Lance Holtzclaw is an athlete.
But is he an outside linebacker?
That’s what the Washington Huskies are about to find out. On Friday, Holtzclaw — a two-way standout at Desert Ridge High School — released a video announcing a verbal commitment to UW.
“From day one, I fell in love with the game and ran with it,” Holtzclaw said in the video. “Since then I always imagined playing on TV, where everyone could watch me. Where I come from, you hardly see anyone make it out in football, and that’s why I’m driven to be one of the very few that do. There were plenty of distractions and forces in life trying to pull me in other directions, but I knew that this plan was written for me.
“I’d like to thank my mother for being my biggest supporter throughout the whole process and inspiring me to not only be successful but influential to people’s lives. I appreciate all the schools that have offered me, but in the end I can only choose one. With that being said, I’ll be taking my talents to the University of Washington. Go Dawgs.”
Holtzclaw’s commitment comes exactly two weeks after the Mesa, Arizona, product arrived at UW for an official visit. That trip followed previous official visits to Vanderbilt (June 5), Boise State (June 16), Oregon State (June 18) and Boston College (June 23). He reported offers from Colorado, Arizona, Air Force, Iowa State, Kansas State, Michigan and San Diego State as well.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Holtzclaw is ranked as a three-star recruit and the No. 37 edge defender in the nation by 247Sports. In an abbreviated six-game junior season, he compiled 27 tackles, 18 hurries, nine tackles for loss and two sacks, while adding 13 catches for 186 yards as a wide receiver, according to MaxPreps. Blair Angulo, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports, recently wrote that Holtzclaw “opened eyes at several events earlier this year while playing wide receiver for the Phoenix-based True Buzz West Coast (7-on-7) squad.”
But while he appears to be an unfinished athletic product, there is precedent for Holtzclaw’s prospective path at UW. Bralen Trice — another Arizona prospect — arrived as a 6-3, 220-pound three-star pass-rusher in 2019, and is expected to contribute heavily this fall after failing to see the field in his first two seasons. Joe Tryon also signed as a raw three-star outside linebacker in 2017, before developing into an All-Pac-12 performer and a first-round NFL draft pick.
Perhaps most similarly, the 6-4, 226-pound Travis Feeney shifted from safety to outside linebacker at UW, before racking up 17.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles in his senior season in 2015.
“They are looking at me for that outside ‘backer position, where I can do everything from rushing the passer to dropping back into zone coverages and moving around,” Holtzclaw told Angulo in a commitment story. “I just won’t be one-dimensional there. They like my pass-rushing potential and see that as one of my strengths, but being versatile where I can move around and be used in other ways will be big.”
Regardless, it’ll take time for Holtzclaw to develop at UW, similar to three-star incoming freshman Maurice Heims. The Huskies enter the upcoming season with seven other scholarship outside linebackers who could theoretically return in 2022 — junior Jeremiah Martin, sophomore Zion Tupuola-Fetui, redshirt freshman Bralen Trice and freshmen Sav’ell Smalls, Cooper McDonald, Jordan Lolohea and Carson Bruener.
Holtzclaw is the eighth commit (and just the second defensive pledge) in UW’s 2022 class, which currently ranks seventh in the Pac-12 and 50th nationally by the 247Sports Composite. He’s also the third recruit from his official visit weekend to commit to UW, joining a pair of four-star prospects in defensive tackle Ben Roberts and running back Emeka Megwa.
Athletically, Holtzclaw’s ceiling may be the highest of the bunch.
Now, it’s up to UW’s coaches to translate potential into production in Pac-12 play.