Christmas in February


What would make Husky fans extremely elated?

Getting to the Rose Bowl would do it for a lot of people.  Winning that Rose Bowl would be another.

Going 12 – 0 (after going 0 – 12) would generate euphoria unknown for two decades.

Among rabid dawg fans, however, something more probable would induce a state of protracted euphoria.  What might that be?

Internet forum posts have raised the concern – because games are won in the trenches – about only one interior lineman having committed thus far in the 2012 recruiting season.  Washington fans would be relieved if a few more interior linemen were to commit, excited if a few of those players were among the eleven recruits discussed below, and elated if future commitments included, well, as many as six.  Completely unrealistic?  No, not really.  The odds of getting four of the eleven are above-average, and there is a reasonable chance of picking up two more.

The Players

Josh Garnett

Josh Garnett’s dad was

Scott Garnett.  That’s significant.  People mention Zach Banner’s biological father (Lincoln Kennedy) with some veneration but Lincoln Kennedy was never as strong as Scott Garnett who, at 6’ 2” and 275 lbs., and benching over 500 lbs., was pound-for-pound one of the strongest Huskies ever.  A nose tackle, although not big by either collegiate or NFL standards, Scott Garnett was very strong and very tough.  Drafted in 1984 by the Denver Broncos, Scott Garnett’s pro career also included stints with the 49ers, the Chargers, and the Buffalo Bills.

Scott’s son, Josh, appears to have a mean streak, and if Josh can approach his father in strength, Josh might become even better than his father because Josh is bigger (6’ 5” and slightly over 300 lbs).  Under the tutelage of his father, Josh has become relatively strong but, like any other high school lineman, he needs to become still stronger to play well at the next level, and would benefit from a lengthy relationship with Washington strength coach Ivan Lewis.  Former Seahawks tackle Kyle Williams says Garnett needs to work on his stance and become more disinclined to hold, but everything else is there including the nasty.  When evaluating high school recruits, Don James would consider the degree to which a recruit had NFL potential.  Josh Garnett has NFL potential, unsurprising because he is Scott Garnett’s son.  Considering legacy, proximity, Washington’s academic reputation, and the rising Washington football program, the odds of Washington receiving a commitment from Garnett are above average.

Zach Banner

Zach Banner is Zach Banner’s biggest (literally and metaphorically) fan and biggest critic.  No one is harder on Zach than Zach.  He just has his standards.  He’s obviously big but that has been a mixed blessing.  He views his size as an asset but also as a liability because, at 6’ 9”, he’s a little too big, and he’s also concerned he hasn’t stopped growing.

“I’m barely able to play this sport but I don’t make any excuses,” Banner has said. “[Being tall is] not going to be an excuse. Our workouts are so intense that, to be real with you, if I have to be the first 6-11 NFL lineman I will, I’ll do that, because I can do it out here [at this football camp].  [Learning to efficiently use this body is] why I’m here.

“I have to do a lot of different things than everyone else,” Banner explained.  “I have to sit down more; I have to work on leaning back more in my pass set.  In run block I have to get my hips down more.  It’s just because of my size but if you use that as an excuse you’re not going to make it anywhere.”

Banner has been blessed with a surfeit of size, more than at times he wishes he had, but it is as it is and, with his standards, Banner will make the most of the size and talent he has been given.  He not only wants to be the best he can be, he wants to be the best.

Banner has also been blessed with an engaging personality and natural leadership ability.  Whichever team gets Banner will benefit from both the player and the person.  Banner loves his family and this will factor heavily in his decision.  The odds of Washington receiving a commitment from Banner are also above average.

Walker Williams

Most kids played some football when growing up.  Walker Williams played hockey.  Last season he was still learning to play football.  As is evident from watching him in the video above, Williams looks tentative while trying to do the right thing on the football field.  The problem with trying to do the right thing while thinking about it is that your football speed declines.  In the game videos, again, Williams is obvious learning to play football.

The Husky coaches have been following Williams for quite a while but didn’t make Williams an offer during the past season.  He didn’t blossom during the season.  Again, he was learning to play football.  They would wait to see what he learned, what developed.  Perhaps Williams would blossom during the 2011 season.

Blossoming began sooner.  It started when he began working out with Josh Garnett and Zach Banner after last season and saw a vision of where he could be by next season.  And after that.

In the video of Walker doing post-2010 season work-outs, at times Williams looks more like Chris Polk than the big guy learning to play football earlier in the video.  Watching Williams do agility drills makes the viewer forget how big (6’ 6.5” 335 lbs.) Williams is.  He not only shows quick feet, he almost dances.  Williams is obviously athletically gifted, and going in the right direction.

At his present improvement pace, next season Walker Williams will likely approach the playing level of which he is capable.  Perhaps, like former Washington defensive end Jason Chorak when Chorak was in high school, Williams will be kept out of contact in practices so he doesn’t injure anyone.  During the games, having learned what he’s capable of doing, Williams will be a force, dramatically increasing game attendance for little Tacoma Baptist, with a number of fans in the stands being college scouts.

Williams has, incidentally, quite a sense of humor.  Zach Banner and Williams are good friends and with Banner being the straight man, Banner and Williams could be the next Abbott and Costello.  Family and friends are important to Williams.  Josh Garnett is also a good friend, and Williams likes the Washington coaches.  The odds of Washington receiving a commitment from Williams are also favorable.

Jordan Simmons

Auburn.  Florida.  Notre Dame.  Washington.  Ohio State.  USC.  Oregon.  Georgia.  BYU.  This list is long and telling.  Is there any school that hasn’t offered 6’ 5” 335 lb. Crespi (Ca) road grader Jordan Simmons?  Simmons is big, strong, quick and less than affable; in a word, dominating.  While he plays tackle in high school, his size and potential strength suggest he is better suited to play guard at the next level, and there is a good chance he’ll go a further level after that.  With respect to college selection, he claims at this point to have no favorites.  The odds of Simmons committing to Washington are average.

Ellis McCarthy

McCarthy, a defensive interior lineman, is a very important recruit.  Last recruiting season, California’s recruiting class would have been mediocre except that the Bears landed four of the best defensive linemen on the West Coast: DE Brennan Scarlett, DT Mustafa Jalil, DT Viliami Moala, and DE Todd Barr.  All four have NFL potential and, because a good defensive line can make everyone else on defense look better than they are, Cal’s defense in a couple of years will be formidable.  Just getting Viliami Moala made Cal’s recruiting class stellar.  Recruiting experts believe Ellis McCarthy is this year’s Viliami Moala.  The odds of Washington receiving a commitment from McCarthy are also average.

Jeremiah Poutasi

Former Washington middle linebacker Dave Hoffman has said more than once that “…nastiness is something that you can’t teach but have to recruit.”  That’s part of why Washington is recruiting Poutasi.  The rest is size (6’ 5” 315 lbs.) and athleticism.  Poutasi has favored Oregon and UCLA where his cousin, Sam Tai, is a freshman defensive lineman, but the winds of fortune constantly change; Oregon coach Charles “Chip” Kelley has his problems, as does UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel.  Meanwhile, Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian’s star continues to rise.  In spite of past leanings, the present odds of Poutasi committing to Washington are still average.

Kyle Murphy

Murphy is a big (6’ 7” 270 lbs), strong, smart (3.9+ GPA) guy from San Clemente who, academically, could go anywhere he wants.  A smart O-line is usually a good O-line, as evidenced by the Washington O-line that outplayed the Oklahoma D-line in the 1984 Orange Bowl.  The average GPA along the starting O-linewas approximately 3.4, and the Washington center, Dan Eernissee, was an excellent pianist.  Kyle Murphy is the kind of O-lineman a coach wants to get.  Murphy’s older brother, 6’ 7” 285 lb. Kevin, is majoring in Engineering Sciences when not starting on the Harvard offensive line where he was second team All-Ivy League in 2010.  Older brother Kevin aspires to a career in biomechanics research and development…which means he could do his graduate work at Washington.  Younger brother Kyle, however, may prefer to cut-to-the-chase while playing on a better offensive line.  Kyle Murphy is agile, quick, employs good technique and doesn’t take plays off.  He should go to the NFL unless he gets injured.  But even if he does, his brother Kevin can probably replace whatever is damaged.  Kyle is seriously considering Washington but the odds of Murphy committing to Washington are at this point no better than average.

Ronnie Stanley

Ronnie Stanley is another road grader that some scouts consider Nevada’s top prospect.  As the video indicates, Stanley, from Bishop Gorman High (Jalen Grimble, Alex Turner, Evan Zeger) in Las Vegas, is quick off the snap and, once he’s into his opponent, the opponent often winds up on the turf.  From watching video, it appears his pancake efficacy rivals that of Paul Bunyan.  At 6’ 7” 285 lbs., Stanley is also a good volleyball (middle blocker) and basketball player (No. 23) with enough upside to where he could get a mid-major basketball scholarship if the game of football had not been invented.  An excellent all-around athlete, and another potential NFL guy, he is reported to be a USC lean at this stage in recruiting.  At this point, the odds of Stanley committing to Washington appear below average.

Lacy Westbrook

We couldn’t find decent video but did find an insightful interview.  The 6’ 5” 310 lb. offensive tackle from Dominguez High in Los Angeles has offers from USC, Auburn, Boise State, UCLA and Washington, among many others.  He was second team all-state as a junior and carries a respectable GPA approximating 3.4.  While he likes USC and UCLA, he claims to have no clear leader although he says that UCLA is recruiting him the hardest.  He says he wants to take recruiting trips to find out what’s out there.  Westbrook was at the USC–Washington game last year when the Huskies won on a traditional last-second field goal.  The odds of Westbrook committing to Washington are average.

Brandon Fanaika

Brandon Fanaika, from the same high school as U of W basketball player C. J. Wilcox, is a 6’ 3” 295 lb. guard who can run.  He’s a scholar with a GPA in excess of 3.9 and an ACT score of 23.  Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian has been quite involved in recruiting Fanaika.  Fanaika says of Sarkisian, “Coach Sarkisian is a great coach and a great man.  I really want to go up there and see more of the school.  I know that they have a great Polynesian community up there with the team, so I’d love to learn more about them.”  It should be noted that Fanaika, a true gentleman off the field, says nice things about everyone recruiting him.  He is being recruited very hard by Utah and Utah State.  It should also be mentioned that his cousin, Paul Fanaika, who is now in the NFL, played for Arizona State and is in Brandon’s ear.  Brandon Fanaika has said, “I don’t have any favorite schools right now but [as letter of intent day draws closer] I’ll definitely look harder at each school that offers me and make the best decision.”  The odds of Fanaika committing to Washington are average.

Shane Brostek

Although the video of Shane Brostek does not include his junior year, as a freshman and sophomore he’s still the biggest kid on the field and obviously dominating.  Unsurprisingly, Shane reminds people of his father Bern Brostek who played for Washington where he won the 1989 Morris Trophy for the most outstanding offensive lineman in the Pac-10, and the 1989 Pete Gross Player of the Year award for the most outstanding player on the Husky team.  Bern Brostek then played seven years in the NFL, all for the Los Angeles Rams.  Husky fans hope the legacy of Bern will favorably impact the recruiting of Shane who, at 6’ 3” and 300 lbs., is identical in size to his father.  Since the similarities are striking and there is little video of Shane, we’ve added this older “training” video of father Bern to give an indication of where Shane may be in a few years.  Like Banner with Banner, Shane Brostek’s biggest critic is Shane Brostek.  Like Banner, Brostek has his standards.  Perhaps the two will carry the same standards at the U of W.  Consider Shane’s legacy, the odds of Brostek committing to Washington are above average.

In summary

Washington has recruited two excellent QBs but no QB can function consistently well without good linemen.  Again, games are won at the line of scrimmage.  Commitment odds are presently above-average on four of the above players, average on six, and below-average on one.  If Sarkisian can get three or four, that will make Husky fans both relieved and very happy.  Receiving commitments from six, however, is an achievable goal, and Sarkisian and the coaching staff are going after most of these guys pretty hard.  Don’t think they are not.  While the recruiting season can cause graying follicles, because of recruiting’s importance to winning, recruiting season successes are at moments almost as exciting as moments during the regular season.  During early February 2012, protracted euphoria is even possible.