Recruiting: Time To Dream (Part 1)

Much like last year, Washington took a little different approach to recruiting. While teams like USC are capitalizing on a great season and stuffing their recruiting stocking early, the Husky staff is taking their time and banking on the success of a couple of recruiting weekends in December that are chock full of big-time talent.

The coaches are searching far and wide for those players that fit the mold of what they are looking for in a prospect - some with loads of character and some that just might have a little character in 'em. With the Trojans loading up on stars for their recruiting diet, Washington will have to rely on more homegrown talent and their instincts on borderline prospects when filling out the 2003 class.

Early offers and verbal acceptances happened in the cases of in-state talents WR Craig Chambers and LB Tahj Bomar as well as California WR Bobby Whithorne and WR Corey Williams, and the Huskies followed up their early successes at home with some more local studs - RB/DB Derrick Bradley, WR Cody Ellis, ATH Anthony Russo and OL Juan Garcia. California RB Durrell Moss, Oregon OL Erik Berglund, and Arizona PK Michael Braunstein round out things so far as recruiting kicks into high gear starting this weekend. Also of note, local TE Casey Tyler still may take an official visit or two, but committed to Rick Neuheisel in the fall. Expect that commitment to stick.

As you can tell, there are a lot of skill players littered throughout this class. Many can play either running back, receiver or defensive back. It's that kind of versatility the Washington coaches love to recruit. Derrick Johnson ran the gamut his first fall camp at TESC, first as a RB, then WR and finally at corner, where he has become a fixture and a second-team all Pac-10 performer as a sophomore. Who will be the next Derrick Johnson? Anthony Russo? Derrick Bradley? Cody Ellis?

The possibilities are endless.

But today, we focus on the offense. I will speculate on the class that Washington could wind up with on that side of the ball, with an idea that the Huskies will sign 25 players, something Rick Neuheisel alluded to last week. Here are my best guesses for the offense:
QUARTERBACKS - need = 0 or 1

Dennis Dixon San Leandro, California (6-3/175/4.4) - The top recruit at this position on the board, it's very important that Washington keeps him interested. His friend and former teammate Jarrad Page plays for UCLA, and they have a great baseball program too, so they may be tough to beat here. But don't count out California. The local team is doing well and Jeff Tedford is an awfully charismatic coach.

Richard Kovalcheck San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine (6-3/215/4.7) - Kovalcheck tore his ACL at end of his junior year but is stronger than before. He was on his way to an outstanding season hitting on 140 passes out 232 attempts for 1,922 yards and 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. Was 197-323 for 2,565 yards, with 30 touchdowns and only seven picks as a sophomore. A very savvy quarterback in more of the traditional drop-back mold.

Prediction: This is going to be a VERY interesting position to follow. I think it's clear Neuheisel wants somebody that can be proficient throwing the ball AND running a little option to boot. Dixon looks to be that guy. But here's where things could get a little dicy, especially with California in the mix. The Bears also have a verbal commit from another QB the Huskies covet, Cary Dove. If Dixon decides to stay home and go to Cal, that could open things up for Dove again. That is a very real possibility. Also, there's this lingering thing with Bethel's Johnny DuRocher that isn't going away. The Oregon commit went to see the UCLA-Washington game, and Neuheisel has been calling the DuRocher house weekly. Johnny is solidly in the Ducks' camp right now, but Rick doesn't like to lose a fight, and especially one to Mike Bellotti. It will be quite interesting to see what happens if DuRocher has a change of heart. Will it happen? If I had to bet, I would say JD is Eugene-bound, but there might be a twist or two along the way.
RUNNING BACKS - need = 2
Durrell Moss Orange, California (6-0/175/4.44) - A very durable back, Moss can punish between the tackles and can also break outside the tackles and go the distance. Had nearly 3,800 yards his final two years at Orange.

Derrick Bradley Mukilteo, Washington (5-9/175/4.3) - A speed merchant, Bradley was clocked unofficially at 4.25 at this summer's UW camp. He can play both ways, and could be a shut-down corner if that's what the Huskies need.

Anthony Russo Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes (5-11/185/4.38) - Probably the most versatile player to come to UW in a long time, Russo can run, catch and defend with equal skill. Split playing time at Lakes with another D1 talent, Akeem Anthony. Ran for over 350 yards in Akeem's absence as a junior against Peninsula.

Reggie Bush La Mesa (Calif.) Helix (6-0/183/4.4) - Two time All-State selection and a Student Sports Junior All-American last year. Hands down the top running back prospect in the state of California and a top five national ball carrier as well. Rushed for over 2,200 yards and 34 TDs as a junior.

Louis Rankin Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln (6-0/180/4.36) - Rankin racked up some monster numbers this year. Ran for 1621 yards on 174 carries for Lincoln. Has apparently run an unofficial 4.29 40. A versatile athlete, Rankin could also be a big shut-down corner.

Derrick Williams Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco (5-10/200/4.49) - Has the size and speed that's reminiscent of another Williams - the late Curtis Williams. Derrick is getting plenty of looks as an athlete in the Pac-10.

Alvin Marshall Compton (Calif.) College (5-9/180/4.3) - Originally signed with Nebraska, Marshall has put almost 5,000 yards down in his two seasons at JC. He's got it all - speed, vision and power. Also a phenomenal return man.

Kevin Fain Scottsdale (Ariz.) College (6-0/215/4.5) - Fain is a Florida native with great 4.5 speed and strength. Sat out 2001 after a redshirt season at Coffeyville JC in Kansas. Kevin Lustgarten saw him at the WSFL Combine last May and he looked real good, especially considering he hadn't see the field in over a year. Ran 4.5 forties and jumped in the 32-33" range. He's definitely a bit of a sleeper, but no doubt a D1 prospect. A December graduate with 3 to play 3.

PREDICTION: UW already has their allotment, but Bradley, Russo (WR too) and Moss could all be defenders as well. Bush is the ultimate prize here and he'll be visiting with teammate Charles Smith this weekend. Smith is on the verge of deciding between Oregon and UW, so his commit could impact what Reggie does. Rumors of an Alvin Marshall commit were premature, but it's clear that the coaches are making the JUCO ranks a priority when it comes to running the ball. I think Fain could commit on his visit, and I think that's who they round this group out with. I think one of the other three commits stays at RB, but who that will be is yet to be determined.
FULLBACKS - need = 1

Todd Basler Elma, Washington (6-2/215/4.6) - Basler is the most prolific TD scorer in WIAA history, and he'll go for 100 this weekend in the Class 2A championships. He has great knee drive, and has nice lean for such a high-stepper. Could be a fullback or linebacker.

Andy Darkins Lake Oswego, Oregon (6-2/228/4.7) - A big-time two-way prospect, Darkins is a ferocious hitter and tackler and can also deliver monster shots as a lead fullback. Didn't run with the ball this year, but has athleticism to spare. Was recently denied admissions to Stanford, so that helps the Huskies' cause.

Mark Van Paris Sonoma (Calif.) Sonoma Valley (6-2/220/4.42) - A bit of a sleeper in the sense that he plays for a small school, so it's hard to say what his prognosis would be at the high D1 level but you can't overlook Mark's size and speed numbers. They speak for themselves.

PREDICTION: It's Darkins, all the way. They may go after Basler if they want Andy to try defense too, but there is one more 'sleeper' prospect I'll talk about in the days to come. Here's a hint - he's Keenan Howry's cousin, but has Washington in the driver's seat right now.

Craig Chambers Mill Creek (Calif.) Jackson (6-5/195/4.45) - Chambers didn't have the season he was looking for, but was hampered by a bum ankle all season. A huge target with wheels when healthy, Craig is a legacy recruit. His brother Richie played for the Huskies.

Bobby Whithorne Santa Margarita, California (6-1/175/4.59) - A true possession receiver in the Dane Looker mold, Whithorne ran arguably the best routes of any receiver in California this year. He'll be looked at as the next Pat Reddick, the first-down maker.

Corey Williams Las Vegas, Nevada (6-3/185/4.44) - Williams could be the finest physical specimen so far in Washington's class. He's incredibly versatile, has great leadership qualities and is a flat-out winner. With a quarterfinal appearance this year and a championship ring earned as a junior, Corey will bring his winning ways to Montlake next year.

Whitney Lewis Ventura (Calif.) St Bonaventure (6-1/205/4.4) - Along with Steve Smith, Lewis is the top receiver on the west coast, bar none, and arguably the best pure football athlete in the country. He can blaze, has hands of gold and just makes play after play. Expect Whitney to visit UW.

Steve Smth Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft (6-2/175/4.4) - Smith isn't as big or as physical as Whitney Lewis, but he is as fast and also has the Midas touch when it comes to balls thrown his way. A supposed USC-lean for some time, it's going to take a lot for another team to come in and dazzle him.

Charles Smith La Mesa (Calif.) Helix (6-1/175/4.5) - Reggie Bush's teammate, Smith looks like a man ready to pop. Literally. His two favorite schools are Oregon and Washington, and he's already been to Eugene. With his Washington trip happening this weekend, it's clear he could make up his mind as early as Sunday. Which school will it be for this talented and extremely versatile player? Smith even played a little QB for Helix this fall.

BJ Vickers Los Angeles (Calif.) Venice (6-3/207/4.5) - Vickers has been a UW target for years it seems. He's been to their summer camp the past two seasons, so he's very familiar with how things are run in Montlake. A big, physical player, Vickers looks to me to be the sort of receiver that could do massive damage in the slot. Maybe it's just me...

Mark Bradford Los Angeles (Calif.) Fremont (6-2/185/4.41) - Bradford is a stud, and a two-sport stud at that. Wherever he goes, he'll be playing hoops too. He knows that UW is basketball-friendly, with Charles Frederick and Nate Robinson playing hoops the past two years. It's hard to pass on an athlete like Mark. He just makes plays.

Sonny Shackleford Beverly Hills, California (6-2/180/4.5) - A real riser this year, Sonny statistically had a better season than any of the other top SoCal receivers. And it wasn't really very close. He's got the moxie and skills to play at the D1 level, no question.

PREDICTION: Washington already has their guys, but if Lewis, either Smith (Steve or Charles), Vickers or Bradford want to come, the coaches will take them and shuffle things around later. Charles Smith and BJ Vickers round this class out, to go along with Chambers, Whithorne and Williams, with Corey most likely being moved as a roving free safety.
TIGHT ENDS - need = 2

Casey Tyler Edmonds (Wash.) Edmonds-Woodway (6-6/265/4.8) - A soft commit to Rick Neuheisel, Tyler brings size, speed and sure hands to the UW program. He could bulk up and play tackle, but has the ability to get down the seams and create huge mismatches downfield.

Jon Lyon Saddleback (Calif.) College (6-6/251/4.57) - A mid-year JC player, Lyon is looking for instant playing time. With Kevin Ware leaving, Washington offers an ideal situation for Jon. Like Tyler, Lyon is a huge target for quarterbacks. A second-team JC Grid-Wire All-American.

Jason Goodman Great Falls (Mont.) CM Russell (6-5/240/4.8) - Washington wanted another TE from Montana two years ago, Mark Anderson, but he went to Stanford instead. Second time a charm for the Dawgs? Goodman is a terrific athlete and two-sport star at Russell. Likes the Huskies a lot.

Aaron Johnson Fairfield (Calif.) Armijo (6-6/250/4.9) - 50/50 between the Huskies and Washington State Cougars for his services. Has been following the UW program for some time. Johnson brings two-way prowess to the table, making him a coveted player.

Michael Horgan Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola (6-5/230/4.8) - Horgan has already committed to Stanford, but has a trip to Washington in case he's denied admissions. That shouldn't happen, and Michael should end up with the Cardinal.

Craig Stevens Rolling Hills (Calif.) Palos Verdes Peninsula (6-4/225/4.8) - Stevens is a talented two way player who has totaled over 100 tackles playing linebacker this season, but he's being recruited primarily for tight end. UW will get a trip out of him.

Colin Whitney Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) Lake City (6-5/225/4.9) - Along with Derek Schoumann, Whitney is the top TE prospect in Idaho and the Husky coaches have been calling him. A very hard worker on the football field, Colin would have to be considered a bit of a fallback prospect for Washington.

John Markus Pinard Bellevue, Washington (6-5/240/4.85) - Another possible fallback, Keith Gilbertson was seen spotted at a Bellevue practice this week, no doubt checking on Pinard among other Wolverines. John Markus' stock has risen steadily in the past couple of months, and another big day in the title game tonight just might make the Husky coaches re-assess his potential at the high D1 level.

PREDICTION: I think they take four guys here - Tyler, Lyon, Goodman and Johnson. With the need only being projected at 2, there's a caveat. There's a possibility either Joe Toledo or Ben Bandel could move to the OL, and I think Tyler could also end up there one day. It's never a bad thing to get big guys with speed in the hopes they keep their speed as they get bigger. Goodman and Johnson have the versatility you like to see in big men, so they could also get a shot on defense. I like Pinard as a very strong walk-on canidate, but a lot of east coast schools are willing to help pay for his education so that probably won't happen.


Juan Garcia Yakima (Wash.) Eisenhower (6-3/275/5.1) - Two-time all Big-9 selection and this year's OL Player of the Year. A very focused and determined young man, who will put you on your back when locked up.

Erik Berglund Beaverton, Oregon (6-6/280/5.2) - Only in his third year of organized football, Berglund's picture is in Webster's next to the definition of 'upside'. He moves very well and has taken to the game and the conditioning regimen that comes with it.

Sam Baker Tustin, California (6-5/285/5.2) - Probably the top 'name' left on the board. Baker's teammate Chris Barrett just committed to USC, so speculation is running rampant that Baker will do the same. Set to visit Washington, however, among others. Will take trips and has a big list to choose from.

Mike Pollak Tempe (Ariz.) Corona del Sol (6-4/275/4.8) - This year's Clay Walker. Pollak has the size and speed to be a nice pulling guard. Washington has a great shot at Mike, but the hometown Devils are the team to beat.

Chad Macklin Visalia (Calif.) Golden West (6-8/265/4.9) - A huge weak tackle prospect, Macklin was named All-League and All-Valley selection as a junior and senior. Needs to bulk up, but could be a force in a couple of years.

Louis Solis Sylmar, California (6-6/310/5.0) - Another BIG tackle prospect with some Silvers-like tendancies. Considers himself to be more of a tough guy than technician.

Kyle Gunther Camarillo (Calif.) Camarillo Adolfo (6-4/275/5.0) - Caught our eye at the Oregon NIKE camp as one of the more physical and athletic linemen there. Could be one of the West's best before it's all said and done.

Cesar Rodriguez La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat (6-7/250/5.0) - A promising tackle prospect with a bit of Elliot Silvers in him. Will go hard after whoever he's up against.

Alex Gottlieb Valencia, California (6-4/275/5.0) - A very good, aggressive interior lineman. Plays through the whistle. Very Kezirian-esque, in my opinion. Had nice USC NIKE camp.

R.J. Willing Honolulu (Hawaii) Kamehameha (6-4/290/5.0) - Arguably the top OL in the islands this year. Has balanced game. Can pass block and pancake effectively.

Zach Schmich - Milwaukie (Ore.) Clackamas (6-5/300/5.3) - Like Kyle Gunther, a standout at the Oregon NIKE camp. Dropped some weight this year and it's helped tremendously. A real competitor.

Brett Thielke Issaquah (Wash.) Skyline (6-5/285/5.1) - Incredible pass-blocker, perhaps the best I've seen at the high school level in person. Great work ethic and personality for the game.

Viliamu Kuaea Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes (6-4/315/5.1) - Three-year player for Dave Miller at Lakes. A very athletic big man with a boat-load of upside. Grades are the main sticking point.

PREDICTION: With a center/guard (Garcia) and tackle (Berglund) already in the mix, all they need is one more guard and tackle, or possibly just two inside players, to round out this group. If Toledo or Bandel are tackle material, the latter is more likely. I like Macklin and Gottlieb to round out the rest of this group. I'm sure the coaches were hoping Kuaea would qualify, but it's looking more and more like he'll need to get his AA first.

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