If you’re a local blue-chip prospect these days, chances are you’ve got the Huskies on your short list. For much of the past 15 years, that wasn’t always the case.
Eastside Catholic coach Jeremy Thielbahr played running back at Washington State, got his first coaching job as a graduate assistant on Mike Price’s staff in Pullman and remains, in his words, as ardent in his support of the Cougars as anyone you’ll find.
And yet Thielbahr has no problem acknowledging the appreciation he has for what Washington coach Chris Petersen and his staff have done over the past two years to reshape the recruiting landscape in the state. If you’re a local blue-chip prospect these days, chances are you’ve got the Huskies on your short list. For much of the past 15 years, that wasn’t always the case.
“It’s amazing what they’ve done,” Thielbahr said. “UW has really gotten its roots established again.”
National signing day is Wednesday
Thielbahr experienced the Huskies’ recruiting process up close with Brandon Wellington, one of four blue-chip prospects in The Seattle Times’ annual Chip List, our evaluation of the state’s top 100 players. Wellington, an outside linebacker, and fellow blue-chip prospect Isaiah Gilchrist, a defensive back from Bellevue, have committed to sign with the Huskies during Wednesday’s National Signing Day festivities.
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Joining them in the Huskies’ class are two more of the state’s top-10 prospects, Tahoma outside linebacker Amandre Williams and Sehome safety Taylor Rapp, plus Capital kicker/punter Van Soderberg, No. 16 on our list.
For Wellington, key selling points from UW coaches were family, commitment and character, traits that Thielbahr said are emphasized in his program too. Petersen calls the recruits he seeks “OKGs — Our Kind of Guys.”
“It’s not recruiting fluff when Coach Petersen is talking,” Thielbahr said, adding: “The in-state kids are really seeing the level of coaching that is going on there (at UW). They’re very thorough but also down to earth, and I think that’s what really sells with kids. Petersen and his staff not only want to make these kids better players but also better men, and I think that’s paying dividends.”
Tahoma coach Tony Davis was left with a similar impression when he first talked to Petersen about Williams, a quarterback and defensive end for Tahoma. Davis recalls he and Petersen chatted for about 20 minutes on that first call, and “90 percent of our conversation had to do with Amandre’s character and what kind of guy he is, leadership and stuff like that,” Davis said. “It was consistent with the things that I’d heard about the kind of kids he was going after — young men that will represent your school well — and that was impressive to me.”
The Huskies, Davis added, “have reestablished themselves as the choice for Washington kids.”
Petersen will sign his third UW recruiting class Wednesday. Fourteen in-state prospects wound up going to UW over the past two years, including a handful of players who were regular starters/contributors for UW this past season: Budda Baker, Myles Gaskin, Trey Adams, Kaleb McGary, Drew Sample and Chico McClatcher.
Thielbahr has little doubt Wellington, who helped Eastside Catholic to back-to-back Class 3A state championships, will be a regular contributor for the Huskies, perhaps right away this fall.
“Brandon is one of those players that comes around very rarely,” Thielbahr said. “As talented as he is, he’s just as hard of a worker, and he really loves football authentically. He loves the game. And I really think he is the epitome of what Coach Petersen describes as an OKG.”
Both Wellington and Williams will play outside linebacker for UW, and Williams and Soderberg will enroll at UW in time for the start of spring practices March 28.