Washington’s 2021 recruiting class has a quarterback.
Followed by a cliff?
That would certainly qualify as an understandable conclusion, considering the class — which will officially sign with Washington on Wednesday — consists of just 15 commits, largely due to Jimmy Lake’s team touting just 11 scholarship seniors. The headliner is five-star quarterback legacy and Kennedy Catholic standout Sam Huard — who originally committed in Nov. 2018 and is ranked as a five-star recruit and the nation’s No. 1 pro-style passer by the 247Sports Composite.
But, Huard aside, the absences are striking.
Notably, this class does not contain the top two players in the state of Washington — five-star Eastside Catholic defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau (who remains uncommitted), and five-star Steilacoom wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (who pledged to Ohio State last Friday). Two more home state targets — four-star Tacoma outside linebacker Julien Simon (USC) and four-star Kennedy Catholic wide receiver Junior Alexander (ASU) — committed to Pac-12 opponents as well.
As of Tuesday afternoon, UW’s class is ranked 30th nationally by the 247Sports Composite, and fifth in the Pac-12 — behind Oregon (6), USC (14), Cal (23) and Utah (29).
To be clear, there is hope — beyond Huard — for this crop of future Huskies. A trio of four-star in-state standouts — O’Dea offensive guard Owen Prentice, Kennedy Catholic wide receiver Jabez Tinae and Bethel linebacker Will Latu — decided to stay home.
But will this class ultimately be most memorable for its misses?
“The class is solid but kind of left wanting for more,” said 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman. “It’s solid because you get a five-star quarterback who’s the No. 1 quarterback in the country, and that right there makes this a good class. Losing Emeka (Egbuka) hurts, and they’re still in it for JT (Tuimoloau). So it still has a chance to be a really, really good class if you can land JT.
“At the same time, given the circumstances of where they recruited at the last couple years, it hasn’t quite been at that level. But there are some pieces in this class that are really intriguing.”
So let’s try to make sense of the hits and misses. Behold, our annual superlatives for UW’s 2021 class.
Biggest get: QB Sam Huard — 6-2, 190 — Kennedy Catholic High
Quarterback is unquestionably the most important position on a football field.
And Washington will soon sign the top high school quarterback in the country.
So, what’s a fair expectation for the latest Huard to sign with the Huskies?
“A fair expectation? He comes in, he’s the starter for three years, wins the national championship and a Heisman Trophy,” Huffman said jokingly. “That’s what five-star quarterbacks that are (ranked) No. 1 are supposed to do. That’s the expectation. If you look at Jacob Eason last year, there was an expectation he was going to come in and he’s an upgrade physically over Jake Browning, so naturally they’re going to improve.
“But in all seriousness, I really do think that is the expectation for Sam, to be completely honest. I think he comes in and pushes Dylan (Morris) for the starting job. This could be a Kelly Bryant-Trevor Lawrence situation where you have a really good, solid quarterback, but then you have a generational quarterback coming in, where ultimately the head coach realizes, ‘This is (who I have the) best chance of winning a national championship with.’ ”
Fair or not, the expectations are enormous.
Honorable mentions: OG Owen Prentice, WR Jabez Tinae
Biggest sleeper: RB Caleb Berry — 6-0, 213 — Lufkin (Texas) High
Caleb Berry is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 43 running back in the nation and the No. 121 prospect from the state of Texas alone.
And yet, the Huskies have a history of developing three-star tailbacks — like Myles Gaskin, or Richard Newton, or Sean McGrew — into Pac-12 terrors.
And Washington running-backs coach Keith Bhonapha has a history in the state of Texas as well.
“The guy who I actually think outperforms his ranking is Caleb Berry,” Huffman said. “I know he broke his leg (last season), and that can always be hard to come back from. There’s uncertainty. But to me, he’s that typical Texas running back where he’s that workhorse, blue collar guy.
“Lufkin kids are kind of like Fresno kids. They’re kind of like Tacoma kids. They’re not at Allen. They’re not at Austin Westlake. They’re not at Katy (Texas high school powerhouses). They’re a little bit more rural, but they’ve had some dudes. Last time Keith Bhonapha went down to Texas to get a guy that a lot of people didn’t know about was (future Boise State standout) Jay Ajayi.”
Honorable mentions: CB Dyson McCutcheon, DT Voi Tunuufi, DT Kuao Peihopa
Most immediate impact: TE Quentin Moore — 6-6, 245 — Independence (Kan.) CC
Some of this is situational. Moore — the top junior-college tight end in the 2021 class — didn’t choose UW over Arizona State, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida State, Miami, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Utah and more to sit on the sideline. And UW junior tight end Cade Otton may have done enough this season to succeed as an early entrant in the NFL draft.
Combine that with Washington’s offensive system — which uses tight ends like Jimmy Lake drinks coffee (which, is to say, often) — and Moore appears the obvious answer here.
“I could see Owen Prentice getting on the field early. I know there’s never been a hesitation to play young linemen (at UW) if they’re ready,” Huffman said. “But my money would be on Quentin Moore, just because I anticipate Cade Otton’s going to leave and he’s older than everybody. So he’s a little bit more college-ready.”
Honorable mentions: OG Owen Prentice, WR Jabez Tinae
Biggest miss: WR Emeka Egbuka — 6-1, 190 — Steilacoom High
Not to pour salt in Washington’s already festering wound, but Egbuka would have been Huard’s ideal complement at wide receiver. He’s ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 1 wideout nationally by 247Sports, and he piled up 1,607 receiving yards and 25 receiving touchdowns in his junior season alone.
Recruits like Egbuka — 190 pounds of muscle and magnet hands — don’t come around often.
And when they do, at least recently, they’ve tended to venture east.
“What a lot of it boils down to is the Pac-12 has become the punching bag of the national media and even the regional media, and much deservedly,” Huffman said. “If there was ever a year where the Pac-12 needed these West Coast kids to stay home, it was this year. And if (five-star California defensive end) Korey Foreman doesn’t stay in the Pac-12 you could lose three of the top 10 players in the country from your backyard and see them go national.
“Even if Korey Foreman does stay, JT (Tuimoloau) is almost assuredly heading out of the Pac-12 footprint. That’s two of the top three players in the region heading east. Kids are more intrigued by what’s going on nationally. You’re developing, you’re competing for national championships and you’re getting drafted. And that’s attractive.”
Honorable mentions: WR Troy Franklin, TE Brock Bowers, OLB Julien Simon, DB Denzel Burke
The wait-and-see award: OLB Maurice Heims — 6-5, 235 — Santa Margarita Catholic (Calif.) High
This award goes to a player who could shine following a redshirt season.
And, for Maurice Heims, seasons — plural — may be needed for the native German to find his college football footing.
After all, Heims moved to the United States from Hamburg, Germany, last year, and has still never played a down of varsity football. And yet, UW, Arizona State, Colorado, Penn State, Washington State, Arizona, Boston College, Illinois, Oregon State and more came calling all the same.
And that’s because the 6-5, 235-pound pass-rusher has some undeniably impressive physical traits.
Now, all he needs is time and attention.
“If he figures out what the heck he’s doing,” Huffman said, “he’s got a chance to be a stud.”
Honorable mentions: DT Voi Tunuufi, OT Robert Wyrsch