Most importantly it reflects that Coach Tyrone Willingham's program is now established and respected enough to be attractive to student-athletes and their parents and coaches, particularly those who live in-state.
You can tell by reading what the recruits and their parents said about Coach himself that he was big in their decisions. His stature, his straight forward talk, and his integrity within the profession were all factors that obviously out-weighed the perceived precariousness of his position.
So now it's time for my annual "ranking recruiting classes is so ridiculous" mantra. You guys all know that this is true because it totally ignores performance – I mean, how do you measure performance when not one single kid has played a down yet at the college level?
Rankings are for fun – never forget that. So have fun with them but don't let them ruin your dinner.
The true measures of a class are all ascertained well after the class is signed. Those measures include how many end up starters, how many end up as all league performers, how many championships do they win, how many bowl games do they go to, how many get their degrees and graduate, how many get drafted and play after college, and how many stick with the program all the way through?
No way to rank those things, so we can't. We just read the projections and have fun with them.
What I do want to point out though is I'm not sure it's fully appreciated what a collective effort signing a class of recruits is. Chris Tormey, the Huskies' recruiting coordinator, deserves much of the credit for organizing and directing the process. And he is the first to say that it was a wonderful team effort that produced this banner class for the Huskies. All of the other assistants played critical parts as each is assigned a certain geographic area as well as leagues within the state of Washington.
Adding Charlie Baggett to the staff paid big dividends for Coach Willingham as he played a role in getting both of the Lakes kids as well as Chris Polk, who might be the best player the Huskies signed. He was involved in recruiting all six receivers.
The Huskies also coordinate their recruiting effort by position as well as by area, and that leads to balance in the class if everyone pulls their weight. 6 wide receiver/athletes, 8 OL/DL, 2 linebackers, 6 defensive secondary players, and 2 quarterbacks illustrate just how well each coach pulled their weight.
It should also be noted that the departed coaches like Kent Baer, Bob Simmons, and especially Trent Miles played important roles getting a number of kids to commit.
A few names of people highly involved in football that you might not recognize are Matt Peterson and Nicole Morry who both happened to play huge roles in this year's recruiting effort. Nicole comes back to Washington after being involved in bowl games in her home state of Hawaii. She had been active in recruiting when she was a UW student and helped tremendously with the Hawaiian or Island kids, recruiting the likes of Olin Kreutz and Ink Aleaga to name a few. She has an official title of Director of External Affairs for Football but I assure you she is a wonderful recruiter first and foremost.
Peterson is a first year Recruiting Program Coordinator for Football who replaced Marcus Boyle. Both he and Nicole were active with everything from questionnaires to signing papers and everything in between such as correspondence. They personally dealt with each individual recruit on his official visit. They are the behind the scenes nuts and bolts of the Husky recruiting system. Their commitment and enthusiasm for what they were doing was obvious throughout this whole process. They and all pf the other program assistants play vital roles in meeting and greeting kids as well as taking their phone calls whenever a kid was looking for a coach.
And let's not forget all of the office help that goes on from folks like Cheryl Taplin, Coach Willingham's Assistant, Erica Genise, Director of Football Operations, and Toni Watanabe who greets every person who enters the football office, as well as two long time veteran recruiters, Gertrude Peoples and Abner Thomas who specialize in dealing with parents as well as the kids.
And then there are the current Huskies that help sell the system. Jake Locker was involved every weekend and close to 35 kids served as hosts with some like Brandon Johnson, Ronnie Fouch, Daniel Teo-Nesheim, and Nate Williams playing key and consistent recruiting roles.
Williams worked on all the south end of Seattle kids and had a hand in bringing in Everrette Thompson from his old high School, Kennedy HS in Burien. Ronnie Fouch likewise helped convince his old high school team mate, Chris Polk, to de-commit from USC and become a Husky and like himself got him to enroll early. That the Husky players believed so strongly in Coach Willingham's system was a major selling point with almost every recruit.
One of the most unique aspects of the Huskies recruiting effort is the use of a "Players' Panel". During the official visits, the recruits and their parents meet with a panel of players and can ask any questions they want to without any coach or administrator being present. The purpose is to allow for an open and honest exchange between the team and the recruits. The results were completely private but it is apparent the players totally showed respect and belief in Coach Willingham and his program.
The effort extended all over campus with UW President, Mark Emmert regularly meeting with recruits as well as Luis Farga, out of the UW Office of Minority Affairs, attending each and every recruiting function. This does not even include close to 15-20 UW Faculty members who regularly take their own time to meet with recruits. Professors like Stan Chernicoff and Jack Rhodes to name a couple gave up untold hours of their time to help in the effort.
I have mentioned these few because they all understand the importance of recruiting as the lifeline of the program.
And now we all get excited for spring and fall practices so we can dream what kind of class this is might turn out to be. I don't care what a kid did in high school, how he adapts to the next level is still a crap shoot. You never know what you've got until they're here.
Every time you turn over a complete staff you disrupt the process of recruiting. Even though the program has been losing on the field, it has been developing off the field in areas like academics, social behavior, community service, and most importantly, recruiting. These are building blocks that a successful program's foundation can be built on, and SHOULD be built on. Now that it's firmly in place, it's time to step out and turn the corner.
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