Washington Recruiting: Offensive backfield

Now that the Dawgs have finished their second season under head coach Tyrone Willingham, it's time for them to focus on adding some depth and talent to their roster as recruiting will really heat up over the next two months. The Huskies lose several key players, especially on defense, and they'll be looking to infuse their secondary and wide receiver units with speed and skill.

Today, Dawgman's Scott Eklund takes a look at the offensive backfield where the Huskies four players to graduation and one is stepping down because of the recent discovery of a brain tumor.

The loss of QB Isaiah Stanback will be felt the most because he had finally started to realize his vast potential before being injured in game seven, but the Huskies do have Carl Bonnell and Jake Locker returning to battle for the job under center during the spring.

Below is a breakdown of the players returning at each position and who the Huskies are looking at bringing in for their 2007 recruiting class.

Quarterback – Bonnell (Sr.); Locker (RS-Fr.)
Committed – Redlands East Valley QB Ronnie Fouch (Ca.)
Targeted Prospect – Auburn QB Kellen Kiilsgaard (Wa.)
Will take – One for sure, possibly two

With the shocking news of DuRocher's brain tumor and him having to end his college football career a year early, it will be a two-horse race during the spring and fall practices to see who is under center to start the season. Many expect Locker to emerge as the starter, but with Bonnell's game-experience and a renewed attention to the little things that make quarterbacks successful, don't count out the fifth-year senior.

Fouch had an excellent senior year at Redlands East Valley, leading his team to the playoffs after a 1-3 start. He passed for almost 2,500 yards while throwing for 22 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also rushed for 151 yards and four more scores. Generally, Fouch is considered an excellent leader with outstanding touch. He isn't the athlete that Locker is, but he makes up for that in smarts and the ability to read defenses.

Kiilsgaard is really the only other player Washington is looking at bringing in for the 2007 class and there is the chance he could be moved to another position before he even steps foot on campus.

As it is, Kiilsgaard has put recruiting on the back-burner and is focusing on his team's state championship run. His family and all four of his finalists (Oregon, California, Stanford and Washington) have given him space regarding his final decision and it will likely be made after his season is over, but before Christmas.

If the Huskies don't get a commitment from Kiilsgaard, there is a chance they could try to find a JC quarterback to fill in the gap between Bonnell and Locker, but right now that likelihood is very small.

Running BackLouis Rankin (Sr.); J.R. Hasty (So.); Mike Houston (So.)
FullbackLuke Kravitz (Jr.); Paul Homer (So.)
Commits – Kennedy RB Nate Williams (Burien, Wa.); Mount Si RB Brandon Yakaboski (Snoqualmie, Wa.)
Targeted Prospects – Bishop Gorman RB Corey White (Las Vegas); McClymonds RB Willie Griffin (Oakland); Dominguez RB Brandon Johnson (Compton, Ca.); Baldwin Park RB Aaron Harris (Ca.); Lincoln RB Curtis Shaw (Stockton, Ca.); Lincoln RB Roman Pula (Tacoma)
Will take – At least four with a chance at five (one or more could move to another position)

Rankin had a rollercoaster season for the Huskies. At times he looked like the game-breaking threat the Huskies have so desperately wanted him to be, but he still showed the propensity to dance instead of hitting the hole hard. He needs to keep working on the "one-cut-and-go" philosophy running backs coach Trent Miles has preached day in and day out before he can reach his true potential.

Backing up Rankin as the team enters the spring will be Hasty and Houston, but both are question marks at this point.

Hasty had some academic troubles last spring and was declared ineligible before the season began. Even so, he was still third on the depth-chart following spring practices because he was out-of-shape and wasn't hitting the hole as hard as the staff would like.

Hasty stayed in school and worked hard this fall. He's reportedly in great shape heading into offseason conditioning and many think he could push for the starting job.

Houston ran into some legal troubles with a silly "taxi-incident" in October and has not practiced with the team since. Willingham suspended him indefinitely while the legal matters were worked out and many expect him to be re-instated, albeit with a very, very short leash.

Players and coaches alike raved about Houston's work-ethic and abilities when he ran with the scout team as he sat out a year due to transfer rules. You don't play as a true freshman at Texas if you aren't talented and Houston has the size (6-0, 235) that offensive coordinator Tim Lappano is looking for in his one-back sets.

At fullback, Kravitz and Homer will be a nice one-two punch for the Huskies. Kravitz is probably a better receiver with Homer the better athlete and runner. Homer might have the edge over Kravitz, but the Huskies only use the fullback about 25 to 30 percent of the time in their offense anyway so their main contributions are on special teams.

Yakaboski is the only true running back commit thus far for the 2007 class. He runs with a nice forward lean and he's got the frame to become a big back at the next level. The only question is his overall speed, but he's got great vision and he runs hard.

Yakaboski was voted the Kingco 3A Offensive MVP as he led Mount Si to the second-round of the state playoffs. He rushed for 1,515 yards (a robust 7 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 90 yards and two more scores and returned a kickoff for a touchdown as well.

Williams is a different story. While he's an excellent running back – he's rushed for 1,795 yards and 31 touchdowns through the first two rounds of the playoffs and caught 10 passes for 246 yards and three more scores – he's also an outstanding defensive back. He's a threat to take it the distance on offense, defense and on punt returns as well and, recently, he was voted the co-Offensive MVP of the Seamount League.

The common thought is that Williams will be given a shot at running back with the Huskies when he arrives on campus, but his future may lie on the defensive side of the ball, most likely at safety.

As far as likely candidates to end up Huskies among the other five prospects on the list, White is the most likely to commit on his visit. White runs low to the ground, has good quickness and deceptive speed. He isn't a home-run hitter, something the Huskies so desperately need, but he's a player that will move the chains and keep defenses honest.

Harris and Johnson are the biggest playmakers of the bunch. Harris has blazing speed and Johnson has good speed with excellent quickness. Harris is looking at Arizona, UCLA and Washington the most right now and Johnson has a plethora of schools on his radar including Oregon, Colorado, Cal and Washington.

Shaw is probably the most complete back. He runs well, has good vision and he also catches the ball well out of the backfield. California, Fresno State, Michigan, Oregon and Washington have all offered and are on his list of favorites.

The wild-card is Griffin, who got one of the earliest offers from the Huskies and will take his final official visit to Montlake on December 15th. Should he enjoy his time on campus, he'll likely commit to Washington. Colorado is also on Griffin's shortlist.

Pula could be the prospect that the team doesn't have to offer. He has a Gates Scholarship and would be able to enroll at any state university free of charge. He likes the Huskies and has the build to become an excellent fullback or a hard-hitting linebacker. He doesn't really have the speed to become a Pac 10 back.

Tomorrow we'll focus on the receivers and tight ends along with the offensive line and then starting Friday we'll preview the defensive units and the prospects the Huskies are after.

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