February 3, 2010

What a class for UW

SEATTLE -- A big surprise started signing day for the Huskies as they pulled down one of the top safeties in the nation when Sean Parker announced on ESPNU that he was going to be a Dawg.

But in the end it was business as usual under the Steve Sarkisian regime, as Washington signed 30 recruits with most of them expected.

"They were relentless. Three hundred and sixty-five days ago we offered 30 juniors in two days and away we went," Sarkisian said of his recruiters. "Our guys did a fantastic job developing relationships with not only the players, but aunts, uncles, parents, brothers and sisters."

As was a point of emphasis for Sarkisian from his first day on Montlake, keeping in-state talent in Seattle was a high priority and he kept his word, signing most of Washington state's top talent. Nine recruits are coming from inside the state, while 16 are from California, another area that Sarkisian said needed to be established for success.

"Anytime you have a plan -- whether it be in football or recruiting -- you want to see it unfold like you wanted, and I think that happened this year," Sarkisian said. "We took care of our own state, we went into California and did the damage we needed to get done and went into Hawai'i and signed, in our opinion, the top four players in the state."

While monikers such as Montana, Cooper and Parker garner all the attention, Sarkisian couldn't help but stress the importance of signing linemen on both sides of the ball. Without them, he wouldn't be able to call this a complete class.

Let's just call this Group Montana. Nick Montana made his oral commitment to the University of Washington way back in June, and since then he's working to enroll early and start his career with the Huskies.
"I finally get to talk about him," Sarkisian said. "Everybody has been asking me about him."

The 6-3, 194-pound righty from Oaks Christian High School in California threw for 2,635 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior, and led his team to a 27-1 record as a starter. One of those wins included a 28-25 win over Jake Heaps and Skyline this season.

"He's got all of the physical tools that we could want in a quarterback. He can throw in the pocket, he's got great presence in the pocket with his keeping his eyes down field, he has the ability when things break down to get out of the pocket and extremely adept to throwing on the run," Sarkisian said of Montana.

More importantly, Sark was gushing about Montana's personality, saying he has the leadership qualities needed at the collegiate level and beyond.

"The kids want to be around him, and that's how quarterbacks are supposed to be," Sark said. "A lot of the same things could be said about his father, but I'm not going to compare him to Joe."

Sarkisian said he thought Montana picked Washington to step out of his father's Hall-of-Fame shadow and create his own legacy, which could start as soon as Jake Locker's ends after the 2010 season.
"I think it's realistic (that Montana could start in 2011), he comes from an extremely good system," Sakisian said. "...but he's going to have to compete. We've got another young man here by the name of Keith Price who had a tremendous freshman year."

Running Backs:
The Huskies signed a pair of running backs from California that finished Nos. 1 and 2 in rushing yards this season.

Deontae Cooper, coming out of Citris Hill High School, is thought to be one of the top running backs in the state, rushing for 2,863 yards on 316 carries (9.01 avg) and 34 touchdowns. In his career, Cooper finished with 7,450 rushing yards and 107 touchdowns, which is second on the school's record list behind 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart of Stanford.

"He's a downhill runner, very explosive," Sarkisian said. "I could easily see him as a 225-pound tailback."

On the other end of the spectrum is Jesse Callier, who at 5-10 and 187 pounds projects to be more of a scat back.

"He's not a straight-line guy. He's a guy that can catch, played quarterback and DB," Sarkisian said.

However he gets it done, he is productive, rushing for 3,010 yards -- seventh-highest total in the nation -- and 43 touchdowns this season. Sarkisian said that he was excited to get a pair of different running styles.

"They bring a different mix to the table, but at the end of the day, they're extremely productive," he said.

Full Back:
The key word here is athletic. Zach Fogerson -- brother of Husky tailback Johri Fogerson -- is a 6-0, 231-pound blocker from O'Dea with the ability to gain yards.

"He's hopefully adding an element that we didn't have last year and that's athleticism," Sarkisian said. "He has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, and run the ball. His versatility is key for us."

Wide Receivers:
The Dawgs kept the same mold of wide receivers as they went for in 2009 with the quick-twich and solid hands-type guys. For any fans hoping for their sons to play football at Washington, Sarkisian made a point of saying he liked recruits that play basketball.

"We're keeping our length at wide receiver -- to be a 50-50, going up to get the ball in the air type guy," Sarkisian said.

Starting with DiAndre Campbell, who played both ways for Oakland Tech to acclaim. He was a first-team all-league receiver and a second-team defensive back in 2009. He led the Oakland Athletic League with 28 receptions for 490 yards and 10 touchdowns, and had 70 tackles, three picks and five sacks on defense. While Campbell looks to be a solid recruit with upside, newcomer Kevin Smith exemplifies upside.

A project out of Centennial in California, who has played just over a year of organized football caught the Huskies' attention. He was the MVP of his league and helped them go from 1-9 to 7-3 and win the league championship. Sark so far as to liken him to Terrell Owens.

"He's shredded, he looks good and he's strong," Sarkisian said. "And how he develops is going to be exciting for us."

Tight End
Coming out of Bothel is tight end Michael Hartvigson, who was named to the Seattle Times all-area team, caught 16 passes for 213 yards and six touchdowns, but also isn't afraid to get dirty.

"He has the nastiness to block, being a defensive end in high school," Sarkisian said. "So we're excited about him.

The Huskies made up for their inability to sign an offensive lineman in 2009 with getting seven this year -- and combined, they average 6-3.5 and 245 pounds.

"It's kind of like where's the beef when it comes to these guys -- they're huge," Sark joked. "This is a huge point of emphasis for us in this class because we were too late in the game to get the type of players we want last year."

The tiniest being Colin Tanigawa from Pasadena, Calif., who is the only projected guard in the class, might be one of Sark's favorites.

"He's a nasty, tough kid from a great high school that is hard-nosed," he said.

But the highlight of this group is probably Montana's teammate Erik Kohler. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound mauler is one of the top guards in the nation and will also have a shot to move outside at the next level.

There was also some local beef who will make their way to Montlake. Bothell's Colin Porter could be a mainstay for the Huskies on the interior at either guard or center and O'Dea's Ben Riva has the perfect frame and long arms to be an effect tackle.

The rest of them -- James Atoe (6-6, 339), Mike Criste (6-5, 279), Micah Hatchie (6-5, 265), could all be given a shot at tackle to start.

"That's what you want because if they don't work at tackle, then you can always move him inside," he said.

Husky fans should be happy to see a coach signing seven offensive lineman instead of seven wide receivers as they look to bigger and tougher in the trenches.

"We're excited about all these guys, they're physical, they're athletic, they fit to what we want to do and we've talked about for months now- we've got to be able to run the football and be a physical program and this is where it starts. This was a huge point of emphasis for us in this class because of the simple fact that we didn't sign any guys last year on O-line, it was too late in the game we didn't feel like we could get the quality player last year. So to come in this year and be able to sign seven of these guys is huge for us on the offensive line."

One of the gems from this year's class was lineman Sione Potoa out of Lakes. With the ability to already toss around over 400 pounds on the bench, he has the strength and athleticism to make an impact as a freshman.

"He's a fantastic player," Sarkisian said. "He was hard-fought battle to keep in state. He was recruited by some of the top schools in the country. I think he could have that instant-impact factor for us."

And if Potoa is supposed to be the thunder, then Lawrence Lagaguaina is the lightning. At 6-0, 336 pounds, Lagafuaina ran a 4.80 40-yard dash at camp.

"This guy has the speed and quickness to have a huge impact," Sark said.

Hau'oli Jamora might be the Dawgs' top defensive end recruit, coming from Kahuku in Hawai'i, he was the co-defensive player of the year.

"A kid who not only can rush the passer but does a great job defending the run," sark said of Jamora. "He's physical, we're excited about him."

Also, Andrew Hudson, who is wrestling for a state championship in California right now had 57 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior.

"He's potentially a state wrestling champ in the state of California this year, he's got great hands, he's got great leverage which enables him to be a force against the run and he has the ability and the passion to rush the passer which is great."

Finally Brent Williams from San Fernando, Calif., who had 17 sacks two years ago and five in 2009. A lot has been debated about Williams' weight, which was listed on GoHuskies.com as 186 pounds, but Sarkisian happily reported that has changed to around 205 pounds.

"He's getting to where he needs to be," he said. "And on third down, you need those guys to can pressure and play coverage and that's how you get to the quarterback and this guy can do it."

Sark called the linebacker spot a huge area of need at the press conference and acted accordingly, signing five.

"We had to fill numbers, not only from a linebacker perspective, but from a special teams perspective as well," he said. "We needed guys that can run around and hit, make an impact early on special teams for us."

Deliberately choosing a starting point at Victor Burnett from Los Angeles, Calif., who set a school record with 425 career tackles -- 94 as a senior despite missing four games due to a leg injury. Burnett will be an early enrollment.

"I think this group is really spearheaded by Victor Burnett out of Culver City High School, a kid who's going to be an early enrollee here in spring with us. Fantastic player, student body president, very bright young man, but also will hit you every chance he gets."

Princeton Fuimaono was next. The Orange Lutheran product was injured most of the 2009 season, but notched 85 tackles and 12 sacks as a junior.

"He's like Burnett, you look at him on film, he can fly around, puts his face on ya," Sark said of Fiumaono.

A local product who could surprise fans in the coming years was Skyline High School's Cooper Pelluer. He had 77 tackles and 10 sacks in 2009, helping the Spartans to a 4A state championship. At 6-foot-3 and over 220-pounds, Pelluer has quality speed and could end up being a diamond in the rough.

"He's a kid we've had earmarked for a while now and it was just waiting until our numbers worked the way we want, but Cooper is a perfectly stern linebacker with the versatility to play a tight end man-to-man and rush the passer," Sarkisian.

Garret Gilliland is another player who might go overlooked on signing day because of a senior season injury, but he's one of the best tacklers in the state of California.

"Garret Gilliland out of Orange Lutheran High School in Orange County, another outside linebacker type. Athletic, 2-time defensive player of the year in his league, just a great player, a guy who's very bright and very smart and that's a common theme that we need from our linebackers. We need guys that understand the game of football and have a really high football IQ."

Rounding out the class are locals Darius Waters (Lakes) and Chris Young (Auburn).

"Darius Waters and Chris Young, both local products, physical players, put your face on you, that are going to have an impact on the field and their presence will be felt when they get out there."

Defensive Backs:
The news of the past two days revolved around the late addition of ESPN-100 recruit Sean Parker from Narbonne in Los Angeles. Parker was a second-team All-American, who played in the U.S. Army All-American game and has been ranked as high as No. 10 overall on national scout lists.

"For us, in today's game, a safety better be able to play deep-half, he better be able to play middle-third, he better be able to come down and fit up the run game, he better be able to blitz the quarterback and he better be able to play man-to-man coverage with the stuff we see. This guy fits the bill -- that's why he's so special," Sark said.

Also, Jermaine Kearse's brother, Jamaal Kearse signed today. A first-team all-state player from Lakes High School, he's got the size and athletic ability to be a good one.

"Loving Jamaal Kearse. We've obviously seen what his brother Jermaine's done for us. Jamaal's a big kid, 6'2" 215 right now, I'm anxious to watch to see how he grows. He's got a great frame on him, a great presence."

ark said that Taz Stevenson out of Hawai'i has similar ability to Parker, with his coverages and John Timu will grey shirting due to a blown MCL.

"He is a kid that unfortunately blew out his ACL in the second game of the year so he'll be grayshirted and be here next January for us, but a fantastic athlete and if you go around to the high school coaches in Southern California, he's one of the first names coaches want to bring up to talk to us about because he's been that dynamic on the field."

The only corner back from this year's class is Gregory Ducre from Crenshaw in Los Angeles, who represents where Sark said he and defensive coordinator Nick Holt want to go with the secondary in the future with more man-to-man coverage.

"This kid is a lock-down, shut-down corner whose going to fit extremely well for us," he said

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