Husky coaches talk about recruiting class

For at least the past 365 days, Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham, recruiting coordinator Chris Tormey and the rest of the staff have been building up to today's announcement of the 2008 recruiting class. They met with the media to give their thoughts on the progress the team made on the recruiting trail and gave us some thoughts on most of the 25 players who faxed in their letters today.

Willingham was first asked about the "art of the decommitment" – where a player verbally commits to a school, but changes his mind later on and heads to another school.

Washington has been both the beneficiary and loser in a couple of those situations since Willingham's arrival in 2005 and he talked about his philosophy on such matters.

"It's a two-way street and if we ask him to live up to a standard we obviously have to live up to the same standard," Willingham said. "In many cases, where guys we've recruited have committed to other university we've tried to respect that, but if there's been somewhat of a wavering in their ability, we ask them to make sure that they talk to their university regarding that so they are fully aware of what's taking place before we try to re-enter the recruiting process.

"You always hate to lose anyone, but I think we're at such a point that we can recover and did recover and we feel like we have a strong class and picked up a couple of linebackers in that case that will be fine players for us."

This year Washington lost out on Crespi (Encino) QB Kevin Prince who chose to stay close to home by signing with UCLA, Eastlake LB/WR Cory Mackay who opted to sign with Washington State and Edison (Fresno) CB/RB John Tate who chose San Diego State, but they received commitments from players like Redlands East Valley RB Chris Polk (USC) and LB Bradly Roussel (Tulane) so you could easily consider them ahead in that area.

QB Jake Locker has become the face of the Husky football program since he arrived on campus back in 2006 and Willingham admitted to him being a factor in helping to lure in the players that make up what Scout has rated as the 15th best recruiting class in the country.

"One thing that great players enjoy is other great players," Willingham noted. "There's no question there is a ‘Jake factor' in our recruiting class, but it's not just a ‘Jake factor' because I think there are some other players on our football players that these young men have seen and believe they are tough, hard-nosed, ‘get after it' players that can help to win a Pac 10 Championship."

The top prize of the 2008 recruiting class was Lakes TE Kavario Middleton, a player who gave Washington a huge boost with his pledge back in late November and Willingham noted the 6-7, 250-pounder's gifts.

"I think Kavario, first of all, has a tremendous size advantage on most of the guys that we've recruited in the past," Willingham said. "He's probably an inch, to an inch-and-a-half taller than most and probably a little heavier, yet he has excellent mobility and wonderful hands from his basketball career so he has a lot of the tools you look for in a tight end

"Now it's just a matter of making the adjustment to college football, understanding college defenses, offensive responsibilities so I think he'll do well."

Joining Middleton were no less than 11 other in-state players who bolstered the class. Not only was the in-state class talented, but it also had a large number for players worthy of Pac 10 or other BCS conference offers.

"I think anytime you can get an immovable object on the field that that's pretty nice," Willingham said about Rainier Beach DT Alameda Ta'amu. "I'm hoping that he will be that immovable object in center of our defensive line and when I watched him in person I saw a young man with a desire to get to the football and if we can bring those two things to bear I think we're going to be in good shape."

"He's going to have every opportunity to play defense and we hope that he'll be a great nose guard for us," Tormey added. "He moves remarkably well for a guy that size. I don't know what his ideal size is, I'm sure it's north of 300, and for a kid to have that kind of size and athletic ability that's definitely where you want to have him."

Joining Ta'amu are two friends from different schools – Evergreen DE Senio Kelemete and Kennedy DE Everette Thomposon.

"I'm excited because that is a wonderful combination of Senio and Everette that you can place at your defensive ends with two guys with that size, power and speed and I think that's exciting," Willingham said.

"Senio is a prototype left end or a guy who can play over the tight end," Tormey noted. "Everette is the prototype openside or weakside end you like to see coming off the edge so we like the compliment those two are to each other."

Joining all three of the locals will be one of the top defensive tackles in the country, Taft (Woodland Hills, Ca.) DT Craig Noble.

"Craig is more of a three-technique guy who will play outside of the guard, but he has the ability to play heads up on the center and two-gap inside which gives you a lot of flexibility," Tormey said. "Alameda is more of an anchor guy, where Craig is more of a flex guy that can give you some pass-rush."

One area of concern for the Huskies heading into this class was the need for some beef up front and they got that and more with the likes of Eastlake T Drew Schaefer, Caldwell (Id.) T Terence Thomas, Kamehameha (Honolulu) C/G Mykenna Ikehara and McClymonds (Oakland) G Allen Carroll.

"Allen was one of the top rated guys in the Bay Area and I think Tim Lappano did a great job with him in creating a great relationship with the high school coach, the dad and then we got them up here on a visit and they fell in love with the place and we're happy to have him up here," Tormey said. "Mykenna is a great combination of athletic ability and academic ability. He's a good 6-3 and is very athletic and has the ability to pull and hit people on the run and get up on linebackers and get to the second level. He's an ideal center prospect and if he's as good as the last two Hawaiian centers we've had here we'll end up being very happy."

"When you talk about big, you really have described big," Willingham said of Thomas. "He stands 6-7 or 6-8, so that is a big man and the way we've described him he's a ‘skinny' individual at 312 pounds so it's exciting to get him into the program and when you talk about guys that size, one thing you say from a defensive standpoint, when they're big like that you have to run a wide path around him and that helps our backs."

Another large focus for the Dawgs this year was bringing in more talent at running back to challenge the young talent they brought in last year while continuing to build the depth.

Added to the class over the past 12 months were Kentwood RB Demtrius Bronson, O'Dea RB Johri Fogerson, Inglewood (Ca.) RB David Freeman, Vacaville (Ca.) Terrance Dailey and Polk who has already enrolled at Washington so he did not sign an official letter-of-intent.

"Demetrius is a guy we offered early on for this class and we were very impressed with his size and explosiveness and he can make you miss in space so we liked from the start," Tormey said. "Freeman is more of a Beno Bryant guy. He's not the biggest guy, but he's quick and he's got good speed and vision.

"I think the championship game had a lot to do with my view of Johri," Willingham said of Fogerson 295-yard game in a losing effort. "I think anytime you can play in "the game of the year", in a sense, and perform in the manner that he performed it says a lot about you, but obviously we had been watching him all year.

"Then you're in that dilemma – is he a defensive guy or an offensive guy? – he does so many things so well and in that game I thought he played one spectacular game and this young man is a football player and you want football players on your team."

Even with the loss of Prince, Washington still managed to bring in two signal-callers with different styles – Carson (Ca.) QB Dominique Blackman and Evergreen QB Luther Leonard.

With a player like Locker firmly entrenched as the leader of both the offense and the entire team, it might seem like a daunting task to get quarterbacks to take a long look at the Dawgs, but that wasn't the case.

"I wouldn't say it was difficult (recruiting quarterbacks this year), but I do think it was a hurdle because I do think that most young men out there recognize that ability that Jake possesses, but at the same time our coaching staff has been very clear that our goal is to play the best players," Willingham said. "I think that's why you had a commitment from Kevin Prince, Blackman and from Luther Leonard and they believed that would take place.

"I don't think that they're as far away from each other as you'd think, as far as the two guys that are coming in. When you compare them to Jake, I'd say there is a change, just a degree, but I think both of them have surprisingly more mobility than we think because they're not truly drop-back passers."

"He has a good arm, he's athletic, he's mobile and he fits well into our offensive schemes," Tormey added about Leonard. "He's got a lot of upside. He's not as polished as some other quarterbacks out there, but he's got a lot of tools to work with to be a pretty good one."

And who will be catching the darts being thrown by Locker, Ronnie Fouch and the two set to enroll this summer?

Look no further than Prosser WR Cody Bruns, Lakes WR Jermaine Kearse and Lincoln (Portland) WR/PR Jordan Polk (Chris' cousin).

"He's a very polished player," Tormey said about Bruns who comes from an offensive juggernaut east of the mountains. "He comes from a very good high school program and he knows how to run routes, he knows how to sit down in open zones, he knows how to get open and catch the football and I think he's a guy who could come in and play early on.

"He's got a great feel for playing the position."

Tormey also noted that Kearse had phenomenal ball skills and strength, while Polk could end up being the fastest player in the northwest this year.

Speed and toughness were definitely added in the defensive secondary where Washington added St. Bernard (Playa del Rey, Ca.) teammates CB Adam Long and S Greg Walker, Del Campo (Fair Oaks, Ca.) CB Anthony Gobern, Eastside Catholic S Vince Taylor and Kamiak CB Justin Glenn to the mix.

"The first thing I love about Justin Glenn is he wants to be a Husky," Willingham said. "This is a young man that has grown up wanting to be a Husky and he's kind of fulfilling his dream and those guys usually seem to have a very special motivation that they bring to the team and that personality and hunger of being a Husky, that's number one. Number two, he's an all-around athlete.

"He does track, he does basketball, he's a winner and he's a leader and those are the things you like about him along with his athletic skill."

Tormey added more to his boss' comments.

"He just brings a lot of intangibles to the table," Tormey said. "He's got great leadership, he's a three sport athlete and he's a cornerback that will come up and hit you so he's tough and that's a nice combination.

"Taylor has a great frame. We were impressed with the fact that he played both wide receiver and defensive end as a junior. We liked his toughness and his size and what he could bring to our team.

"Adam Long is probably the fastest guy in the class and might be the fastest guy on the west coast this year," Tormey gushed. "He's running in the low 21's in the 200 meteres and a 10.5 100 meters and if you have a chance to compete in the state championships in California and if you can win in that state you can run with anyone on the west coast."

Finally, Tormey got around to talking about his pride and joy, the linebackers and more specifically, the two hard-nosed players who Washington brought in late, but liked all along – Redemptorist (Baton Rouge, La.) LB Bradly Roussel and Chandler (Az.) LB Kurt Mangum – two under-the-radar players who didn't have a lot of offers, but were getting a lot of interest down the stretch.

"They're both really good football players," Tormey said with a smile. "I liked the tape on both of them and each one brings different strengths to the table.

"Bradly is probably more of a WIL linebacker and Kurt is probably more of a MIK linebacker, he's bigger and thicker. Bradly is a little bit smaller and more of a space player, but they're both hitters. That's what I like about them and they both have good instincts and a nose for the ball so I think they are solid prospects.

"You try to evaluate the tape that comes in and (Roussel) was getting some looks nationally and when his tape came in and I showed it to (Willingham) and we evaluated it we just thought he just an outstanding football player and if you just judged him on tape he might be the best linebacker we saw on tape this year. So we started recruiting him at that time, he came out for a visit and things are worked out and he's a Husky and I'm happy about that."

With all 26 players from the 2008 class signed and sealed, the coaches now turn their sites toward the 2009 class, a group of players that the staff have been working on for over two years. No rest for the weary? True, but also, the early bird gets the worm. Top Stories