Commitment Impact: Kasen Williams

There's no question the verbal commitment of Kasen Williams, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver prospect from Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. to Washington is incredibly important to the Huskies on a number of levels. For a start, it shows that UW fans don't have to be as concerned about top-level talent leaving the state as in years' past.

When Steve Sarkisian took over for Tyrone Willingham in December of 2008, the program was in disarray. At the same time, young prospects like Kasen Williams, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and other in-state kids didn't know what to make of it. They group up following UW - especially Williams, whose father Aaron played receiver there from 1979 through 1982. But there was nothing compelling about Washington in 2008. They had just gone winless for the first time in over a century and it didn't look like there was going to be a quick fix on the horizon.

I remember talking to Kasen one time casually after his freshman year, just getting a feel for what programs piqued his interest. Before Washington offered, they barely got a mention. Even when they did end up offering him - as a sophomore - he was thinking more along the lines of California or UCLA. There was no juice even with a legacy recruit - but that all changed when Steve Sarkisian was hired on December 8th, 2008.

The day he was hired as Washington's head coach, he was already out recruiting. And the two schools he visited were Bellevue and Skyline. From Day One Sarkisian coveted Kasen Williams. Tyrone Willingham knew Kasen personally; his son Nathaniel played for Skyline - yet Willingham waited until four months after Williams helped Skyline beat O'Dea for the class 3A title. By then, UCLA had already offered the UW legacy. No wonder Kasen's eyes were wandering south.

Sarkisian wasn't on the job long enough to repair the damage done to the recruitment of Jake Heaps by the previous staff, but he was able to do something about Williams. And by securing his verbal commitment Friday, he ensured that any history dragging down the recruitment of 2011 prospects by the last administration was simply that - history. With commitments from Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, the taillights from Willingham's U-Haul heading to the Bay Area have officially faded and are out of view.

Sarkisian has also stressed how important it is the school close ranks and put a fence around the state when it comes to recruiting. They did it early and often for the 2010 class, securing commitments from top prospects like Sione Potoae, Chris Young, Jamaal Kearse, Zach Fogerson and Colin Porter. In 2011, they have stepped it up a notch by landing Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, who combined had more offers than I can count. Washington fans always want to say they got commitments from players that had offers from all the Pac-10 schools and the programs that matter on the national scene. They can comfortably say that with both, as Seferian-Jenkins chose UW over Texas and Williams picked the Huskies over California, Florida, LSU and Notre Dame. That is some heady company. With their commitments, Washington has sent a flare out to the rest of the FBS schools out there - get out of our state and stay out.

The import of this is huge. You can go back and look at the way Washington has recruited historically and see that the foundation for all the great, successful teams at UW were built by in-state players. For every Napoleon Kaufman there was a Joe Steele; for every Mark Brunell there was a Billy Joe Hobert. For every Lincoln Kennedy there was a Benji Olson. It's the way it's always been at UW - keep the great players home and supplement them with the best talent from the rest of the northwest, California and Hawaii, as well as the odd prospect or two from parts unknown. It's the blueprint created by Don James, and his record speaks for itself.

Seferian-Jenkins and Williams will be the first 5-star prospects to sign in the same Washington class since Charles Frederick and Reggie Williams a decade ago. It's the second year in a row the Huskies have picked up at least two players ranked in the top-four in their position groups nationally - Zach Fogerson (#3 FB) and Sione Potoae (#4 DT) - but they weren't 5-star prospects. By keeping them home, it means the profile of Washington's recruiting is now elevated past the regional map and is now firmly rooted on the national recruiting radar.

Sarkisian has consistently said from the moment he was hired that it wasn't going to take long to turn things around at Washington. The infrastructure was there, the tradition was there, the fans had not left - the new staff just needed to change the culture and bring about a winning mindset spurned on by the idea of competition. By securing the commitments of multiple 5-star talents, he's laying the foundation for a quick turnaround - at least on paper. Williams and Seferian-Jenkins are the kind of homegrown student-athletes you can build programs around - just like they have with Jake Locker. They handle their business the right way. And when you look at Williams especially - and his quest for four state championship rings - he personifies winning and the competitive juices that fuel his efforts. In fact, he might just end up being one of the winningest football players the Evergreen State has ever produced. And we aren't even taking into account the state titles he's won in track as a jumper.

And lastly, Williams' commitment signals to others on the fence that he's serious about being a major cog in Sarkisian's rebuilding efforts. While Seferian-Jenkins has made no bones about wanting to recruit the best players to UW, Williams is by nature a little more low-key. He has his excitable moments, but one of the reasons he's so successful at football is because of his poise and ability to handle high-stress situations.

Friday night, Williams talked openly about wanting to do his part to help the Huskies recruit, and that could prove huge. By having two top-5 guys nationally roaming Montlake during recruiting weekends, they can pitch the Husky experience to their peers. Sarkisian and his staff now have some valuable ammunition at their disposal when they go on the recruiting trail this winter, trying to lock up the rest of their targets. By showing other players that these two have put their futures in Sarkisian's hands, Williams and Seferian-Jenkins are not only talking the talk - they are walking the walk.

He has the in-state stars believing in UW again.


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