Commitment Impact - Garret Gilliland

The commitment of Garret Gilliland to Washington was received with little fanfare; in time this commitment may prove to be one of the more valuable ones for the Huskies in terms of filling need and also bringing in a prospect that could have a big impact on the defense.

In talking with Orange (Calif.) Orange Lutheran Head Coach Jim Kunau, all Gilliland lacks is that cookie-cutter build of what coaches envision with their linebackers.

"When you look at him, he's definitely not the prototypical 6-3, 6-4, 235-240 pound kid," Kunau told "But he'll get stronger in their strength and conditioning program''

The Huskies are recruiting the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Gilliland to fill their need at the weakside inside linebacker spot, also known as the WIL. That spot could end up being wide-open, depending on whether or not E.J. Savannah is granted a sixth year by the NCAA, a process that is still ongoing.

Washington loses Donald Butler, Joshua Gage and T.J. Poe to graduation. They also lost Kurt Mangum when he transferred to Howard University this winter. As far as the linebackers coming back, they have Mason Foster, Cort Dennison, Matt Houston, Brandon Huppert, Tim Tucker and Jordan Wallace. That's six scholarship players (if Huppert is placed back on scholarship like he was in 2009 before he got hurt).

Gilliland is part of what's expected to be a seven-man linebacking group being brought in by the Huskies. But only Princeton Fuimaono appears to have the same body type and physical traits that would lend themselves to playing the WIL position like Gilliland; Darius Waters and Chris Young both look like SAM 'backers, while Victor Burnett appears to be a straight MIK and Brent Williams - while having the physical attributes that scream out WIL - will most likely play a hybrid, or 'Leo' style of linebacker that would allow him to play closer to the line of scrimmage and get into the backfield.

So depending on the verdict that comes down with Savannah and his appeal, Gilliland could find himself right in the competitive mix come fall, just like Nathan Fellner did at safety.

So what did the Huskies see in Gilliland? "I think he's a combination of tremendous character and a work ethic," Kunau said. "Physically he's a very tough player. He was the league co-MVP as a junior with Matt Barkley. And last year, even though he played virtually the entire year hurt, he was still the league's defensive MVP. And we have about as competitive a league as there is in high school. So that tells you a lot about the respect he commands amongst our competitors. Garret is just a special football player. He always has been.

At one point coach (Nick) Holt mentioned to me that in some ways - not that Garret was identical at all, but that Garret reminded him of Matt Grootegoed, who played linebacker for coach Holt at USC. Coach Holt felt that he was in that mold. Hopefully he'll turn out as well as Matt did at USC. He sees a pretty good upside with a guy who is physically a very tough player with a nose for the football."

Grootegoed's calling card took place when he was at Mater Dei and he tracked down Long Beach Poly's Darrell Rideaux in the open field when it looked like Rideaux was sure to score. "Garret is fast and quick, but I don't know if he'll be the fastest linebacker on the field," Kunau said. "But he has good speed and he takes great angles. He does so many smart things that are hard to teach. He is just a natural football player.

"As a linebacker, he simply has a nose for the football. He's a tremendously instinctive player. He's very smart. He reads things very well on the run, and has deceptive speed that allows him to track guys. He's a tremendous open-field tackler."

He's also known around Orange Lutheran for tackling his books. Currently carrying a 3.7 GPA, Gilliland is a smart student and hard worker off the field too. "When you talk about him, you talk about the All-American kid, somebody very trustworthy and honorable," Kunau said of Gilliland.

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