammates will catch some Husky fever when they visit in December. He could play right away and be a pain in the ass for any offensive lineman that faces him.

DE Matt Mason 6-5 260 Glendale CC, AZ – 2nd team All-American, as named by the NJCAA, Mason is getting heavy interest from South Carolina, Southern Mississippi, UCLA, and Michigan as well as Washington. Our thought is that if the Huskies offer, he'd accept, and his family indicated earlier that Washington was in the driver's seat.

Prediction: Washington already has Reffett and Milsten for sure. Murray may need to go the JC route, time will tell. I think the Huskies will add Solomona, Ala, and Mateaki to that mix. Mateaki will be key, and he's interested. UW will need to close with a fury to get him, especially now that Haloti Ngata is gone (Nebraska).

Francisco Tipoti 6-5 300 City College of San Francisco, CA – Tipoti was supposed to be part of this year's Husky team but an incomplete in a speech course held him back. He is set to become a Husky this spring and challenge for immediate playing time at weak tackle. He's living in Seattle already and was a fixture at Husky games this fall.

Jim Rains 6-4 290 Anacortes HS, WA – Rains pledged his verbal last winter to Washington but will attend Skagit CC this quarter to fulfill academic requirements. The hope is that he'll be able to enroll at Washington in the spring, but it's uncertain whether or not he'd be able to participate in spring football. He also will work on raising his SAT score this winter.

Kyle Williams 6-6 275 Highland Park, TX – It's pretty obvious that the Huskies are extremely high on this young man. It's now down to a two-horse race between Washington and USC. He is one of the top prospects in all of Texas and would be a huge get for the Huskies. He'll visit Seattle on January 11th and then USC the following weekend.

Stanley Daniels 6-3 300 San Diego, CA – Daniels may be one of the most athletic linemen prospects on the coast, as he plays tight end for Marion Catholic. He'll make some school an outstanding offensive guard, and the Huskies hope it's them. He'll visit Seattle this weekend. He has already visited Nebraska and lists them as his current leader but told Chris Fetters that he was very excited about his trip to Seattle. We'll see if his mind is still seeing red after a visit to the Purple and Gold.

Nathan Rhodes 6-7 305 Bakersfield, CA – Rhodes is considered the top lineman on the west coast by many. He ran a 5.15, showing he can really move his feet. He'll visit Washington in December and the Huskies are battling Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, and UCLA for his services.

Winston Justice 6-7 292 Poly HS, CA – Washington has apparently made significant gains in the recruitment of Justice, who will visit Seattle on December 14th. The other two schools that he's favoring right now are Tennessee and Oklahoma, but never count out the hometown schools USC and UCLA. LSU has been mentioned as well. Justice had 38 scholarship offers this fall.

David Beall 6-6 300 Mountain View HS, WA – Beall visited Seattle last weekend and came away impressed but didn't hint that there was any change in his leader just yet, which has been Stanford. UCLA is also in the hunt as is Oregon State, but Stanford may be awfully tough to beat for this future engineer major.

Albert Toeaina 6-5 325 Pittsburg, CA – Toeaina will visit Washington this weekend, and we believe that he will commit to the Huskies on his visit. The Huskies have done a great job of being on him since day one and will likely beat out USC for his services. Ran a 5.22 40 and benched 185 pounds 30 times.

Robin Kezirian 6-4 270 Fresno, CA – Kezirian has a scholarship offer from Washington and will visit on December 14th. He's entertaining that offer and also looking at Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, and the hometown FSU Bulldogs. His 5-flat 40 time is impressive as is his 355 bench press. Offensive guard is likely for this talented Californian.

Alex Potasi 6-6 320 Harbor City, CA – It looks like it could be a two-team race for Potasi between UCLA and Washington. He'll visit Seattle this weekend and then UCLA on January 11th unless the Bruins run out of scholarships by then. Potasi is from Narbonne High School and Washington is recruiting two of his teammates very hard as well: TB Marcus O'Keith and ATH Dashon Goldson, and appear to be doing well with all three.

Clayton Walker 6-4 270 Scottsdale, AZ – Has an offer from Washington and UCLA. Those are his two top teams but he said this week that the Huskies lead. He will visit UCLA this weekend and the UW the following weekend and may very well make up his mind after that despite offers from ASU, Arizona, CSU, WSU, and Wyoming.

Elliot Vallejo 6-8 270 Salinas, CA – Vallejo had hoped to commit to Stanford but there was a snag in the acceptance process and now it appears he's not Palo Alto bound. Washington was his second choice so now they move to the front of the line. He started the season around 300 pounds but has slimmed down. If the Huskies offer, he's probably UW bound. He will be in Seattle on December 14th.

OL Jacob Bingham 6-5 300 El Cajon, CA - An All-League selection, Bingham has offers from Washington, WSU, ASU, Colorado, Utah State, UNLV, and Nebraska. He'll visit Seattle this weekend and has already visited ASU.

PREDICTION: With Tipoti and Rains in the fold already, Washington will add at the very least, three more. I believe it will be Potasi, Justice, and Vallejo. Williams and Daniels could swing in the UW favor as well, and if they do, you'd better believe there would be openings for them.
TIGHT ENDS: - Need = 2

Ben Bandel 6-7 250 4.7 Murrieta Valley HS, CA – Bandel has very good hands but he's a big kid that blocks well, too. Bandel has an offer and is very close to taking it. In fact, he expressed fear that the spot the UW has reserved for him may be gone if he waits too long. Washington has two openings, though, and would likely save one for Bandel for a short time, anyway. He visits next weekend.

Joe Newton 6-7 235 Roseburg, OR – PacWest Football rates Newton as the #4 TE prospect on the west coast. Washington will battle the Oregon schools for this fine athlete who carries a 3.7 GPA and scored a 1310 on the SAT.

Jason Benn 6-5 240 Seattle, WA – With offers from Idaho and Washington, it would appear that the Huskies are in the driver's seat for Benn, a legacy recruit. However if Bandel, Boyd, and Crutchley all accept their offers, will there be enough room for Jason? Before Bob Davie was fired, Jason was attempting to set up a visit to South Bend, and possibly Corvallis to see the OSU campus.

Aaron Austin 6-6 250 Fresno City CC, CA – Alabama loves this kid and are making a push for him. Auburn is doing the same. He's big, strong, and runs a 4.8 40 at 250 pounds. He's the top TE JC prospect on the board for the Huskies. If Jerramy Stevens leaves, the push for Austin will definitely intensify.

Dash Crutchley 6-6 220 4.5 Chaparral HS, CA – Crutchley will visit Seattle this weekend. He has an offer from the Huskies and he probably needs to accept on this visit or his scholarship may be taken off of the table. He's raw but oh what an athlete, whose only played football for two years so far. The upside is unlimited.

PREDICTION: Washington signs two and those are up for grabs. Whoever wants them first will get them, but they must act fast. I believe it will be Bandel and Benn. Crutchley may come but it may be as an athlete.
NEXT UP: Part III - The Linebackers and Fullbacks.

Part One – The Skill Positions Top Stories