This is the biggest official visit weekend of the Jimmy Lake era.
Which, given the circumstances, isn’t saying very much.
After taking the reins from Chris Petersen in Dec. 2019, Lake — the Huskies’ second-year head coach — was almost immediately saddled with a nearly 15-month recruiting dead period, during which campus visits were strictly prohibited (unless, allegedly, you’re Arizona State). That prolonged recruiting purgatory was finally lifted on June 1, clearing the way for recruits to make their way to Montlake.
And this weekend, Lake and Co. are looking to make up for lost time.
Of course, five-star Eastside Catholic defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau took an official visit to UW at the beginning of the month. Now, seven 2022 prospects, including five four-star recruits and one Husky commit, are headed to UW for official visits this weekend.
Let’s take a deeper dive into that crop of coveted recruits.
Emeka Megwa, RB, 6-1, 220, Timber Creek (Texas) HS
247Sports ranking: four stars, No. 24 athlete
Emeka Megwa fits the formula for a UW running back in 2021. Consider that Husky running backs coach Keith Bhonapha has taken a tailback from Texas in two consecutive classes, and the last three backs to sign with Washington — Caleb Berry, Jay’Veon Sunday and Sam Adams II — touted an average size of 6-foot and 201 pounds.
Megwa — a 6-1, 220-pounder from Keller, Texas — is the kind of bruiser Lake and UW offensive coordinator John Donovan covet. But he’s coveted by plenty of other programs as well. The four-star recruit has claimed scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Arizona State, Arkansas, Florida, Baylor, Colorado, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, USC and more.
Can UW seal the deal with an eye-opening official visit?
If they do, three-star Bellingham product Djouvensky Schlenbaker may suddenly lack a spot in the Huskies’ 2022 class. But a Megwa commitment would qualify as a win for Bhonapha, Lake and the program at large.
Ryan Otton, TE, 6-6, 225, Tumwater HS
247Sports ranking: four stars, No. 5 TE, No. 187 overall prospect
You already know the name. And while his brother has developed into a senior leader and first-team All-Pac-12 performer in four pristine seasons at UW, Ryan Otton has plenty to offer as well. The 6-6, 225-pounder is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 5 tight end in the 2022 class, and has earned offers from UW, Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Utah, West Virginia and more.
The assumption has long been that eventually, inevitably, Ryan would follow Cade in committing to UW. But he did take an official visit to Stanford last weekend, and Husky tight ends coach Derham Cato still needs to solidify the Huskies’ standing with an exemplary official visit.
But if Otton joins Tacoma product Chance Bogan in the boat, they would form a tantalizing tight end tandem for UW.
Benjamin Morrison, DB, 6-0, 172, Brophy College Prep (AZ)
247Sports ranking: four stars, No. 31 CB
In March, Morrison told 247Sports that UW has been “my dream school since I was young.”
But a summer of official visits may change his stance.
A four-star corner from Phoenix, Morrison has taken official visits to Notre Dame (June 11) and Oregon (June 18) each of the past two weekends. He also has offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA, Arizona State, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Washington State and more.
Which is all to say, the pressure is on for Washington to make a momentous impression — especially considering UW has yet to claim its first defensive commit in the 2022 class.
Tevarua Tafiti, LB, 6-3, 222, Punahou (HI) HS
247Sports ranking: four stars, No. 29 LB, No. 245 overall prospect
UW has maintained an impressive pipeline on the islands, signing seven Hawaiians in the last four classes — with the headliner being All-American outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui. Co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Ikaika Malloe will attempt to further that connection by earning the commitment of four-star Honolulu linebacker Tevarua Tafiti.
Stanford, which hosted Tafiti for an official visit last weekend, may ultimately be the biggest threat for the dynamic Hawaiian — who could potentially play either inside or outside linebacker on the Pac-12 level. But he has earned offers from Cal, Utah, Vanderbilt, Arizona State, Virginia, Colorado, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA, WSU and Wisconsin as well.
In a written evaluation in March 2020, 247Sports recruiting analyst Blair Angulo called Tafiti an “explosive edge-rushing outside linebacker with tenacity and top-end motor.” The Huskies could always use another one of those.
Ben Roberts, DT, 6-4, 290, East (Utah) HS
247Sports ranking: four stars, No. 37 DL
Salt Lake East head coach Brandon Matich told The Times last year that their campus is located “a seven iron away” from the University of Utah’s practice field.
So why have East defensive standouts Sam “Taki” Taimani, Jordan Lolohea and Voi Tunuufi all signed with UW instead?
“I don’t mind my kids going to the University of Utah. I’m a former Ute and I love the University of Utah,” Matich said. “There’s just something that the University of Washington’s staff — it started with Pete (Chris Petersen), and now it’s trickled down to coach Lake — they just do something different. It’s just a different feel, a different vibe. It’s real. It’s not phony recruiting stuff, and our kids love it. So it’s quite a pipeline that coach Malloe has started up here.”
Matich added that “Voi won’t be the last dude that UW comes and gets from us,” and four-star defensive tackle Ben Roberts could soon prove him right. He’s a powerful, explosive defensive lineman who could potentially find the field early at UW.
Lance Holtzclaw, OLB, 6-4, 200, Desert Ridge (AZ) HS
247Sports ranking: three stars, No. 37 DE
This long, athletic outside linebacker will head to Washington immediately following an official visit to Boston College. He has taken official visits to Oregon State, Boise State and Vanderbilt as well.
The Huskies signed just one outside linebacker — three-star prospect Maurice Heims — in the 2021 class, so it’s conceivable they could accept commitments from both Holtzclaw and Tafiti at that position. While he needs to add muscle, Holtzclaw possesses the size and explosiveness to project future success — similar to another Arizona outside linebacker in UW redshirt sophomore Bralen Trice.
Jackson Stratton, QB, 6-4, 205, La Jolla (CA) HS
247Sports ranking: three stars, No. 58 QB
Stratton committed to UW on May 8, so this visit is about more than simply familiarizing himself with his future campus. Alongside Lake and Co., expect Stratton to act as an extra recruiter throughout a steamy official visit weekend in Seattle.
This weekend’s official visitors will be treated to new AstroTurf inside Husky Stadium. UW replaced its field turf this offseason and stated in a budget presentation this spring that the upgrade is “needed every 5-7 years for safety of student athletes.” Take a look at the new turf below.