Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian salvaged recruiting with a late sprint, but vows that locals will someday stay home to play.
Steve Sarkisian exhaled. If he hadn’t been in public, he probably would’ve loosened his tie, kicked off his shoes and slouched in a comfortable chair.
“I’m tired,” the Washington football coach admitted, laughing.
A wild and fickle recruiting season ended Wednesday with satisfaction, but it was sandwiched between relief and regret.
Satisfaction: The Huskies put together an impressive class despite revamping their coaching staff during the pivotal final month of recruiting.
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Relief: It took an incredible closing burst in the final few days to turn this class from disappointing to laudable.
Regret: Somehow, the Huskies did it without locking up several high-profile local recruits, which shows their resourcefulness. But, oh, what a class it could have been if Josh Garnett and Zach Banner, among others, had decided to stay at home.
“There will come a day when every kid in the state of Washington dreams and hopes of playing for the Huskies,” Sarkisian vowed. “We’re just not quite there yet.”
A year ago, the Huskies signed most every high-profile local player they wanted, including wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. This year, they missed out on Garnett (Stanford) and Banner (USC), the two stud offensive linemen in the area, as well as receiver Cedric Dozier (California) and running back KeiVarae Russell (Notre Dame).
So, if Sarkisian wants to put a fence around the state, he might want to build it high and put some barbed wire on top. Or maybe everyone should chill and realize that successful in-state recruiting doesn’t necessarily mean 100 percent retention. As long as the Huskies get their fair share of elite local talent, as long as they recruit well in all the other areas where they covet players (California especially), as long as they build an elite program, they’ll be fine.
If you want proof, look at Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. He resides in what has become a basketball hotbed. In recruiting, he has had his high-profile victories (Abdul Gaddy, Tony Wroten Jr., Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Isaiah Thomas, Martell Webster among them). He has also watched some well-regarded local recruits go elsewhere (Marvin Williams, Peyton Siva, Terrence Williams, Avery Bradley and Joshua Smith among them). But in his 10 seasons, the Huskies still have enjoyed their most consistent decade in program history.
Romar knows it’s a battle for talent and perception when recruiting big-name local prep stars. But he also knows that it’s unrealistic to expect to build a sustainable program that is dependent solely upon in-state players.
“If you have a local base, you definitely have to get your share,” Romar said. “To expect to get everyone is unrealistic. Some have a troubled home life and need to get away. Others have a great home life, but they want to leave home and experience something else. But if you’re a program doing what you should be doing, you should be getting a lot of local talent.”
Of course, “a lot” means different things to different people. But Romar has a simple message to fans who overreact when local players sign elsewhere: Trust your program.
“If it’s year in and year out, if you’re not getting anyone, as a fan, I could see why you’re frustrated,” Romar said. “But if you’re getting guys and just missing here and there, you have to trust your program. When we took C.J. Wilcox, there was zero fanfare. You didn’t see a bunch of stars by his name. There were other four- or five-star guys that maybe we could’ve taken, but they weren’t better than C.J.
“If you don’t know the facts, cut the team some slack. We’ve been here 10 years, and there are probably three players that we really wanted that we didn’t get. With football, it could be the same situation.”
In particular, the Huskies sure could’ve used either Garnett or Banner, who both project to be quarterback-protecting left tackles, in this class. But they had a banner year recruiting defensive backs — a serious area of need — led by the signing of Shaq Thompson, the top high-school safety in the nation. They made significant moves to solidify their future at quarterback by snagging Cyler Miles and Mercer Island’s Jeff Lindquist. And they found the kind of prototypical athletes needed to play the brand of football they desire. Both Rivals.com and Scout.com consider it a top-25 recruiting class.
The Huskies can’t and won’t be content. But their satisfaction is warranted.
This year, they outlasted a crazy, ever-changing recruiting year and prospered at the end. And in recruiting, resilience is an important trait.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.