Clinic puts an emphasis on recruiting

SEATTLE - Kosta Varlamos, owner of Varlamos, a popular Italian restaurant by the University Village, got a call late Friday night, a pretty big take-out order of pizzas. The delivery was made to the Don James Center at Husky Stadium as a group of ravenous coaches were about ready to wolf down copious piles of fresh pie. The mood was upbeat and the room was buzzing with energy.

It's just how Steve Sarkisian wanted it.

There were roughly 200 coaches that came from as far away as Los Angeles to take part in the two-day event, one that had guest speakers like former UW player-turned-coach Mark Stewart, special teams guru Bill Williams, and two of the bigger high school coaches in southern California - Thadd MacNeal from Lakewood and John Brandom from Corona. It was organized by new Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations Dennis Slutak.

"We're just trying to give guys some different flavors," Sarkisian said this week. He wasn't just talking about the pizza, either. "What's going on in southern California? What's going on here locally? You just keep a variety going so there is something for everybody."

Count MacNeal as a believer. "Sark's system is very successful, so people want to learn from them," he said, noting accessibility to the coaches as a key component of that success. "They get kids excited about the program."

Sarkisian has three of Lakewood's 2010 prospects - Jesse Scroggins, Dion Bailey and Kevin Anderson - on Washington's recruiting radar, so MacNeal brought the three up to Montlake with their fathers to see what the Huskies were like first-hand. Two weeks ago MacNeal had been to Tennessee; he's also been to UCLA, San Diego State and USC this year. So how did the Huskies stack up?

"They are top-notch," MacNeal said, giving the new group full marks. "This is a great staff."

Eddie Antuna, an assistant coach from Juanita High School, agreed. "This program will not be down for long," he said. "There's just too much talent, too many good coaches that they've hired on, too much enthusiasm and energy, too much hard work being placed into the program. This program will be turned around in a matter of time.

"It's just a matter of when, not if."

Antuna and the Rebels staff moved from Evergreen High School two years ago. They are the ones that coached up current Huskies Senio Kelemete and Luther Leonard. They have been to coaching clinics at UW for many years, but this one stood out.

"They are trying to infuse the youth they have with the kids and make sure it's happening all the time," Antuna said, noting the complete sense of urgency he felt from top to bottom during the two-day event. "It's fun to see."

Apparently that wasn't the only thing that was a bit of a change from previous clinics. Antuna noted that he was a bit surprised at how much the UW coaches talked about recruiting and creating partnerships with all the coaches in the state.

"We tried to give them a general philosophy of the football program, from a to z," Sarkisian said. "Things like how the program is built, what they are built on, what the themes are and where the emphasis is. One of the points of emphasis was recruiting and the relationships developed with the high school coaches. I wanted them to know the value and the impact that they have on us. When we come into their high schools to recruit, we value their opinion. What they think about a kid and what they don't think about a kid is important to us."

Antuna believes the message has been received. "This is the best time for recruits to come in because they are going to have a chance to showcase their skills and take things to the next level," he said.

If Sarkisian has worked things correctly, he believes the number of coaches at next's year clinic could double. The bigger the better, right? And with everything he's done so far since becoming Washington's head football coach in December, he's attacking this area of recruiting with energy and enthusiasm.

"We're not trying to keep things a secret," added Sarkisian. "We're kind of out there and up front. That's ok with us. We want people to know how we work. I want people to know what kind of coaches we have and how hard they work and how hard they coach and how hard they recruit. I want people to know that."


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