Tosh Lupoi and D-Line Recruiting


When Monrovia’s Ellis McCarthy decided to switch from Cal to UCLA, Demetrice Martin was in McCarthy’s living room.

Not that it mattered; the most important UCLA advocate in the living room was Ed McCarthy, Ellis’s father, who explained afterwards that, “In light of what happened, it was the best decision for Ellis.  It’s not about where people want him to go.  It’s where his family felt most comfortable.”  And considering how important a recruit Ellis McCarthy is, Jim Mora had comfortable Demetrice Martin on the job.

But McCarthy’s decision wasn’t due to Martin.  Why the switch to UCLA?

“It was too much of a coincidence that you get Demetrice,” said McCarthy’s father, “a top recruiter in [UCLA O-line coach] Adrian Klemm, and you get [running backs coach] Steve Broussard there too.”  While none of these men coach the D-line, the UCLA stars seemed to be aligning.

“Broussard is one of my friends,” added Ed McCarthy.

“They all end up at UCLA, and it was like the signs were all over the place.  The ultimate sign came at the last minute.”

The ultimate sign?

Tosh Lupoi, California defensive line coach recruiting Ellis McCarthy, met with the McCarthys on a Sunday and was adamant he was staying at California.

“He sat at our house and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere,’” said Ed McCarthy.  “There were articles everywhere that he was leaving but he said he wasn’t going anywhere.”

If Lupoi really wasn’t going anywhere, then neither was Ellis McCarthy.

True, on Sunday Lupoi wasn’t going anywhere.

Then something unusual happened.

As was evident with

Nick Holt three years ago, Steve Sarkisian doesn’t readily take “No” for an answer.  He knows what he wants, and he’s a confident, charismatic person, someone people are inclined to follow.  Lupoi listened to Sarkisian speak convincingly.  The reasoning was, of course, valid.  And hypothetically having an athletic director standing behind Sarkisian holding up a checkbook didn’t hurt.

No doubt Lupoi was still committed to Cal during that Sunday afternoon with the McCarthy’s.  He had heard Sarkisian’s pitch but at that moment on the living room couch his heart was still with California, and Lupoi didn’t expect to change his mind.

Then night came.  More time to think.  And the next morning Sarkisian was back reiterating reasons why Lupoi should head north.  The logic of what Sarkisian proposed began to punch holes in Lupoi’s dam.  The water began to flow in.  A little at first.  But at some point on Monday the dam gradually weakened until the water gushed in, flooding Lupoi’s conscience and consciousness with the prospect of a timely opportunity.  Lupoi always told recruits that their college choice would be one of the biggest decisions of their lives, to be weighed very carefully, objectively.  Lupoi had a soft spot in his heart for California (where Lupoi played) and, with Lupoi, it had never been all about the money.  The combination of everything Sarkisian said and promised (including a substantial pay increase), however, was obviously too good to pass on.

Lupoi had a change of mind.  In spite of what he had already told the McCarthys, he made the decision to head north to Seattle.

Lupoi has little or no chance of redirecting Ellis McCarthy because it appears the McCarthys have made the final decision – although Ed McCarthy said he understands completely and holds no animosity toward Lupoi.

A great D-line is necessary for a dominating defense, and a dominating defense is necessary to be a football power.  California is a good school, as is UCLA, but UCLA football, like Washington football, badly needs defensive linemen like Ellis McCarthy. California is in excellent shape along the D-line.  After all, last year Lupoi recruited defensive linemen Brennan Scarlett, Viliami Moala, Todd Barr and Mustafa Jalil to California.

All four of those guys should wind up in the NFL.

Considering Cal depth along the D-line, it speaks volumes about Tosh Lupoi that Ellis McCarthy and his family were willing to commit to Cal in Berkeley when UCLA offensive line coach and super recruiter Adrian Klemm couldn’t close the deal in spite of weaker depth…and Monrovia isn’t that far away.  A necessary condition for Ellis McCarthy to switch to UCLA had to be Tosh Lupoi leaving California.

Highly unlikely.

Unexpectedly, however, for everyone (except, maybe, Sarkisian), it happened.

Ellis McCarthy to UCLA.

As a result of Washington’s un-Huskylike defensive showing this past season, Sarkisian made necessary coaching personnel changes, assembling a much improved defensive staff.  Adversity is a Godsend if used as a basis for vision and improvement.  Dostoyevsky once said that his greatest fear was becoming unworthy of his sufferings.  While Husky football is a world removed from the social depths of Crime and Punishment, Husky fans hope that a decade of hand wringing, and fall afternoon disappointment when the defense is on the field, will be vindicated during the next couple of years, and that once again when the Washington defensive unit takes the field, fans in the stands will lean forward in anticipation of seeing the apex of Husky football: a dominating, take-no-prisoners, attacking defense.  To get there, however, Washington badly needs defensive linemen like Brennan Scarlett, Viliami Moala, Todd Barr, Mustafa Jalil and Ellis McCarthy.

While Ellis McCarthy’s choice appears to be final, because of new coaches Lupoi, Justin Wilcox, Keith Heyward and Peter Sirmon, there is increased hope of landing other highly-rated defense recruits – recruits that otherwise would not be considering Washington at this late hour.  The first post-hiring evidence of defense improvement will occur shortly on letter-of-intent signing day, and it will be interesting to see if Coaches Lupoi, Wilcox, Heyward and Sirmon – and the master, Sarkisian – generate any pleasant surprises.  Maybe; maybe not.

With respect to D-line recruiting, however, next-year-at-this-time should be special.