The immediate demands on Washington’s new recruits have changed.
When Steve Sarkisian took over in 2009, he was filling spots as much as building toward the future. The Huskies’ roster 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 sat in his purple tie 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 that could have an impact as early as this fall when Boise State comes to Seattle to open the 2013 season and a well-reviewed class. Rivals.com ranked Washington’s class 18th in the country as did ESPN. Scout.com has the Huskies haul 14th.
The Huskies brought in a trio at wide receiver that already has Sarkisian giddy to draw up plays for. Damore’ea Stringfellow from Perris, Calif. is the big whig of the group.
“He looks like an NFL wideout today,” Sarkisian said.
He’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. John Ross, 5-11, 180 pounds out of Long Beach, Calif., is more of big-play receiver and Darrell Daniels, 6-4, 220 pounds, is the possession type.
Each brings a varied facet.
“You could argue is the best corps of wide receivers in the country,” Sarkisian said.
Washington could use a boost at the position. The Huskies relied on Kasen Williams and 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 align Washington with 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 year and Oregon’s has been doing it for almost a decade. So, Sarkisian told his staff to pursue long, swift defenders to specifically help to counter spread offenses. The result was three linebackers, none shorter than 6-foot-1. In fact, of the 22 new players, only three were shorter than 6-foot and one of those was the kicker, Cameron Van Winkle.
Sarkisian had been in pursuit of taller defensive players and that desire was bolstered by watching Seattle Seahawks practices with big defensive backs Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor running around.
Not everything worked as planned, however.
Washington did lose 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 at Garfield High School prior to moving to Lancaster, Texas.
He first committed to Texas as a junior. Then switch to Washington in June of 2012 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 came from California. Just four came from Washington state. One came from Texas.
Sarkisian said the Huskies will continue to concentrate on the West Coast, but will also check into places like Texas in future recruiting efforts.
When those pursuits occur, he feels like renovated Husky Stadium will be a big factor. 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 like 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.