Washington coach Chris Petersen just landed his second straight top 30 recruiting class, but success isn’t assured. Let’s see if bigger and better players than he ever had at Boise State translate into success at the Pac-12 level.
Hey, Chris Petersen, you just landed a top-30 recruiting class for the second straight year — what are you going to do next?
This, actually: Tell you how meaningless recruiting rankings are.
In the eight years Petersen spent as the head coach at Boise State, he never had a class rated in the top 50. He had two seasons in which the Broncos went undefeated, and five seasons in which they placed 11th or higher in final AP poll, yet the high schoolers he lured in were never considered top tier.
Perhaps that’s why Petersen recoiled a bit Wednesday when asked about the star system that inundates the recruiting scene these days — reminding the room how Boise once rose to No. 3 in the country with the No. 75 class.
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Which brings me to my real point: Imagine what he can do now.
Before taking over at Washington in 2014, Petersen turned the blue turf of Boise State into the red carpet for Cinderella. He would mold misfits into monsters that could squash Power 5 foes in every part of the country.
There was a point when the big schools would wait on Boise like some kind of Google news alert, pouncing on a recruit as soon as they heard that the Broncos were after him. And that was when Petersen was operating out of the Mountain West.
Again: Imagine what he could do now.
The 17 commits UW landed Wednesday comprised what two scouting services deemed the 29th-best recruiting class in the country and fifth-best in the Pac-12. That might not sound overwhelming, but compared to the high-school talent Petersen was bringing in to Boise, it’s a Best Western-to-Marriott upgrade. And if you’re basing your evaluation on the star-system average, the quality of the Huskies’ haul was second only to UCLA in the conference — but since other schools had larger classes, Washington’s overall ranking suffered.
In other words, there’s a level of athleticism coming to Montlake that never found its way to the state of Idaho. There’s a level of skill filing into the Huskies’ program that — top to bottom, at least — escaped the Broncos.
And if Petersen was able to insert Boise into the national-championship conversation year after year with talent the major conferences overlooked, who’s to say he can’t do the same with talent his Power 5 peers all desire?
Well, the first argument is that the more hyped a recruit is, the less he is going to listen. It was easy for Petersen to use the “nobody else wanted you” card as a galvanizing force at Boise, but will he get the same buy-in here?
In college football, finding the right fit for your system is as important as natural ability. Just look at the Huskies’ defense last year, which performed better than the 2014 team that produced four of the NFL draft’s first 44 picks.
The thing is, though, the Huskies aren’t just chasing down the best athletes and hoping they sign. They research recruits’ actions away from the football field, whether it be in the classroom or in the community.
That’s why, when it comes to Petersen-coached teams, there are rarely surprises on signing day — because he’s not going after the attention-seekers. As Brandon Huffman, the national director of recruiting for scout.com, said, “The Huskies are getting the same caliber kids off the field as Petersen got at Boise, but on the field, they’re bigger, faster and stronger.”
Of course, the other argument you could make is that if Boise State played in the Pac-12 all those years, they never would have been as successful. It’s easy to be great a couple of times a season, but when you have to do it every week for three months, some inflation in the “L” column is inevitable.
Talent still matters as much as anything. It’s no coincidence that most of Alabama’s national championships were powered by the top recruiting classes in the country. The Huskies are getting good players, yes, but not great players, meaning future dominance is anything but assured.
Still, you can’t help but look at Petersen’s track record and wonder what might happen now that he’s got a little more horsepower. His recruiting-class rankings are higher than ever.
Let’s see if the national ranking follows suit.