“Important” is a difficult word to define.
When it comes to Washington’s 2023 class, it’s important to secure commitments from the state’s top prospects; it’s important to find fits at positions of need; it’s important to sign the best possible players, regardless of region or star rating or offer list.
With just four existing commits (wide receivers Rashid Williams and Keith Reynolds, running back Tybo Rogers and linebacker Deven Bryant) in a class ranked 46th nationally by 247Sports, Washington has work to do over the next several weeks, when it will host many of its top prospects on official visits.
Factoring in the aforementioned criteria, here are UW’s 10 — or 14, or 24 — most important uncommitted recruits in the 2023 class.
10. S Jordan Sanford | 5-11, 185 | Arlington, TX | four stars
Analysis: Many of UW’s top safety targets — notably, Christian Pierce (USC) and Kodi Decambra (Oregon) — have committed to Pac-12 rivals. But the Huskies have earned an official visit from four-star Mansfield Timberview High School standout Jordan Sanford, who will arrive in Seattle on June 24.
An undersized but instinctive ballhawk, Sanford will be difficult to pull from the Lone Star State — and he has also reported offers from Texas Tech, Northwestern, Arizona State, Arkansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and more. Still, the Huskies will soon have an opportunity to separate themselves.
9. Edge rusher Jaeden Moore | 6-4, 230 | Visalia, Calif. | three stars
Analysis: UW remains a bit thin at the edge position, with seven scholarship players on the roster and two (Jeremiah Martin and Zion Tupuola-Fetui) who will likely depart following 2022. First-year Husky edge coach Eric Schmidt addressed that need somewhat last month, earning a commitment from the College of San Mateo’s Sekai Asoau-Afoa. But that’s just the beginning.
Of course, five-star Tacoma edge Jayden Wayne recently eliminated the home state Huskies from contention. But Schmidt and Co. may actually believe Moore — a long, explosive (and undeniably raw) athlete — has the higher upside. Moore (this weekend) and four-star prospect Blake Purchase (June 21) are both scheduled for official visits, and time will tell whether Washington can reel one in.
8. TE Jackson Bowers | 6-5, 225 | Mesa, Ariz. | four stars
Analysis: UW appears to have two primary tight end targets: four-star Jackson Bowers and three-star Spencer Shannon. (Idaho athlete Kenyon Sadiq may be next in line.) Shannon made an official visit to Montlake last month, but Bowers — a big athlete with soft hands and a penchant for pancake blocks — should be the higher priority. He has scheduled official visits to BYU and Arizona and will likely end up at Washington as well.
But in an offense that caters more heavily to wide receivers, can UW continue to attract top tier tight ends? We may know the answer by the end of the month.
7. CB Maliki Crawford | 6-4, 180 | Oxnard, Calif. | four stars
Analysis: In many ways, Crawford looks like a UW DB. The Pacifica High School prospect is a long, lanky 6-4 corner with wide receiver hands and a willingness to tackle in run support. He made an unofficial visit to Washington last spring and will return for an official visit on June 24. While in-state blue-chippers Caleb Presley and Jasiah Wagoner may be higher priorities, Crawford is a must-take recruit at a position of need. The Huskies will have to fend off USC, UCLA, Cal and more for his services.
6. LB Leviticus Su’a | 6-2, 225 | Santa Ana, Calif. | four stars OR
LB Jordan Whitney | 6-2, 205 | Oxnard, Calif. | three stars
Analysis: In the wake of linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio’s offseason injury, UW brought in a pair of sixth-year starter stopgaps in transfers Cam Bright (Pittsburgh) and Kristopher Moll (UAB). But that doesn’t change UW’s desperate need for depth at the position. Three-star St. John Bosco linebacker Deven Bryant is already committed, but Washington would welcome commitments from both Su’a and Whitney as well.
The two feature fairly different strengths, with Su’a a bruising run-stuffer and Whitney a dynamic athlete with sideline-to-sideline speed. Su’a is expected to schedule an official visit sometime in the future, while Whitney will visit on June 24 before choosing between UW and Arizona on July 1.
5. DL Anthony James | 6-5, 245 | Wylie, Texas | four stars
Analysis: The No. 54 overall prospect in the 2023 class via 247Sports, James took an unofficial visit to Washington last spring, before later de-committing from Texas A&M. He has scheduled official visits to Utah (June 3) and UW (June 24) this month, and Washington’s need for versatile defensive linemen will never wane.
But how likely is it that James will turn his back on more regional offers from Texas A&M, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Texas and more? That’s to be determined.
4. OL Micah Banuelos | 6-3, 285 | Burien | three stars OR
OL Landen Hatchett | 6-3, 295 | Ferndale | three stars
Analysis: We’ve arrived at the in-state section of the list, and it’s obvious that UW has struggled to retain top talent in the last several cycles. On the offensive line specifically, the Huskies lost out on local prospects Josh Conerly Jr. (Oregon), Dave Iuli (Oregon), Mark Nabou (Texas A&M), Vega Ioane (Penn State) and Malik Agbo (Texas) in the 2022 class.
Banuelos and Hatchett bring strikingly similar skill sets, so UW may ultimately accept just one of their commitments. But offensive line coach Scott Huff needs to prove he can keep coveted local prospects home.
3. CB Jasiah Wagoner | 5-11, 170 | Spanaway Lake | four stars
2. CB Caleb Presley | 6-0, 180 | Rainier Beach | four stars
Analysis: Under Jimmy Lake, UW earned commitments from three in-state defensive backs that evolved into second-round picks: Budda Baker, Taylor Rapp and Kyler Gordon.
Can a new regime retain the same talent?
In the cases of Presley and Wagoner, it won’t be easy, as top programs nationally are vying for both. But keeping either player home would serve as a massive statement for first-year cornerbacks coach Juice Brown and the rest of UW’s staff.
1. QB Avery Johnson | 6-2, 170 | Maize, KS | four stars OR
QB Aidan Chiles | 6-4, 195 | Downey, Calif. | three stars OR
QB Lincoln Kienholz | 6-3, 185 | Pierre, SD | three stars
Analysis: Last month, when discussing Washington’s quarterback recruiting, 247Sports national editor Brandon Huffman told The Times “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.”
UW’s top remaining targets are intriguing dual-threat QBs Avery Johnson, Aidan Chiles and Lincoln Kienholz, and all three are taking official visits to Seattle this month. At the sport’s most important position, Kalen DeBoer and Co. must prove they can deliver the goods.
Honorable mentions: WR Jeremiah McClure, WR Malachi Riley, DL Trey Wilson, RB Dylan Edwards, EDGE Blake Purchase, OT Zachary Henning, OT Elijah Paige, CB Jeremiah Hughes, TE Spencer Shannon, OT Elishah Jackett