Coach's Corner

Regardless of the apparent defections Washington has experienced recently in their recruiting class, they have to keep their focus on finishing strong with the kids that are still on the table.

You can't worry about the ones who get away, because those kids won't help your football program. You'd better concentrate on the kids that you get and the ones that still remain in the hunt.

Kids make their college decision based upon a multitude of reasons. They have the right, and often exercise it, to change their decision right up to the moment they actually sign and fax in their Letter of Intent.

Making a "commitment" is a gentleman's agreement. You assume the other party is honest, straight forth, and are going to hold up their end of the agreement. But don't be naïve - they do have the right to change their mind. Once they do and it is a done deal, then you are wise to simply move on.

I don't care if it's the best player on your board or the worst. If you lose one, then move down your own evaluation chart and offer the next kid and show him the love. Let them go to Cal or Tennessee or wherever they are going and find some kids who can help you, and that want to play at Washington.

This is the only way you can look at things.

The Huskies can still finish strong, and if everything breaks right, they will get another running back, a tight end, a couple of offensive linemen, another running tough athlete, and maybe two projections. That means they would add 7 more to the 15-16 they already have.

By far, to me, the most interesting thing to me is the number of junior college players they are going to sign this year. That makes this class a bit of a wild card. Since I didn't work the JCs a great deal in my Recruiting Coordinator days, it puts me in a strange position entering these last three weeks of recruiting. In my fifteen years of recruiting at Washington I don't think we recruited fifteen total scholarship JC transfers.

It was not as though we didn't like JC transfers, but rather we felt that our program had reached a point where we'd rather develop a high school kid over a five-year period rather than guess on a two-year chance. Besides, without PE or recreation to offer as majors, we couldn't accept hardly any of the PE classes that proliferated JC transcripts. I can distinctly remember a visiting JC kid who showed me a penciled-in transcript. I told him we could not accept it for admissions and needed to know exactly what he had passed and what he planned to be taking.

He replied that that was why his coach had added those particular classes in pencil.

The next weekend he visited WSU and committed on his visit.

Dealing with transfers is a whole different ball game. I know we took lots of transfers but not always JCs. Jerome Pathon (Arcadia), Ben Mahdavi (Utah), Dane Looker, Scott Greenlaw, Tyrone Rogers (Oklahoma), and Brad Hutt (Air Force) are all examples of guys who went to or started college at another four year school before transferring to Washington and having fine careers. One year we did sign three kids from Walla Walla JC - a defensive lineman, a punter, and a defensive back. Plus the punter brought his snapper who walked on.

The snapper is the only one of the four who is playing in the NFL.

It appears that Coach Willingham has veered far from his norm by deciding to gamble on 6 to 7 JC transfers. It presents him with an interesting and challenging dilemma with regard to signing and getting them into school. It will be the highest number of JC transfers in the last 40 years of the program if all goes according to plan.

They learned a sad lesson last year when only half of their much needed transfer talent failed to materialize. Three JC transfers plus quarterback, Johnny DuRocher, from Oregon, were all expected to fill holes in the depth. Only Johnny and Marlon Wood had the grades and credits necessary for admissions acceptance. The two corners, who were already penciled into the depth, failed to gain admittance.

Of course, one was immediately accepted and enrolled at Arizona.

I applaud Coach Willingham for admitting the need for an instant infusion of older and more seasoned recruits. Recruiting JCs was obviously needed if the Huskies were to turn this thing around. There was no question there were numerous holes in the roster. Keith Gilbertson tried to bring in a solid and well balanced recruiting class in his first year, but losing both Matt Tuiasosopo and Keauntea Bankhead right away was disastrous because both were recruited to "need" positions.

When it became apparent Gilby was not going to be retained by the new administration, recruiting essentially lost its rudder. There was little carry over from one staff to the other. Two coaches were retained but seven were let go. The Huskies got very little from those seven recruiting areas.

Recruiting always suffers when there is a coaching turnover, so you live with it when you decide a change is necessary.

Chris Tormey tried desperately to hold on but going 1-10 certainly didn't make it easy. The Huskies ended up only signing 14 total kids last year, the lowest signing day total in quite some time. Then, to lose those two JCs due to grades reduced it to an even dozen.

That is precisely why Coach Willingham has put so much positive energy into bringing in a full class of 22 or so, and including a half dozen kids 20-21 year olds in that mix instead of bringing in all 18 year olds.

What I always found to be the most difficult aspect of recruiting JCs was the post JC signing period. You can't assume anything with regard to JC academics. You expect them to follow through, you call and make sure they are going to class and that they are seeing their counselor regularly, and that they are getting periodic progress reports. You are almost better off to have the JC kids immediately transfer to a Seattle JC, get them a job, and monitor them until they finish all their JC graduation requirements.

I really think that if 6-7 JC transfers are signed, sealed and delivered and 4 enter the immediate depth, then all the hassle will be worth it. Consider Chancellor Young in the transfer category and it's more like 7-8.

Still, this was a desperate situation. Never forget that in the long run, you build your program with local high school talent first, then with California high school talent, then with any connection you have to get a kid.

The best JCs are those you can get transferred in by spring quarter. That gives you 15 practices to teach the kid your system.

The bottom line is to bring in kids you have evaluated and you think fit your system. They are so close right now to having a really solid group that if they can finish strong, they will be addressing both their immediate and their long range needs. Even with the decommits that have occurred.

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