The coach is gone.
But the recruits are still coming.
In the wake of Washington’s firing of second-year head coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday, the Huskies maintain 10 2022 commits — a group ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 53rd nationally by the 247Sports Composite. (Their average recruit ranking, .8799, sits 24th in the nation and fourth in the Pac-12 — behind Oregon’s 90.59, USC’s 90.35 and UCLA’s 88.42).
The class has also lost four commits in the last calendar year — defensive tackles Ben Roberts and Sir Mells (currently committed to Oregon), outside linebacker/tight end Anthony Jones (currently committed to Texas), and offensive lineman Mark Nabou (uncommitted).
So, considering the program’s 4-6 record and fluctuating coaching staff, what’s keeping UW’s remaining recruits committed?
“Honestly, the culture,” three-star Tacoma tight end Chance Bogan told The Times on Tuesday night. “I committed to a program, not a specific coach. One coach, two coaches isn’t really going to change that for me. Even if all the coaches are gone, I’m still going to fight for my spot at where I want to be. I want to be at the University of Washington, my dream school, where I know I’m going to take my major, have everything set. It’s set. That’s just where I’m at with it.”
Likewise, three-star La Jolla, Calif., quarterback Jackson Stratton said “I’m still 100% locked into the program. It obviously sucks (that Lake and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach John Donovan were fired). Those are the guys that recruited me, my main recruiters. They were the ones that made the decision to offer me. But honestly, I committed to the program, so I’m still feeling pretty good about my decision.”
The same can be said of three-star Scottsdale, Ariz., offensive lineman Parker Brailsford, who wrote in a text that “I am still locked in with Washington and I love what Coach Lake has been doing but I think that it has been a great program for a long time. I also know that Washington is a great school for academics and I’m excited to start in the winter.”
Speaking of the winter, it’s unclear whether Washington will hire its next head coach by early signing day on Dec. 15. When asked how the recruiting cycle may factor into her search timeline, UW athletic director Jen Cohen said Sunday:
“We’re going to run a swift search, but it’s going to be thorough too. And so our focus first and foremost is on our current student-athletes and providing them the best experiences we can. We understand decisions like this can impact recruiting, but we’re going to be thorough enough to get the best coach for the University of Washington.”
It’s possible that coach might bring additional 2022 recruits from a previous program. It’s also possible, when the new coach assembles his staff, that current commits ultimately reconsider their stance.
“With coach Jimmy Lake getting fired nothing has really changed for me because my position coach (Junior Adams) is still there,” four-star UW wide receiver commit Germie Bernard told 247Sports this week. “If anything changes it would be because my position coach left but I don’t see that happening.”
In Power Five football, anything can happen.
Husky recruits have learned that the hard way.
“It was pretty surprising, I’m not going to lie,” Bogan said of Lake’s firing. “It kind of shook me up, like, ‘Damn, this is real. Coaches really get fired. This is something that happens.’ But we have to move on. Things happen in the business, and I’ve got to keep pushing.”
Added Stratton: “I was actually on my (official visit to UW), and then the very next day they fired Donovan.”
Coaches come and go, sometimes surprisingly quickly.
Which is why recruits are encouraged to commit to a university, a program and a culture.
But that doesn’t mean UW’s commits don’t have an opinion on who their coach should be.
“I had heard word somewhere about coach O (Ed Orgeron), and I’d love to hear that voice call my name on the sideline,” Bogan said with a laugh. “I honestly just think he’s a great coach. LSU’s always been a great school, great program, and he’s helped build a great culture there. So it wouldn’t be a bad thing for him to come up here.”
“Obviously I want to pass the ball,” Stratton added with a chuckle. “But all colleges are trying to run different stuff to accomplish the same thing. Every college is going to run the ball and pass the ball a pretty even amount. So I’m just excited to see who they hire and what offense they’re running. I don’t really have a preference.”
Regardless, three-star Puyallup wide receiver Denzel Boston tweeted Monday that he’s “still 100% committed and bleeding the HUSKIES 25/8 #dawgsareloyal.”
Dawgs are loyal.
So much so that four-star Keller, Texas, running back Emeka Megwa actually reclassified to sign with the Huskies this fall and enroll immediately, rather than waiting for December.
The rest of his class (or most of it) is on its way, even without the coach who signed off on their respective recruitments.
“I talk to all of ‘em. We’re all in communication,” Bogan said of the 2022 class. “It’s a brotherhood, since before we even step foot on campus. Germie (Bernard), Denzel (Boston), everybody, we’re locked in. We all check up on each other, see how we’re doing, just making sure everybody’s locked in.”