Jimmy Lake’s first recruiting class as UW’s head coach has not shaped up as many might have expected.
Sure, he and first-year offensive coordinator John Donovan maintained the commitment of five-star quarterback and UW legacy Sam Huard — perhaps the country’s top prospect at its most important position. They’ve also earned verbal pledges from a pair of four-star in-state standouts in wide receiver Jabez Tinae and linebacker Will Latu.
But the hits have been accompanied by high-profile misses — notably wide receiver Troy Franklin and tight end Moliki Matavao to Oregon, outside linebacker Julien Simon to USC, cornerback Philip Riley to Notre Dame and Arizona defensive backs Denzel Burke and Steven Ortiz to Ohio State and Minnesota, respectively. There have also been several questionable commitments; offensive lineman Robert Wyrsch and fullback Caden Jumper earned their only Power Five offers from UW, and Renton defensive tackle Siaosi Finau did not have a recruiting profile — let alone a star ranking — from 247Sports or Rivals when he announced his commitment.
And yet, it’s entirely possible those players will outperform any negative perception. And, outside of Huard, many of the Huskies’ most coveted recruits remain uncommitted.
UW’s 2021 class — which is currently ranked 28th nationally and third in the Pac-12, behind Oregon and USC, by 247Sports — contains 13 commitments, with a projected cap at either 20 or 21 signees. So, who are the Husky coaches hoping will fill the remaining spots?
Here are seven recruits whose commitments would comprise a “dream finish” for Washington.
JT Tuimoloau — DL — 6-5, 277 — Eastside Catholic High — Sammamish — five stars
Tuimoloau has long been ranked as the top overall player in the 2021 class by 247Sports, and it’s easy to see why. The Eastside Catholic standout has the size and explosiveness to dominate either as a defensive lineman or an outside linebacker. It’s not an exaggeration to dub him a program-altering prospect.
UW was the first school to offer Tuimoloau both in football and in basketball. As of now, the 247Sports crystal ball — which showcases experts’ predictions on a recruit’s eventual landing spot — suggests Ohio State is the favorite to sign Tuimoloau in February. But if the Huskies can keep him home, that would represent the most significant recruiting win in recent memory.
Other DL/OLB options: DL Jacob Schuster, OLB Logan Fano, OLB Velltray Jefferson
Emeka Egbuka — WR — 6-1, 190 — Steilacoom High — Steilacoom — five stars
Egbuka has named a final four of Washington, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson. Like with Tuimoloau, the Buckeyes appear the presumptive favorite. But the opportunity to play with Huard — and learn under second-year UW wide-receivers coach Junior Adams — makes the hometown Huskies an increasingly intriguing option for Egbuka. If UW can pair Egbuka with Tinae (and possibly current Oregon commit Troy Franklin), Adams will have signed an outstanding crop of receivers for the second consecutive cycle.
Other WR options: Troy Franklin (Oregon commit), Tsion Nunnally
Owen Prentice — OL — 6-3, 295 — O’Dea High — Seattle — four stars
To put it plainly, this is not a strong recruiting cycle for offensive linemen out west. But Prentice is a rare blue-chipper, and he’s also UW offensive-line coach Scott Huff’s primary target. This seems to be a two-team race between UW and Stanford, and the Cardinal has a history of pulling offensive linemen out of UW’s backyard (Foster Sarell in 2017, Joshua Garnett in 2012). If Stanford can pull an upset, the Huskies will be hard-pressed to find another worthy offensive lineman to add alongside Robert Wyrsch.
Other OL options: Mason Murphy (USC commit)
Brock Bowers — TE — 6-3, 225 — Napa High — Napa, Calif. — four stars
UW already has one tight-end commit in Independence Community College standout and Kenmore product Quentin Moore, but first-year position coach Derham Cato would certainly like a freshman to add to the mix as well. Bowers is the West Coast’s premier tight end, an athletic anomaly who scored 18 touchdowns in his junior season. And, considering the possibility that UW tight end Cade Otton heads to the NFL next spring, there would be an opportunity for Bowers to contribute early as well.
The 247Sports crystal ball is currently pointing in Georgia’s favor. But keeping Bowers out west would be a significant statement for an undeniably inexperienced recruiter in Cato.
Other TE options: Moliki Matavao (committed to Oregon), Shield Taylor
Ethan Calvert — LB — 6-3, 230 — Oaks Christian High — Westlake Village, Calif. — four stars
If Calvert’s name sounds familiar, that’s because his brother — Josh Calvert — is already a redshirt-freshman linebacker at UW. But Ethan might be the athletically superior prospect at inside linebacker. He’s the kind of ready-made, physically imposing inside linebacker that UW so noticeably lacked last season. Another Calvert linebacker, Bo Calvert, currently plays for UCLA. It appears at this stage that Ethan is heavily considering UCLA, USC and Washington.
UW already has one inside-linebacker commit in this class in four-star Bethel standout Will Latu, but it’s worth mentioning that Latu has made more of an impact at the prep level as a running back. A second Calvert would certainly be welcomed at Washington.
Other ILB options: Wynden Ho’ohuli
Denzel Burke — DB — 6-0, 189 — Saguaro High — Scottsdale, Ariz. — four stars
There’s an obvious complication here: Burke is already committed to Ohio State. But UW has previously pulled Jacobe Covington and Byron Murphy from Saguaro High School, and it’s possible the Huskies could flip Burke prior to national signing day. UW DB coaches Will Harris and Terrence Brown already have two cornerback commits in Zakhari Spears and Dyson McCutcheon, but they need to keep adding to compensate for the inevitable departures of Elijah Molden, Keith Taylor and more.
Again, uncommitted recruits like Chance Tucker and Mitch Leigber are the more likely options. But Burke has the athletic traits Lake looks for to succeed in the back end.
Other DB options: Philip Riley (committed to Notre Dame), Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, Chance Tucker, Mitch Leigber, Placide Djungu-Sungu, Vincent Nunley
Jacob Schuster — DT — 6-2, 300 — Tumwater High — Olympia — four stars
This could be a numbers game. UW already has three defensive-line commits in Voi Tunuufi, Kuao Peihopa and the aforementioned Finau, and if Tuimoloau commits he could realistically land in the same spot as well. But Schuster is an explosive run-stopper and a local standout who has shot up recruiting boards in recent months. He also hails from Tumwater High School, where UW will hope to land Ryan Otton — Cade’s brother — in the 2022 class.
Schuster seems to be torn primarily between UW and Stanford. But if the Huskies can land him, it would be yet another significant win within their home state.
Other DL options: Tuimoloau