Huskies sign six of state’s top football recruits

Staff writerFebruary 5, 2014 

Bellevue's Budda Baker signed a national letter of intent to play for the Washington Huskies.

PHOTO BY LUI KIT WONG — Staff photographer file, 2012

Some faxes came in late, one letter of intent was sent upside down, and another didn’t have the correct date.

The fax snafus were few, though, compared with the stress Chris Petersen and his staff faced in having less than two months from when he accepted the University of Washington football job until signing day.

“There was some tough sledding in those two months,” Petersen said.

But Petersen and his staff were able to secure a first recruiting class that appears to address needs, add talent and — what the UW had been so criticized for under Steve Sarkisian — corral the state’s top players to Montlake.

Petersen’s inaugural recruiting class features six of the state’s top players, including Bellevue’s Budda Baker and Fife’s Kaleb McGary.

They were two of four four-star recruits ranked by that the UW signed during national signing day Wednesday.

Petersen had previously signed four four-star recruits combined in his eight seasons at Boise State. Sarkisian had zero four-star recruits in his first UW recruiting class in 2009.

“Were we able to get some guys that we probably wouldn’t have been able to get a year ago (at Boise State)? Absolutely, no question,” Petersen said. “I think there was some really good intensity, and, boy, if we can keep this kind of recruiting intensity up all year long to this place, then I’m really excited about the future.”

Baker announced live on KING-5 on Tuesday that he would attend the UW after decommitting from Oregon in mid-January. He stood by his word and sent his signed letter of intent from Bellevue High School early Wednesday.

“I was happy because I talked with (Petersen) at Boise State, and then I saw he got the job at Washington,” Baker said minutes before sending his fax Wednesday. “It was a matter of me going to meet with him and talk to him and talk about the plan that he has. I was cool with it.

“The numbers don’t lie, and they did a great job at Boise State. So I feel like we can take the next step at Washington.”

Baker said he will play free safety, but Petersen talked about including him in offensive packages and the return game eventually, as well.

“The second we got here, he’s all we heard about,” Petersen said. “We talk about those OKGs (Our Kind of Guys) — I think he is one of them.

“We kind of told him, ‘We don’t want to make you a jack of all trades, master of none. We want you to … get your feet on the ground, then we can expand.’ But we need him on defense in the worst way right now.”

McGary was recruited as an offensive lineman. But Petersen said he asked which side of the ball McGary preferred and was told defense.

“I think that’s where he wants to test the water, and I think that’s where he fits best,” Petersen said. “He may be that big-time defensive end. He may be an inside guy. He may be an unbelievable offensive tackle. I just know he’s something.”

The UW also secured in-state recruits Drew Sample (Newport of Bellevue), Shane Bowman (Bellevue), Drew Lewis (Eastlake of Sammamish) and Jaimie Bryant, a former Tumwater standout who grayshirted this year.

The Huskies signed a quarterback in K.J. Carta-Samuels of Bellarmine Prep (Calif.) and added four-star cornerback Naijiel Hale of prestigious St. John Bosco (Calif.). He’s the son of late rapper Nate Dogg.

UW also snagged the top-ranked Montana recruit — defensive lineman Will Dissly.

But Petersen stressed that much of UW’s focus will be spent trying to keep in-state talent in the state.

“I think the heart and soul of this thing needs to start right here in this area and this state,” Petersen said. “I think we got off to a good start this year, and I’m hoping that trend continues.”

Doing that should be far easier for this staff with more than two months in which to work.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 @Cotterill44


Budda Baker, S, 5-10, 180, Bellevue: Baker decommitted from Oregon in mid-January and then became UW’s biggest catch. The top-ranked recruit in the state of Washington and a top-50 recruit in the nation expects to see time in almost every facet of the game: free safety, offensive packages and the return game. Helped Bellevue win sixth consecutive state title last season.

Shane Bowman, DE, 6-4, 250, Bellevue: Bowman was a key defensive member of the Wolverines’ past two state title runs. With Bellevue being the powerhouse it is, Bowman played in only the first half in all but one game. But he still recorded 20 tackles for loss and 14 sacks his senior year. Originally committed to Oregon State.

Jaimie Bryant, DL, 6-5, 300, Tumwater: Bryant graduated from Tumwater last year, but grayshirted with UW this year and signed Wednesday. He was named to The News Tribune all-area team as a senior in 2012.

Devin Burleson, OL, 6-7, 260, Palmdale, Calif./Highland: UW coach Chris Petersen said he has never been around a taller player than Burleson. He’s only been playing football the past couple of years, so as he continues to develop his skills, Burleson could offer solid potential along the offensive line.

K.J. Carta-Samuels, QB, 6-2, 225, Saratoga, Calif./Bellarmine Prep (Calif.): Has speed, arm strength and upside that garnered him four-star status by most recruiting sites. Petersen loves the potential of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl invitee.

Will Dissly, DL, 6-4, 250, Bozeman, Mont.: Dissly is the gem of Montana recruits in this year’s class, being the second player ever named among Parade All-Americans from that state. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in that state after compiling 57 tackles, 12 for loss and 9.5 sacks. He had 13.5 sacks as a junior. Originally committed to Boise State.

Jomon Dotson, RB, 5-11, 175, American Canyon, Calif.: Dotson is ranked among the top-50 running backs in the nation by after setting school records for career rushing yards (4,976) and rushing touchdowns (60) at American Canyon. His breakaway speed allowed him to rush for 2,004 yards on 189 carries his senior year (10.6 yards per carry) and 26 touchdowns.

Greg Gaines, DL, 6-1, 305, La Habra, Calif.: Gaines was MVP of the Freeway League at La Habra and an All-California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Southwest Division on the defensive line as a senior. Didn’t have five stars by most recruiting websites, but Petersen thinks Gaines is the ultimate inside guy. He had committed to Boise State.

Darren Gardenhire, CB, 6-0, 180, Long Beach, Calif./Cabrillo: He played at Lakewood High (Calif.) alongside UW receiver John Ross and at Cabrillo his senior year with Keith Price’s younger brother Kaelon Price, a quarterback. The Long Beach Press-Telegram named Gardenhire to its “Dream Team.”

Naijiel Hale, CB, 5-11, 180, Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco: Hale, son of late rapper Nate Dogg, is one of four cornerbacks in Petersen’s first recruiting class. But Hale is considered the most prized. A four-star recruit, Hale is a top-30 cornerback in the nation by most recruiting sites and helped St. John Bosco notch the No. 1 ranking in the nation by

Matt James, OL, 6-5, 270, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Named to the All-Idaho team as a senior offensive and defensive lineman at Coeur d’Alene, where he has a grade-point average over 4.0. ESPN ranked him a top-50 offensive lineman in the nation.

Jaylen Johnson, DL, 6-3, 245, Corona, Calif./Centennial: Johnson took longer than any player for UW to get. He was CIF Southern Section Inland Division Defensive Player of the Year and the Defensive MVP of the Big VIII League as a senior.

Sidney Jones, CB, 6-1, 170, Diamond Bar, Calif./West Covina: Played all over the field at West Covina, including wide receiver, running back, cornerback, free safety, and punt and kick returner.

Brayden Lenius, WR, 6-5, 220, North Vancouver, B.C./Chaminade Prep (Calif.): Adds more size to UW’s receiver core. Lenius was ranked as the No. 24 tight end in the nation by, but UW is billing him as a wide receiver, so Lenius will join Damore’ea Stringfellow (6-3) and Kasen Williams (6-2). Lenius’ grandfather, Eldridge Dickey, was the first African-American quarterback ever selected in the first round of an AFL or NFL draft in 1968.

Brandon Lewis, CB, 5-11, 180, Rancho Murieta, Calif./Pleasant Grove: Lewis has an injury history — missed entire junior season with knee injury and played in six games as a senior — but he’s ranked a top-50 cornerback in the nation by some outlets. Originally committed to Boise State. Ranked the No. 44 cornerback prospect by

Drew Lewis, LB, 6-2, 200, Sammamish/Eastlake: Lewis had hinted at wanting to be a Husky all along, but when Steve Sarkisian left for USC, his status became cloudy. He stuck with UW and should be a good fit with his speed at the linebacker position. His father, Will, played corner for the Seattle Seahawks in the 1980s, and his brother, Ryan, is a cornerback at the University of Pittsburgh.

Kaleb McGary, DL, 6-7, 285, Fife: A testament to his athletic ability: He played tight end at Fife this year. “Big Country” was considered to have big upside at offensive tackle, but UW is listing him along the defensive line. McGary was considered the No. 2 recruit in the state behind Bellevue’s Budda Baker.

Jojo McIntosh, S, 6-1, 195, Canyon Country, Calif./Chaminade Prep: He is listed as a safety but has the coverage skills of a cornerback. In the Pac-12, heavy with spread offenses (think Oregon), there is never a shortage of demand for cover safeties.

Dante Pettis, WR, 6-1, 175, San Clemente, Calif./Junipero Serra: Pettis has the right genes. His father, Gary Pettis, played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball, winning five Gold Gloves. His cousin is Boise State’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns, Austin Pettis, who Petersen said is the best wide receiver he has ever coached. Dante caught 50 passes for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior.

Drew Sample, TE, 6-5, 235, Bellevue/Newport: The top-ranked tight end in the state of Washington was a Best of the Rest among Northwest Nuggets. Originally committed to Petersen at Boise State, then followed him to UW.

Jesse Sosebee, OL, 6-6, 300, Garden Grove, Calif./Edison: Sosebee is big (see “Height” and “Weight”) and athletic for an offensive lineman. He was the Sunset League Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior at Edison.

John Turner, OL, 6-4, 275, Los Angeles/Loyola: Turner took his official visit to UW last weekend and decided to call it his future home. The Huskies have developed somewhat of a pipeline to Loyola, which also brought them Colin Tanigawa four years ago and Coleman Shelton last year.

Tristan Vizcaino, K/P, 6-2, 195, Chino Hills, Calif./Damien: Vizcaino is a versatile specialist. He can kick and punt, and earned third-team all-state from, converting 15 field goals in 21 attempts with a long of 47 yards in three seasons at Damien. Was 9-for-12 with a long of 40 as a senior.

Lavon Washington, S , 5-11, 180, Oakland, Calif./McClymonds: Washington had his sights set on Washington for a while and never wavered, making UW his school Wednesday. His coach at McClymonds, Michael Peters, is the father of current Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters. Had 83 tackles and four interceptions his senior season.

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