February 2, 2011 in Sports

Williams cream of crop at Washington

Tim Booth Associated Press
Patrick Hagerty photo

Ferris’ Gage Orosco, below, breaks up a pass meant for Skyline’s Kasen Williams in the 2009 state title game. Williams will play for Washington next season.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE — Steve Sarkisian didn’t need Washington’s victory in the Holiday Bowl and its first winning season in eight years to boost the Huskies’ recruiting class.

The gems of this class were already in the fold long before Washington beat Nebraska in late December in San Diego.

But those stars finally became official on Wednesday when Washington unveiled its recruiting class of 23. And the star of the class doesn’t get much bigger than wide receiver Kasen Williams, the Parade Magazine national player of the year.

“I think this is the type of guy who can have an immediate impact in things we’re trying to accomplish,” Sarkisian said.

Much to Sarkisian’s delight, the Huskies recruits held in the highest regard on a national level come on the offensive side. Along with Williams, considered by some of the top prep receiver in the country, Washington also landed Austin Seferian-Jenkins, rated among the top tight ends in the nation.

And, most important to Sarkisian, they were the top two prospects in the state of Washington. The Huskies controlled their home state, landing arguably the top five recruits available this year.

“It has to be a real belief for you. We have to take care of our own backyard first,” Sarkisian said. “… It’s been a focus for us, and it’s about developing relationships not only with the kids and the young men, but the families and coaches. It’s not about the top five. It’s really in my opinion about getting the top 10 players in the state to stay home.”

Along with Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, Washington nabbed defensive linemen Danny Shelton from Auburn, Wash., and Taniela Tupou from Archbishop Murphy near Everett, Wash., and running back Bishop Sankey out of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane.

The signing of Sankey came with some criticism, as Sankey originally gave a verbal commitment to Washington State, but changed his decision recently and signed with the rival Huskies.

“It’s the nature of the beast right now. It’s the landscape of college football,” Sarkisian said. “Do I think it’s perfect? No. … The recruiting process never ends.”

Williams became the first player from the state to be named Parade’s national player of the year. Williams, from nearby Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., verbally committed to the Huskies over the summer, then went out and was named the Associated Press Washington state player of the year. Williams finished his senior season with 86 receptions for 1,579 yards and 21 touchdowns. For his career, Williams caught 235 passes and 56 TDs.

Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t far behind, especially for a tight end. He concluded his career at Gig Harbor High with a school-record 126 catches and was a two-time all-state selection. He’s expected to enroll early and be on campus in time for spring practice.

“I really think he’s matured not only physically, but mentally,” Sarkisian said. “He’ll be here for spring football. He’s coming with the mindset that he’s going to compete. I think his future is extremely bright.”

While the offensive skill players caught most of the headlines, Sarkisian said there was also a focus defensively and perhaps a sign of a scheme shift in the future. Washington signed a five-pack of “hybrid” type players that could be outside linebackers or defensive ends: Jarrett Finau, Corey Waller, Scott Laywer, Matthew Lyons and Travis Feeney. Sarkisian said the Huskies plan to take a look schematically at using some more 3-4 defenses during spring practice.

Sarkisian was also high on landing cornerback Marcus Peters out of McClymonds High in Oakland, Calif. and safety James Sample from Grant High in Sacramento, Calif.

Perhaps the Huskies most intriguing signing is athlete Antavius Sims out of Ventura College. Sarkisian said the plan is to use Sims at cornerback, but Sims spent last season playing quarterback at Ventura and can be used in a variety of roles.

“We’re fortunate to sign a very complete recruiting class,” Sarkisian said. “It’s one that fit not only our immediate needs, but one for our future as we move forward.”

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