When Steve Sarkisian took over in 2009, he was filling spots as much as building toward the future. The Huskies’ roster he inherited was thin. Depth concerns, notably on both lines, forced young players to start games against older counterparts prior to being ready.
Four years later, Sarkisian, wearing a purple tie, sat in front of the media and explained that many of the 22 players Washington received commitments from Wednesday on national signing day will be able to take a different path.
“There’s not going to be too many of these guys that have to come in and play like we’ve had to in the past,” Sarkisian said. “We’re at a point now where redshirting guys has become a luxury for us.”
That doesn’t mean Washington didn’t end up with players who could have an impact as early as Aug. 31 when Boise State pays a visit to Seattle to open the 2013 season.
Rivals.com ranked Washington’s class 18th in the country as did ESPN. Scout.com ranks the Huskies’ haul 14th.
The Huskies brought in a trio of wide receivers who already have Sarkisian giddy in anticipation. Damore’ea Stringfellow from Perris,
Calif., is the bigwig of the group.
“He looks like an NFL wideout today,” Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Stringfellow.
John Ross, 5-11 and 180 pounds out of Long Beach, Calif., is more of a big-play receiver, and Darrell Daniels, 6-4, 220 pounds, is a possession-type receiver.
Each brings a unique facet.
“You could argue (this) is the best corps of wide receivers in the country,” Sarkisian said.
Washington could use a boost at the position. The Huskies relied on receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins last season in the passing game, providing them with little help. The return of fifth-year senior James Johnson, a year of experience for DiAndre Campbell and Jaydon Mickens, plus the newcomers should supply Washington with the depth it had among receivers in 2011 when Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse headed up the group.
“We felt like we needed a group that could come in here and score touchdowns, not just in the red zone but from a distance,” Sarkisian said.
Spread offenses often did that to Washington last season and Oregon’s has been doing it for almost a decade. So, Sarkisian told his staff to pursue long, swift defenders to specifically help counter spread offenses. The result was three linebackers, none shorter than 6-1. In fact, of the 22 new players, only three are shorter than 6-feet and one of those is a kicker, Cameron Van Winkle.
Sarkisian had been in pursuit of taller defensive players and that desire was bolstered when he watched big defensive backs Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor running around at Seattle Seahawks practices.
Not everything worked as planned, however.
Washington lost out on a big recruit when four-star defensive end Daeshon Hall chose Texas A&M over Washington after being verbally committed to the Huskies. Hall is a classic flip-flop recruit. He grew up in Seattle and spent his freshman and sophomore years of high school at Garfield prior to moving to Lancaster, Texas.
He first committed to Texas as a junior then switched to Washington last June because he wanted to stay close to home. In January, he visited Baylor and Texas A&M. Wednesday morning, he signed with the Aggies.
Washington’s class is flooded with out-of-state recruits. Of the 22, 16 come from California. Four come from Washington state. One is from Texas.
Sarkisian said the Huskies will continue to concentrate on the West Coast, but will also check into places such as Texas in future recruiting efforts.
When those pursuits occur, he thinks renovated Husky Stadium will be a big factor for recruits. Already calling it a “game-changer,” Sarkisian said the stadium was often a highlight for recruits this year.
An anticipated recruiting game-changer was Tosh Lupoi, who also coaches the defensive line. When Washington pried him – and recruits such as Shaq Thompson – away from Cal last season, the expectation was Lupoi’s recruiting savvy would bring a significant swing to Huskies recruiting. When asked Wednesday about which specific recruits can be attributed to Lupoi, Sarkisian said it was a team effort and chose not to single anyone out.
He also said he was pleased with the amount of specific targets the Huskies hit.
“This class was about quality, it wasn’t necessarily all about quantity,” Sarkisian said.
David Ajamu, TE, 6-5, 245, Shelton/Shelton. Was named to The Associated Press 3A all-state first team. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian noted that tight end will be a need in the near future with Austin Seferian-Jenkins likely to be NFL-ready after his junior season.
Andrew Basham, DT, 6-4, 305, Bothell/Lynnwood. Basham actually played middle linebacker at one point. Sarkisian says he has a “nasty streak” to him. Named to the Washington all-state team by USA Today.
Keishawn Bierria, LB, 6-1, 210, Carson, Calif./Narbonne. Sarkisian went to see Narbonne play and said he felt Bierria was “the best player on the field with 15 Division-I players.” He had 87 tackles, including 12 for loss, as a senior.
Lavon Coleman, TB, 6-0, 210, Lompoc, Calif./ Lompoc. Part of the TNT’s Western 100, Coleman is the only tailback in this year’s group. Sarkisian said Coleman was one of two backs Washington targeted. Lompoc is where the Huskies found former star running back Napoleon Kaufman.
Sean Constantine, LB, 6-2, 230, Hunts Point/ Bellevue. Was also part of the Western 100. Played on four 3A state championship teams during his four seasons at Bellevue. Sarkisian likes Constantine’s size and length, said he’s a traditional middle linebacker.
Dane Crane, OL, 6-3, 308, Irvine, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic. Sarkisian put pressure on Crane, who was part of the Western 100. Sarkisian said Crane could become an “all-conference, All-American-type center.” The Huskies lost center Drew Schaefer to graduation and will need a replacement this fall.
Darrell Daniels, WR, 6-4, 220, Pittsburg, Calif./ Freedom. Daniels was part of the Western 100. He was named the Bay Valley Athletic League co-MVP and turned heads in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.
Patrick Enewally, CB, 6-1, 190, Norwalk, Calif./ Gahr. Played wide receiver and safety at Gahr, but will be a cornerback for Washington. He is the 50th-ranked cornerback prospect in the country, according to Scout.com.
Marcus Farria, DE, 6-5, 225, Peoria, Ariz./ Centennial. A Western 100 member, Sarkisian has high hopes for him as a pass rusher. “I think he brings a couple things we might not have in our program right now,” Sarkisian said.
Jermaine Kelly, CB, 6-2, 185, Los Angeles/Salesian. Another member of the Western 100 who helped Salesian to an 11-2 record and adds depth at cornerback. Scout.com ranked him as the country’s 16th-best cornerback.
Kevin King, CB, 6-2, 170, San Leandro, Calif./Bishop O’Dowd. King is another tall, lanky cornerback. He’s ranked the country’s 53rd best cornerback by Scout.com. He also participates in track.
Andrew Kirkland, OL, 6-5, 300, Portland/Jesuit. Kirkland was part of the 6A all-state first team in Oregon. He will bolster an offensive line that has large numbers and is expected to receive a boost from the return of veterans Colin Tanigawa and Erik Kohler.
Joe Mathis, DE, 6-4, 250, Ontario, Calif./Upland. Western 100 member Mathis made 77 tackles and picked up 10 sacks as a senior. He’s part of Washington’s effort to be better at rushing the passer. “Relentless,” Sarkisian said.
Connor O’Brien, LB, 6-3, 230, Trabuco Canyon, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic. Part of the Western 100, O’Brien has the size at linebacker Washington has been searching for. Though 230 pounds, O’Brien played safety and wide receiver in high school.
Elijah Qualls, DT, 6-2, 285, Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande. One of the keys to this recruiting class and another part of the Western 100, Qualls is big and tough. Scout.com ranked him as the No. 11 defensive tackle in the country.
John Ross, WR, 5-11, 180, Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Jordan. Sarkisian raved about Ross, who was also in the Western 100. He’s fast and explosive, bringing a little different dynamic than Daniels.
Coleman Shelton, OL, 6-5, 285, Pasadena, Calif./ Loyola. Washington was in on him late and felt he was under-recruited. “He’s a fantastic player,” Sarkisian said. Washington coaches think he needs a lot of development but like his potential.
Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR, 6-3, 215, Perris, Calif./Rancho Verde. Also a Western 100 member, Stringfellow is viewed as the top receiver in a strong position group for the Huskies. He was a first-team all-CIF Southern Section Central Division selection. ESPN.com ranked him the No. 4 recruit among all positions in California.
Cameron Van Winkle, K, 5-10, 160, Fall City/ Mount Si. Washington needs a kicker and gets one here with Van Winkle. Sarkisian said Van Winkle will compete right away for various kicking duties. The Western 100 selection has a strong leg.
Azeem Victor, LB, 6-4, 230, Upland, Calif./Pomona. Another tall linebacker for Washington. Sarkisian said Victor is an inside linebacker that should be up to 245 or 250 pounds by the time he gets on the field.
Trevor Walker, S, 5-11, 180, Arlington, Texas/ Mansfield Timberview. Walker enrolled early and will participate in spring football. Named to the District 7 5A all-district team as a junior and senior.
Troy Williams, QB, 6-2, 205, Los Angeles/Narbonne. Williams is a touted quarterback who gets in line behind Keith Price and Cyler Miles. Part of the Western 100, Williams has the ability to run, but Sarkisian said he is a passer first. “Quick release, strong arm,” Sarkisian firstname.lastname@example.org @Todd_Dybas blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports email@example.com