Letter of Intent Press Conference

The University of Washington football team received 20 letters of intent and is still waiting on at least one more, it was announced today at an early afternoon press conference at the Don James Center. Of the commits, 19 are high school student-athletes and one is a junior college athlete.

Of those who signed, nine hail from California, eight from Washington, and one each from Arizona, Hawaii and Kansas.

As of 4 p.m., the UW had yet to receive the faxed letter of intent from Brandon Ala, the highly-touted defensive lineman from Hawaii. Ala held a press conference this morning to announce his intentions to attend college in Seattle, but for whatever reason has yet to send in the paperwork. (Editor's note: Ala's LOI was received later in the day.)

Eddie Jackson, the lone junior college transfer, will finish his classes at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas and thus won't be available for spring ball. Neuheisel indicated that Jackson will be ready to come in during the summer, and that the 6-4 receiver is excited about coming.

Two other players who count towards this class, offensive tackle Francisco Tipoti and cornerback Eric Shyne, each of whom failed to qualify last year, are now enrolled at the UW. Both will be ready for spring ball starting in April.

Husky Head Coach Rick Neuheisel entered the Don James Center red-eyed, sitting before the media with a cup of coffee at his side. Riding on little - if any - sleep, the coach remained upbeat and excited about the latest class of talent to commit to the UW.

"We feel like we've got a great group of guys," Neuheisel said. "There are still some kids out there who've yet to make their minds up, but I think sometimes we overlook the kids that have made the decision early on that they'd like to attend the University of Washington. Those are the kids that deserve the bulk of the attention.

Neuheisel went down the list of signees one-by-one and gave his assessment of each of them. Though he had nothing but positive things to say about each player, his excitement for three particular athletes stood out above the rest, those being quarterback Isaiah Stanback, runningback Kenny James, and defensive lineman Donny Mateaki.

"Isaiah is without question the best quarterback that I saw on tape this year," said Neuheisel of the Garfield High School standout. "I don't think it's even close. There are lots of publications that will have you believe otherwise, but having done this for a number of years, there is not a doubt in my mind that Isaiah Stanback is the best quarterback in the country. This guy is special. I don't think he's a finished product. I think he can certainly learn a great deal, and given the depth at the position he'll have the chance to learn. I think you'll be raving about his abilities in the very near future."

Of James, Neuheisel said something that may come as a surprise to many people. "In my estimation, he was the best of all the runningbacks in California," the head coach declared. "There are more highly-touted guys, but this was the best tailback in California in terms of productivity and what he got done on an every-down basis. He's kind of mentioned in reverent tones down in the Fresno, Calif. area. This is a really neat kid and we're excited as we can be. As a junior he rushed for over 2400 yards and as a senior he rushed for 2900 yards. I'm thrilled that he's coming to Washington."

Neuheisel's praise continued for Mateaki. "There are a lot of different criteria for evaluation," he said. "The one I like to rely on as much as any is the eye-test, meaning that you just look at a guy to see if he's a player. Nobody has ever passed the eye test more than Donny Mateaki. He will get everybody's attention when he walks in the room."

"He was a very, very highly-recruited young guy. He's been around the country to see other places, but he fell in love with the University of Washington. I think he can have an impact on our team in a real hurry. This is the kind of athlete that can show up on campus and really wreak havoc if he's ready to go, and I anticipate that that will be the case. He's a terrific addition to this class."

Here's what the head coach had to say about the other 17 players to sign on the dotted line today:

On Demar Baisy: He's a neat kid. We believed from the outset that he'd be a sure-fire bet to play great defense for us. I look forward to seeing Demar continue to work hard in school and hopefully have a great career at the UW. I'm looking forward to having him join us.

On Ben Bandel: He's one of the outstanding tight ends not just in the west coast, but in the entire country. He's a big guy, 6-7 270 pounds. He's a surfer that has all kinds of athletic ability. He's very flexible, which is something you look for from a guy at that position. I think he'll have a great career at the UW.

On Jason Benn: Kind of a legacy in our program, we think there's a tremendous upside for Jason. He's right here from the city of Seattle. He's kind of a tight end/defensive end. We're probably going to begin his career on the offensive side of the ball, but he's certainly good enough of an athlete to play at either side. I'm looking forward to watching him, as everyone knows he's Kyle Benn's younger brother. I think he will understand what it means to be a Washington Husky maybe before some of the others coming from that family.

On Dash Crutchley: One of the hardest positions to recruit is the SAM linebacker. You're looking for a tall body that can have leverage to handle a tight end's block. You need to be able to rush the passer so you have to have great quickness, plus you have to be able to cover and have to play fluidly. You're asking a lot from this athlete. (Dash) is a guy who has had a great career in soccer before football, and has now become a sought after guy. I think he's going to have a tremendous impact. The upside of his development will be rather quick because as I've noted he's only played a couple years of football, and given his athletic ability I think he's going to become a top player.

On Stanley Daniels: It was an outstanding recruiting job by everybody involved. Offensive line coach Brent Myers was the lead guy. He was a highly sought-after offensive lineman from Southern California. He's a very flexible offensive lineman who had waivered all along between the UW and Nebraska until the 11th hour thanks. We're thrilled that he's going to join us, and I think he'll have a great impact on the program.

On Matt Fountaine: Another legacy. Matt's older brother Jamal was a member of the National Championship team who played defensive line for us here. He's an atheltic young guy who's run sub 11-flat 100-meters a number of times. He's definitely a speed guy, and is one of those unusual guys that plays runningback but wants to play cornerback at the college level.

On Dashon Goldson: Really what convinced me to take Dashon was that one of his coaches told me about this guy who he'd been coaching since sixth grade and told me he thought he was the next Kenny Easley. I think he's a terrific, terrific prospect and I'm hopeful that he'll do what he needs to do academically to get in during the fall here.

On Eddie Jackson: We realized before the bowl game with Justin Robbins' injury that next year we might have a depth concern. We were fortunate to find Eddie. I can't think of someone who blended in with the other player more quickly. This is a great get for us. I think it's going to help our depth, and I think he's going to be a big asset to our passing game next year which I think will already be strong.

On Robin Kezirian: He's an outstanding offensive line prospect. He also has the ability to run well enough to be a defensive lineman. He'll start on the offensive side of the ball. Robin is a bright kid - he chose us over Stanford. I anticipate him playing in the guard or center area, probably guard. His uncle Ed Kezirian and I coached together at UCLA, so that's how we got involved. We were able to get him to come and I think we will look very smart in the end result that he's here.

On Dan Milsten: Dan was the first commit. He was in our camp. We saw all that we needed to see in the camp to know that he was the kind of pass rusher antagonist that we're looking for. It's always good to get kids from the state of Washington.

On Jordan Reffett: Another kid from the state of Washington. I can promise you that Randy Hart will have a lot of fun with Reffett and Milsten, two guys that will help make us a very strong defense.

On Nathan Rhodes: I think one of the top offensive linemen in the country in terms of his numbers and his ability to move as a big man. I think it's safe to say that this guy will have a great career here if he remains healthy. He's the kind of protype tackle that you look for. When it's all said and done, I think our offensive line will be one of the nation's best and Nathan's a big part of that.

On Nathaniel Robinson: Another local kid, the son of Jacque Robinson, who had a great career here. Nate is a scat-back who can play a variety of positions. He's an electrifying player. I'm as intrigued as I can be as to all the different ways that we can use Nate next year. He's also going to play basketball here.

Shelton Sampson: Shelton is another in-state kid. He's the fastest kid in the state of Washington. He had offers from UCLA and Notre Dame. I think he is a terrific addition. He's going to get a great chance at tailback, and I'm anxious to see how he does.

Jordan Slye: We told Jordan we're recruiting him as an athlete because where not sure where to put him because he's so versatile. He's 6-4, so he's very versatile. He could be a wide receiver, he could be a free safety. He could do a lot of things for us.

Clay Walker: I think he'll be the center of this class. He was pounded on by other schools for him to come there. He hung in there and he's coming to Washington. This is an outstanding athlete. He plays with an unbelievable motor and I can't say enough things about Clay Walker. He will be a great one.

Scott White: Maybe the unsung hero of the recruiting class because he was such a good recruiter himself. This guy wanted phone numbers all the time. He was certainly instrumental for Stanley Daniels. He can play either fullback or linebacker, and he's anxious to do whatever it takes to help the team as quickly as possible. I think he'll be one of the great hosts that we ever have because he enjoys the process so much.

Notes:

Changing Scenery: According to Neuheisel, two members of the 2001 Husky coaching staff recently accepted jobs elsewhere. Linebackers coach Tom Williams took a coordinator position at Stanford and graduate assistant John Pettas accepted a similar position at Lousiville.

Trading Places: Asked about possible position changes for the spring, Neuheisel indicated that Ty Eriks will be tried at safety and Robin Meadow may be tried on the defensive line. As stated before, the head coach also mentioned the move of Zach Tuiasosopo to fullback and RayShon Dukes to safety.



Meet the 2002 UW Husky Football Recruiting Class

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