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Huskies grab surprise recruit

SEATTLE — The “name” signed in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first full — really full — signing class at Washington is Nick Montana.

The surprise is Sean Parker.

“This is a big success in our eyes, one that can help us immediately, in 2010,” Sarkisian said Wednesday.

The foundation to Sarkisian’s effort to restore Washington to Pac-10 supremacy got a late boost when Parker, a top-rated safety from Los Angeles, spurned Southern California and Michigan to announce on national television he had chosen the Huskies.

Linebacker Victor Burnett of Culver City High School in Los Angeles could have signed with Oklahoma, West Virginia, Nebraska and any of the Pac-10 schools minus USC.

“That top programs wanted a kid, and he still decided to come to Washington speaks volumes,” Sarkisian said.

The 30 signed are five over the limit for initial enrollees in an academic year. Sarkisian said he will grayshirt, or enroll late, recently injured safety John Timu from Long Beach, Calif. Washington is also enrolling some players early to count toward last year’s class, which had only 15 players enroll after Sarkisian took the Huskies’ job with just weeks remaining in that recruiting season.

One early arrival is Montana. The son of Hall of Fame passer Joe Montana will enroll in March in time for spring practice.

“He has all the physical tools we could ever want in a quarterback,” Sarkisian said.

Montana committed months ago, adding momentum to Washington’s recruiting push in Southern California that netted exactly half the class.

Sarkisian says its “extremely realistic” that Montana, a polished quarterback from top-ranked Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif., could start in 2011 after star Jake Locker finishes his senior season this fall.

The Huskies currently have only one other scholarship quarterback on its roster. Keith Price redshirted as a freshman last season.

“He’s got the pieces in place,” Sarkisian said of Montana, also gushing over his poise and leadership. “The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.”

Yet that apple strayed from dad’s orchard. Nick passed on interest from Joe’s school, Notre Dame, to join the Huskies.

Parker, from Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Calif., is rated among the country’s top half-dozen safeties. Sarkisian credited a recent three-hour visit with Parker, his mother and his uncle in the family’s home in Los Angeles as the turning point in Parker choosing the Huskies over the Trojans.

It’s one of the first big coups for Sarkisian over his former employer.

“We went into Southern California and did the damage that needed to be done,” said USC’s offensive coordinator through the 2009 Rose Bowl.

Sarkisian also gushed over the “instant impact” he expects from defensive lineman Sione Potoa’e from Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash.

Potoa’e was the highest-rated of the Huskies’ nine in-state recruits. The 6-foot-2, 266-pound all-state star — the first four-year starter at Lakes since 1963 — is the second-highest rated recruit in the state behind quarterback Jake Heaps from Skyline High School in Sammamish. Heaps long ago chose BYU.

Sarkisian signed seven offensive linemen, the most Washington has snared on signing day in over a decade.

Sarkisian said landing James Atoe, a 6-6, 339-pounder from hard-to-get-to The Dalles, Ore., was a “classic recruiting ploy.” After discovering Atoe at the Huskies’ football camp last summer, Sarkisian said Washington hid its interest so other big-name schools didn’t find out about him.

Idaho, Eastern Washington and Portland State ended up being the only other schools to offer Atoe a scholarship.

Atoe’s size, agility and athleticism — the coach saw him score 22 points in a basketball game — led Sarkisian to say, “This guy is a potential top-five NFL draft pick.”


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