Bush Hamdan knows how to entice blue-chip quarterbacks from the state of Washington.
Only now, he’s doing so at his former employer’s expense.
The 36-year-old Hamdan served two separate stints on Chris Petersen’s staff (2015-16, 2018-19), most recently as UW’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. And in that time, a trio of four- or five-star in-state signal callers — Jacob Sirmon, Dylan Morris and Sam Huard — either verbally committed to or signed with Washington.
After Jimmy Lake chose not to retain Hamdan in 2020, he spent the past two seasons at the University of Missouri — tutoring the Tigers’ receivers and quarterbacks.
But he wasn’t done recruiting the state of Washington.
On Sunday, four-star Lincoln (Tacoma) High School quarterback Gabarri Johnson — a Husky target with other offers from Oregon, Arizona State, Arkansas, Utah, Oregon State, Washington State and more — announced a verbal commitment to Mizzou.
It’s bad enough for the Huskies that another blue-chip prospect is exiting the west.
But it’s worse that Hamdan dealt the blow.
“It’s not like Bush Hamdan was going out of his way to troll UW by taking him. But there was some familiarity with Bush,” 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman said. “Gabarri’s trainer trained Dylan Morris and Sam Huard, and both those guys committed to (or signed with) Bush. Bush obviously knows the Washington football high school market, so he understands the talent level he’s playing with here.”
Johnson’s departure, though damaging, might not be a direct reflection on UW or its coaching staff. The biggest factor in his commitment, according to Huffman, is that Johnson “always wanted to play in the SEC.”
The other assumption — particularly pertaining to the SEC — is that name, image and likeness dollars surely sweetened the deal. But Huffman: “The natural crutch nowadays is every time a recruit leaves — no matter what school you’re at, no matter what city you’re in, no matter what conference you’re in — [people say] NIL is going to be the factor. I don’t think NIL was as big a factor here as people are trying to allude to, just because Missouri is in the SEC.”
OK, so regardless of reason, where does that leave Washington?
“When you have a four-star quarterback in state, and he’s the only one, and you’re the in-state school and you don’t get him, and you’re not really leading for anybody else that’s high up [in the rankings], that hurts,” Huffman said. “Because you kind of hope that, if all things are equal — granted, there’s a new staff in place — the proximity to home wins out for you. Obviously in this case, it didn’t win out.
“There is a reason to panic, because you didn’t have a quarterback in the 2022 class. You now don’t have a quarterback [yet] in the 2023 class. Most of the top quarterbacks out west are either spoken for or leaning elsewhere.”
Three quarterbacks in the 2023 class — Johnson (Mizzou), Rickie Collins (Purdue) and Zane Flores (Oklahoma State) — have committed elsewhere, while four-star signal callers Jaden Rashada and Avery Johnson don’t seem particularly interested either. That leaves three-star Pierre, South Dakota, quarterback Lincoln Kienholz — who has other offers from Arkansas State, North Dakota State, Colorado State, Pittsburgh, South Dakota State and Washington State.
While UW coach Kalen DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s experience in the state of South Dakota could put the Huskies in prime position to land Kienholz, Huffman noted that “the drop-off from the top guys [UW offered] to that next tier is pretty steep.”
And yet, Washington still needs a quarterback.
And it won’t be getting one from inside its own state.
“This was kind of the last state in the Pac-12 where the local kids didn’t leave as easily as other states did,” Huffman said. “L.A. kids have been leaving since the beginning of time. Bay Area kids have been leaving. Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City kids have been leaving. Now we see more and more in the last few years, the Washington kids have been willing to leave. I think (Johnson) was a lot like some of the guys before him, where there was more attraction to playing away from home.”
In the 2018 and 2019 classes, zero blue-chip prospects from Washington left the state.
A combined 12 recruits have done so in the three cycles since.
So what can DeBoer and Co. do — other than win — to reverse the trend?
“Just stay the course,” Huffman said. “I don’t think they need to stray away from recruiting in the state of Washington and say: ‘Hey, these kids are leaving. Let’s stop recruiting them.’
“I think they’re playing with a hand tied behind their back. People talk about, with Oregon’s new staff, how are they able to recruit when they have a first-time head coach at a Pac-12 school? Well remember, like 12 of these kids in Washington went down and visited Georgia last year, and Dan Lanning was the one who was primarily recruiting them. So the relationships were built. Fresno State wasn’t recruiting the elite kids in the state of Washington in the 2022 class or the 2023 class. So they’re playing from behind through no fault of their own. They weren’t here.
“So it’s just continuing to try plugging away with those  guys — especially the ones who maybe won’t make a decision for a while — and then really pouring the energy and effort into the 2024s and 2025s. Because those guys are still impressionable.”
Bosco linebacker Deven Bryant commits to UW
Eleven minutes before Johnson made his Missouri commitment official, UW received good news of its own.
Deven Bryant — a three-star 2023 linebacker from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California — announced a verbal commitment to Washington.
The 6-foot, 210-pound Bryant chose the Huskies over offers from Colorado, Fresno State, Louisville, Nevada, Oregon, San Diego State, Washington State and more. He’s ranked as a three-star recruit and the No. 87 linebacker in the 2023 class by 247Sports. Bryant is UW’s third verbal commit in the 2023 cycle, joining three-star running back Tybo Rogers and wide receiver Keith Reynolds.
“He’s not super flashy, but he’s a consistent defender — a consistent playmaker,” Huffman said. “He’s a guy that’s going to be in on a lot of tackles. He won’t wow you with any plus physical superiority. But he will impress you just in his willingness to put his nose in. He’s a pretty physical player.
“He’s not the biggest guy. He’s one of those guys that’s just a solid contributor. You look at the box score at the end of the game and he’s got eight, nine tackles. He’s very similar to Jalen Woods, who was the other inside backer at Bosco who’s at UCLA. Those guys get overshadowed by the star power on their team. And yet, they’re kind of the heart and soul — the anchors of those defenses. Those are three- to four-year guys.”