During the day I was posting updates by the minute in the Signing Day Open Thread, and last night I posted a Recap of where all the players involved with Washington ended up, but what I haven’t done is give my opinion of the class as a whole. The recruit profiles linked to in the recap give my general opinion on each individual recruit, but I think it’s worthwhile to break down what Coach Sark achieved with this group collectively, and what kind of impact I think it will have on the trajectory of the program.
First of all, I’d like to say that this class is a resounding success. There is no questioning this. Now, you may have heard some talk about how the Huskies had a disappointing National Signing Day. Depending on your point of view, there is some truth to that. The Huskies lost out on almost every big-time recruit that was considering them, including the Robinson twins, Nico Falah, and Eddie Vanderdoes (though he was likely never close to picking Washington), and former commit Daeshon Hall flipped to Texas A&M. Now, Patrick Enewally and Keishawn Bierria were added on NSD, but it’s fair to say that losing out on a couple big-time four or five star guys can’t quite be offset by the addition of three slightly lower-hype recruits, even if both Enewally and Bierria look like very good players.
But just because NSD didn’t include a ton of last second victories and blue-chip additions doesn’t mean that the Class of 2013 as a whole wasn’t huge. Because, in my eyes, the fact that an entire class of terrific commits faxed in their letters of intent, with the exception of Hall, is victory enough.
Not only is this incoming class full of talent, they address important needs and include certain position groups that are absolutely loaded. Look at wide receiver. Behind Kasen Williams, Keith Price really only had his tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins that he could depend on. No one stepped up as a quality second starter at receiver, and I think it really contributed to Price’s struggles. In ’11 he had Kasen, ASJ, Kearse, and Aguilar to look to. Last year, that list was cut by half.
So what does Sark do? He signs three four-star wide receivers, including the two best ’13 wide receivers in California, Damore’ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels. Oh, and both guys stand at least 6’3″. Expect one of them to take over as the 2nd starter next to Kasen Williams, and don’t be surprised if both of them see serious playing time as true freshmen. Also, don’t forget about the third guy, the 5’11” 185-pound John Ross, who conjures up images in my head of a ’14 or ’15 team that features Stringfellow and Daniels starting out wide, with Ross in the slot.
Oh, and then there is the defensive line. Even with the loss of Hall, we’re talking about two big time guys in Joe Mathis and Elijah Qualls. Where as in years past many of the defensive ends Washington has signed have entered college weighing 200-220 pounds, Mathis is already 6’4″ and 250+ pounds. Qualls is ready to contribute soon on the inside, and he is 6’1″ 280+ pounds. Add Marcus Farria, a raw but incredibly athletic defensive end from Arizona, and Andrew Basham, a D-tackle that is already looking good at 305 pounds, and the Huskies look set up for a SEC-style defensive front in the years to come.
Those are the two most loaded position groups, but I’m also excited about the linebackers that are coming in. Both Azeem Victor and Connor O’Brien are already at 230 pounds, a departure from the 180-pound linebacker recruits of year’s past, and Keishawn Bierria looks like a monster on tape coming out of Narbonne High, the same school as QB commit Troy Williams.
And that reminds me. Troy Williams. Yet another four-star quarterback signee that excels both as a pocket passer, and secondarily, as a runner. He has enrolled early, and though I doubt he will factor too heavily into the quarterback competition as a true freshman, I would be shocked if he wasn’t vying for a starting job after Price’s departure.
Another position group to be excited about? The corners. Jermaine Kelly, Kevin King, Patrick Enewally. Three cornerbacks, all 6’1″ or taller. Every coach talks about taller corners, few successfully recruit them, in this case exclusively. Kelly looks especially likely to see time as a freshman, but even if the three all redshirt, recruiting is about setting a program up for years in the future, and that is what Sark is doing here.
If there’s one position group that doesn’t look terrific, simply for a lack of recruits, it’s the offensive line. Only three signees, Dane Crane, Andrew Kirkland, and Coleman Shelton. But the thing is, ’13 was a weak class for offensive line in the region, especially in the state of Washington. So Sark and Co focused in on defense, and are expected to hit the offensive line very hard in the 2014 class.
I don’t mean to make excuses or to overhype, but it’s also worth noting that at least two of these guys look capable of sliding in as starters by the time the ’14 season rolls around. Crane is the best center in the West, and Sark raved about him in the Signing Day Presser. It isn’t a lock by any means, but he could potentially take over for the graduated Drew Schaefer as a freshman. Kirkland, listed as a tackle, will probably slide in at guard, and he has the mean streak and the blocking technique to be a future starter. Coleman Shelton looks like more of a typical recruit that needs a few years to develop, but of course there’s nothing wrong with that.
Throw in Lavon Coleman at running back as a 220-pound bruising, every down back, and David Ajamu as a big, athletic tight end with the potential to step up once ASJ departs, and the class is just great. It’s one of the best the Huskies have seen in the last decade, and it addresses so many needs, particularly at WR and the defensive line.
Sure, it would have been nice to add a couple of big names in the 11th hour, but this class didn’t need that. Sark and his staff took care of business and prepared a great class early, and they weren’t depending on late additions to round it out; it just would have been a nice bonus.