Recruiting: kicking into overdrive

OK. It's time to take a look at the two positions that are often recruited together. When you think about it, it makes sense. If you are after a guy that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 205-245 pounds, can move well, and has a nose for the football, if you want him on defense then linebacker is a logical choice. If you are looking at offense, that would be fullback.

Washington has all but one of their linebackers returning from the 2001 football season. At fullback they lose Ken Walker. With that in mind, you'd think that the needs might be nonexistent at these two positions.

If you think that, you'd be wrong.

Let's start on the offensive side of the ball. There were two reasons why the option worked so well in 2000 for the Washington Huskies. It was such a weapon that most defenses that faced the Huskies would line up in a base scheme that was designed to stop the option. Still, Washington did well at chewing up yards and clock with it. The first reason was that they had perhaps the most exciting football player in college football with the football in his hands. Marques Tuiasosopo was a linebacker's nightmare because of his uncanny ability to make things happen and improvise when needed. He was most dangerous when he got outside the pocket and was coming up the line. Although he never had Mark Brunell's (or Cody Pickett's) speed, he had that uncoachable ability to make people miss and then to use his strength and quickness to get down field and hurt you.

The other missing ingredient this year, and perhaps much more prominent, was the lack of an established fullback threat on the dive. How much did this offense miss Pat Conniff? More than anyone imagined they would. Conniff was a very legitimate threat if you ignored him, just ask Purdue. Washington was unable to make Walker or Matthias Wilson into that same type of threat to take pressure off of Pickett and the tailback. True Freshman Dan McCourtie struggled on the scout team early, as expected when you are moving from a program the size of Othello High School to the University of Washington. How he looks this spring will go a long way in determining the need at fullback. He could be the answer, time will tell. Two other names to take a look at could be Ty Eriks and Zach Tuiasosopo. Both could be definite threats at fullback and their names have been mentioned. Nothing concrete yet, but something to watch for in the next 15 practices and in spring ball.

On the defense, Washington will lose Jamaun Willis. He provided great leadership on the field and was the hardest hitter on the team for three years running. His heart cannot be replaced but the Dawgs can get more athletic by moving either Tim Galloway or Joseph Lobendahn into that spot. Galloway is the faster of foot but Lobendahn is a headhunter that pries the ball loose from ball carriers like a firefighter uses the jaws of life to rip open a car to get a passenger out. Ben Mahdavi returns after a full year of experience at the WILL position. Considering he moved from the MIKE spot and led the team in tackles this year, he's got a bright future. The Miami football players and coaches all had nice things to say about Ben and his abilities.

However, the linebackers take their share of the blame for the incredible numbers that teams ran up on them this year. They need to get quicker and more physical, not just one or the other. They need to get BOTH. Expect to see players like Marquis Cooper and Lobendahn on the field more in 2002, but there is a need for another body or two with that same package of size and quicks to fill out the linebacker ranks. Will Conwell had a nice year on scout team but I'm not sure where he'll project just yet. Kai Ellis might make a nice MIKE but his torn up knees never really let Husky fans see what he can do from the edge of a defense. He was never able to get off blocks as well as he might have if he had been 100 percent.

With these thoughts in mind, here is a possible projection for how the Huskies may recruit the linebacker and fullback positions for 2002:
FULLBACKS - need = 1

Kenny James 5-11 208 Dos Palos HS, CA:

Kenny has 37 touchdowns and 2400 yards tallied up this year to add on to the 2413 yards and 54 touchdowns he piled up last year. Kenny has an official trip set up with Washington on December 14th, and has already officially visited Washington State. His bruising style would fit nicely at either fullback or in the one-back set. He could be the top fullback prospect on the Husky board, if he's willing to take a look at putting his hand on the ground.

John Ford 6-2 220 Foothill HS, NV

If Ford wants to play tailback, he'll likely keep his commit to UNLV. I believe Washington is recruiting him as a fullback, and he'd make a great one. 1900 yards and 39 TDs this year show a great nose for the end zone, and he's a powerfully built guy with good speed. He would definitely be a threat from the fullback spot if he were willing to take a look at the position and see the field early in his career.

Ryan Cole 5-11 208 South Kitsap HS, WA

Ryan is really a tailback but his frame is something else. He is strong enough to play fullback if needed, as he has a Matthias Wilson-like work ethic. He could project to a fullback if the need arose, but Washington is really recruiting him to carry the rock from the tailback spot right now. He could fill out into a 230-pound bruiser though, with ease, because of how hard he works and how much time he'll spend in the weight room without being asked. He could be a Matt Jones-type fullback, only he has more speed. Wherever he plays, Washington would do well to get a commit from this young man.

Ryan Powdrell 6-0 240 Mission Viejo HS, CA

Powdrell is likely going to go to Fresno State and play linebacker if he can get into school, but Washington would've loved to see him as a blocking fullback. He would be a load back there, but he's also a great linebacker. Pacwestfootball rates him as one of the top linebackers on the West Coast this year. Look for him to go be a Dog, as in Bulldog, however. Grades are a big concern.

Prediction: Washington wants Ford. Ford seems interested in coming and if he does come, I think he'll eventually wind up at fullback.
LINEBACKERS - need = 2

Scott White 6-1 225 Mission Bay, CA

White is the #18 ranked linebacker in the country by, and he enjoyed his October visit to Seattle so much that he is still calling the Huskies his leader at this point. Washington will need to hold off Oklahoma at the wire as the Sooners moved up after his visit to Norman. He had over 100 tackles from his linebacker position this season and racked up over 180 as a junior. With Washington having cooled on Leroy White III and Tremaine Towns, White is clearly at the top of the Husky wish list at linebacker.

LB Dash Crutchley 6-5 215 Chaparral HS, CA

Crutchley visited last weekend and learned that the Huskies were interested in him at linebacker. It came as a bit of a surprise to him but he seems amiable to the switch, even though it's a position he's never played before. Crutchley is such a great athlete the Huskies feel that he would turn into a dynamite linebacker in short order. The problem may be if another school comes forth and recruits him hard as a receiver and he bites on the opportunity.

LB Lance Mitchell 6-3 240 4.6 City College of San Francisco, CA

Mitchell visited Seattle in November and had a great trip with teammate Gabril Wilson, also a UW target. Mitchell told Chris Fetters that "I loved the atmosphere, I could see myself playing there," after his visit. Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida are also clamoring for Mitchell. The Huskies will have to rely on a final in-home visit and the pull from three current CCSF players on the Husky roster to help their cause. Mitchell would be a very good get and could help the soonest.

PREDICTION: Scott White is going to come. He has an in-home with Bob Stoops late this week and then he'll announce. We think he's staying on the west coast and that he'll be a Dawg. He could play fullback if needed, and has good experience. I also think Crutchley will come as well. Consider him an "athlete" but linebacker is likely.
NEXT UP: The defensive backs.

Links to parts one and two of this article:
Part One – The Skill Positions
Part Two – The Big Guys Top Stories