Willingham brings instant integrity to a program in dire need of a character infusion. He is well-respected and I can tell you from personal experience that he is well regarded throughout the profession. He is a no nonsense-type coach. The immediate positives are that he restores instant credibility to the program and brings an experienced west coast recruiting background.
I believe that he'll prove to be a solid choice and will put the Huskies in the hunt for many of the top prospects in the state of Washington as well as California, the arguably two most important recruiting areas.
Let's start with the three most important recruits in the state.
Jonathan Stewart was being heavily recruited by Tyrone and Notre Dame. He had narrowed them into his final choices by scheduling them as one of his five official visits. He cancelled his ND trip after the Irish fired Willingham. I am positive that the Huskies new coach can get them back in the door with both a home visit and have a legit chance of convincing him to stay at home and play for the Purple and Gold. Recruiting and signing Stewart is the biggest and most important priority of the new program. It won't take much to convince Stewart that he can compete immediately at running back for the Huskies. He would easily be the cornerstone of the recruiting class if he were to stick around.
Besides, his mother and whole family will be only be an hour away from being a big part of his entire college experience.
The next is Anthony Felder from O'Dea, who likewise was heavily considering ND. He too will receive and probably make an official visit to Washington now. He has remained open to Washington throughout the recruiting process and I sincerely believe that he will visit and sign with the Huskies. He and E. J. Savannah are easily the best pair of linebackers to come out of this state in years, and both are impressed by not only Willingham but the linebackers coach Chris Tormey too. Should Willingham retain Tormey (I believe that he will), then both of those outstanding prospects are liable to come as well. Savannah has always been open to the Dawgs and is likewise interested by the prospects of staying at home. Both could come in and instantly be in the depth and with Joe Lobendahn and Evan Benjamin both being seniors next fall, it would be an ideal learning situation for them as they earn their stripes.
The Huskies are also right in the hunt to retain the commitment of Keauntea Bankhead, who could be a starter at safety next fall and was easily the most gifted player they signed a year ago. He somehow needs to get a passing SAT score.
That leaves the all-important position of quarterback, and just by coincidence the Irish also recruited Johnny DuRocher very hard before he committed to Oregon two years ago. Johnny is very interested in the Huskies and certainly Willingham knows something about giving second chances. Sometimes things just don't work out at certain schools, as it didn't for DuRocher at Oregon, and Tyrone won't view Johnny as someone else's problem.
I am telling you that if those pieces fall into place, Willingham might also have the chance go get others like JR Hasty, Taylor Rank, and Leon Jackson, who may not be entirely thrilled with his commitment to Nebraska.
Commitments like these hometown talents are what keep you winning. Good players make coaches look good, and the biggest building blocks of the program usually come from your own back yard.
Even though Willingham has been a national-type recruiter at his last two stops, there is little doubt he recognizes that one of the strengths of Husky football was always their dominance of their own state in recruiting. He will hit the deck running on most of these kids, because he has already been recruiting most of them previously. Watch for the Huskies to make great strides in trying to tie up the locals first and foremost.
I believe that Willingham can have an excellent class, given that he's now here with time to put in a solid recruiting effort. If he does, add this class to the one Gilby brought in last year and it's a great start.
The Washington coach is now in place, so let the debates end and the recruiting begin. I believe that over time, this selection - at this time - was correct and timely.
And it didn't take a committee to spell it out, either.
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