Commitment Review: Taz Stevenson

As Washington learned Saturday against Oregon, you have to have a lot of depth to be able to survive a Pac-10 schedule loaded with talented teams. Nearly all of those programs have been recruiting consistently with the same coaches and same systems in place. The Huskies are a glaring exception, but Steve Sarkisian was hired to bring cohesion and winning back to Montlake.

The recent verbal commitment of Dalaunte 'Taz' Stevenson to the Huskies might not be seen as an earth-shattering deal to those that simply look at stars and other offers to gauge talent. But for those keeping score, Stevenson was rated as a three-star prospect, the No. 81 receiver in the country by Scout.com. He chose Washington over scholarship offers from Colorado, Hawai'i, Oregon State, San Diego State, Utah, Washington State and Wyoming.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound athlete from Mililani High School on the island of Oahu isn't going to wow you in any one particular area, but taken as a whole Stevenson gives Washington something they've been sorely lacking; quality depth at a couple of different positions on the field, and a big athlete at skill positions where height can be used as an asset.

Stevenson is the type of raw athlete the Huskies can mold into whatever kind of player they want - he can be a Jermaine Kearse clone on offense, or the big, ballhawking athlete at free safety they've missed since the days of Dashon Goldson, and before him, Hakim Akbar.

For most of his career at Mililani, Stevenson has been the Trojans' main offensive threat, simply because for a bigger player he has an explosive first step and gets separation in the open field. Part of his offensive development as a pure receiver has been stunted because he has been asked to play a bunch of running back as a junior and senior out of depth concerns. But he's parlayed that versatility into understanding all the roles on offense, acting as a big, rangy blocker out on the edge when Mililani has called for others to carry their share of the offensive burden. Knowing multiple roles is only going to enhance Stevenson's development at the next level.

It's defense where we expect Stevenson to start out at, and it's the one side of the field where he needs to really bump up his learning curve. The Trojans had not used Stevenson much on defense until this year, after it became clear to Mililani Head Coach Darnell Arceneaux that colleges were serious in seeing what Taz could do on that side of the ball.

It will be interesting to see if Stevenson does indeed start out at safety, or even as a big cornerback. They also have these other commits that could be used in the secondary: Downey (Calif.) Warren ATH Jesse Callier; Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan ATH John Timu; Portland (Ore.) Jesuit ATH Keanon Lowe; Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes WR/S Jamaal Kearse; and Auburn, Wash. ATH Chris Young.

Young is a crunching safety right now for Auburn, but could certainly grow into a linebacker prospect. Lowe is a great shutdown corner, but is looking forward to getting a chance to play offense at the next level. Kearse, the younger brother of current UW receiver Jermaine Kearse, is a bigger, thicker version of his brother.

They are also in on a number of great DB prospects: La Habra, Calif. ATH Joshua Quezada; Fountain Valley, Calif. RB/DB Kyle Middlebrooks; Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne safety Sean Parker; La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis ATH Dietrich Riley; Pittsburg, Calif. DB Erick Dargan; Colton, Calif. DB Derrick Malone, and Honolulu (Hawai'i) St. Louis DB Marcus Umu.

But the commitment of Stevenson gives them a big body they can bring in next summer, try him at a number of positions - including some work as a return specialist - and see where he fits in best. He's got enough experience as an offensive performer that he could fit in right away at receiver, but I suspect the Huskies are looking more long-term and feeling Taz could end up being a force at free safety.

In my opinion, the only other two commitments that look set to start their UW careers in the secondary from the 2010 class are Timu and Kearse, and by adding Stevenson that means all their DB's are at least 6-foot-2. That's something that the Huskies haven't had in a while; big, rangy athletes that can grow into real enforcers.


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