Given coach Chris Petersen’s track record over the past decade, it’s hard to call that ranking anything but the continuation of a trend. He makes strong teams from who he gets.
So I’m definitely more of a words guy than a math guy these days, but I thought I’d introduce a new formula nonetheless.
There’s not much to it, really. You just take Chris Petersen’s recruiting-class ranking, divide that number by four and — voilà! — you get the true ranking of that class. Or at least something close to the true ranking.
Don’t worry, the formula has been tested empirically. During his eight-year tenure at Boise State, Petersen never landed a recruiting class ranked in the top 50, and yet the Broncos finished in the top 20 of the final AP poll six times during that stretch. Come to think of it, the Broncos finished in the top 10 four times under Petersen, so maybe the “divide by four” thing is selling him short.
His three years at Washington haven’t done much to reverse that line of thinking.
Sure, the Huskies struggled during the 2014 season and were just north of mediocre in 2015, but last year they surprised most of the country by winning the Pac-12 and stepping assertively into the College Football Playoff. As for UW’s recruiting-class rankings along the way? Well, according to Scout.com, the Huskies were 35th in 2014, 23rd in 2015 and 29th last year.
Those are solid rankings, but not astronomical ones. They’re certainly not the kind of numbers associated with traditional Power 5 champions.
And if the Huskies’ surge took place with just about any other coach at the helm, perhaps you’d chalk it up to a lucky season. But given Petersen’s track record over the past decade, it’s hard to call it anything but the continuation of a trend.
Which brings us to this year’s recruiting class.
Many purple-and-gold bleeders were dismayed that five-star defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu decommitted from UW nine days before signing day. And pouring salt, er, snow in the wound was running back Connor Wedington, a former Washington commit who announced his decision to join Stanford via a snowboarding video.
But even with those two flips, the Huskies finished with the nation’s 23rd-best class, according to Scout. That’s a top-six class by my math — and you know what? UW might be better off without those two.
One thing Petersen stressed Wednesday was that the players who evade the program have nothing to do with Washington’s success — that it has everything to do with the players that do come to Montlake. And the kind of guys who waffle on their decision or announce it through an intricately-edited video probably aren’t the right fit for UW anyway.
Granted, given Petersen’s staff’s knack for eyeing unheralded talent, we might see a lot more decommitments in the future, as other schools will try to pry recruits away. As Petersen said Wednesday: “If guys get an offer from us, they’re going to attract a lot of attention.”
Pac-12 recruiting class rankings
There was no doubt some self-assurance behind that quote, but it doesn’t make it untrue. You get the feeling the Huskies are viewed a little like the Spurs and Patriots these days, where if they show interest in a player, other teams think, “What do they see what we don’t?”
Petersen has become college football’s chief home flipper — transforming meh into marvelous, one whistle-blow at a time.
Of course, there is still much for the Huskies to prove going forward. Petersen has demonstrated he has home-run power in a major conference, but we still don’t know if he can be consistent.
Can Washington find perpetual residence in the AP Top 10? Will it become a given that the Pac-12 title goes through UW the way it did Oregon and USC earlier this century? Can the Huskies make the jump from “respected” CFP opponent to “feared” one?
Those are all questions still awaiting answers.
What’s less of a mystery, however, is whether Petersen can maximize talent in a way few other NCAA coaches can. So if he means it when he says he’s as excited about this class as any he’s had at Washington, fans should be pumped up, too.
At this point, Petersen couldn’t care less whether his recruiting classes are atop the rankings. His team being atop the standings is plenty fulfilling for him.