At 9:40 a.m. on Friday, Jimmy Lake tweeted, “Big Weekend about to start at #UDUB #BowDown !!!”
Because of NCAA recruiting rules, Lake isn’t allowed to flatly state that it’s a big weekend because J.T. Tuimoloau — the top prospect nationally in the 2021 class — is on campus for the first of five official visits.
But rest assured, that’s the reason.
A 6-foot-5, 277-pound Eastside Catholic defensive lineman, Tuimoloau opted not to sign both in December and February in order to take official visits this summer. After digesting UW’s pitch this weekend, he’s planning to hit USC June 14-16, Ohio State June 18-20, Oregon June 20-22 and Alabama June 25-27, according to 247Sports. He’ll then enroll at the school of his choice this summer.
The longest recruiting dead period in college football history — which began on March 13, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic essentially suspended sports — officially ended on June 1, allowing for campus visits for the first time in more than a year.
And while it was long assumed Tuimoloau would eventually settle at Ohio State, same as five-star Steilacoom wide receiver Emeka Egbuka, Tuimoloau’s prolonged recruitment could conceivably pay dividends for the hometown Huskies.
Besides the obvious proximity to family, UW can also offer a more immediate path to playing time. While it’s unclear whether Tuimoloau would ultimately fit at defensive tackle or outside linebacker, the Huskies’ top pass-rusher — redshirt junior Zion Tupuola-Fetui — will miss most or all of the coming season with a torn Achilles tendon. Another assumed starter, Laiatu Latu, was forced to medically retire due to a neck injury.
Plus, Washington can also offer opportunities outside of Husky Stadium. Last May, Mike Hopkins offered Tuimoloau — a dual-sport athlete at Eastside Catholic — a Husky hoops scholarship, paving the way for the versatile athlete to potentially play both sports on the Pac-12 level.
Of course, UW still can’t be considered the favorite to land Tuimoloau’s considerable talents. But his addition would bolster a relatively underwhelming 2021 signing class that currently ranks 36th nationally and sixth in the Pac-12 by the 247Sports Composite. While UW did add a bevy of significant in-state recruits — including five-star quarterback Sam Huard, four-star offensive lineman Owen Prentice, four-star wide receiver Jabez Tinae and four-star linebacker Will Latu — it missed on Egbuka as well as four-star linebacker Julien Simon (USC) and four-star wide receiver Junior Alexander (ASU).
That class — which, due to UW’s limited offseason departures, totaled just 15 signees — featured three defensive lineman (Kuao Peihopa, Voi Tunuufi and Siaosi Finau) and one outside linebacker (Maurice Heims).
But, should he stay home, Tuimoloau’s presence would drastically flip the perception of Lake’s first full signing class.
As for what he has planned this weekend, Lake provided a sneak peek on Friday afternoon — tweeting several videos from a plane flying above the Space Needle and Husky Stadium. Tuimoloau, it seems, is worth the extra effort.
And for Washington, he’d also be worth the wait.