After listening to the Washington football office fax machine crank out every one of the 23 signed national letters of intent Wednesday, coach Steve Sarkisian finally emerged to discuss his third class of recruits.
This time, at his press conference, he offered a stern gaze of confidence – but behind it was a bit of frustration.
Sarkisian and his staff won most of the pivotal battles, and ended up putting together a class that was ranked near the top 20 nationally by the three major recruiting services (Rivals, Scout and ESPN) – but it was a far cry from getting inside the top 10 like the Huskies had hoped.
Perhaps those mini-setbacks at first distracted Sarkisian. But once he started talking about each of the 23 signees, he loosened up. He even cracked a joke or two, especially when it came to elaborating on his two blue-chip in-state standouts – Skyline High receiver Kasen Williams and Gig Harbor High tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
“By the way, it’s great to talk about Kasen and Austin because I know you guys have wanted to talk about these guys for about two years now,” Sarkisian said with a smile. “So I finally get to say their names and feel good about it.”
First, the unfortunate news:
It started early Wednesday when cornerback Kameron Jackson, out of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High, decommitted and chose California – marking the fourth time in the past six weeks the Golden Bears had won a recruiting showdown.
And later, Hawaii product Paulay Asiata, who had been wavering on his commitment to the UW, instead signed with Colorado.
Late in the afternoon, the Huskies had one more us-or-them battle against Colorado with offensive lineman Stephane Nembot, of Van Nuys, Calif. – a guy who had given the UW an oral commitment after decommitting from Washington State.
In the end, the Buffaloes won again, grabbing Nembot as part of their class.
Yet, as the recruiting period began winding down, it seemed apparent to more and more of the UW signees that a class ranking is just a number. It’s not all-important. It’s what happens on the field that matters.
“We have a great class as it is,” Seferian-Jenkins said.
Sarkisian pointed out some of its highlights Wednesday:
• The one player who has seemed to develop an extremely close relationship with Sarkisian is Seferian-Jenkins – something the coach alluded to Wednesday.
“I really enjoy Austin. I think this is a kid I’ve watched mature in two years in front of my own eyes, even though he wasn’t even here yet,” Sarkisian said. “I really think he’s matured, not only physically but mentally. And he’s in a great frame of mind as he’s getting set to enroll early. He’s got the mind-set to compete. He knows he has a lot to learn, but he’s coming to compete.”
Along with the Gig Harbor standout, Sarkisian mentioned Williams, Grant High (Calif.) safety James Sample and Dorsey High (Calif.) receiver Marvin Hall as incoming freshmen with solid opportunities to play immediately.
• Something the UW will examine closer this spring is playing more of a 3-4 defense, so the Huskies recruited “hybrid” players – defensive ends who can play outside linebacker – to best fit that style.
Three of those four types – Oak Grove High’s Scott Lawyer (6-foot-2, 197 pounds), Dorsey High’s Matthew Lyons (6-2, 188) and Long Beach Poly High’s Corey Waller (6-21/2, 210) – hail from California. The other is Juanita High’s Jarrett Finau (6-3, 235), out of Kirkland.
“Our ability to find guys that can play on the edge, play in space, that have the ability to rush the passer but yet play zone (pass) coverage, play man-to-man coverage on tight ends and on running backs I think is going to be critical for us to take the next step here,” Sarkisian said.
• The real signing-day addition Wednesday came from Ventura College in California – athlete Antavius Sims.
Sims has played quarterback at Ventura for two seasons, nearly posting a 2,000-yard passing/1,000-yard rushing final year.
Sarkisian projects the Georgia native as a cornerback at the UW, but added he could play quarterback in specialized circumstances, such as the “Wildcat” formation.
It gives the Huskies two quarterbacks – the other is Derrick Brown, out of Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High – who can do other things. Sarkisian said Brown, who will remain at quarterback, will also work with the group of punters next fall.
Along with Seferian-Jenkins, Sarkisian expects “three or four other guys” to be enrolled by spring quarter but did not name them because they had not completed their high school graduation requirements. ... Last week, the UW hauled in Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey after he decommitted from Washington State. And on Wednesday, he was asked about the whole concept of oral commitments. “This is the landscape of ... recruiting in college football,” Sarkisian said. “Do I think it’s perfect? No. But if you’re not playing the game, you’re getting beat, so you’ve got to continue to battle.” ... Defensive lineman Tanilea Tupou was the first UW signee to fax in his letter of intent (7:13 a.m.), and Sims was the final one (11:50 a.m.).