SEATTLE – After extending his Southern California roots and raiding Hawaii to formulate his first full recruiting class last spring, University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t have to go far to find the cornerstones of the Huskies’ Class of 2011.
UW’s latest class, which became official when 23 student-athletes signed letters of intent Wednesday, is led by some of this state’s top players – which wasn’t by accident.
“That’s how we’re going to become great around here: keeping these (in-state players) here,” Sarkisian said. “… It was a real focus for us.”
Wide receiver Kasen Williams (Skyline High School in Sammamish), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor High) and defensive tackle Danny Shelton (Auburn High) led a class that’s been ranked as high as 19th in the country by recruiting services. The Huskies also landed Gonzaga Prep running back Bishop Sankey, who had originally committed to Washington State.
Scout.com, which helps fund a pro-UW website called Dawgman.com, had the Huskies’ class ranked the highest, at No. 19. Rivals.com and ESPNU ranked UW No. 23 in the country.
All three sites had USC, Oregon and California ranked above the Huskies among Pac-10 teams.
It marked the second year in a row that Sarkisian has pulled together a class that ranked among the top 25 in most national rankings, which brought some sense of validation to UW’s head football coach.
“All in all, what we’re preaching, we’re actually doing as well,” Sarkisian said.
But the 36-year-old coach may have uttered the most appropriate phrase of the day when he responded to a question about potential additions to the class by saying: “Worst word in sports, right? Potential.”
The only way to truly grade UW’s latest class is to let time take its course. But there was plenty of optimism after a second consecutive group of signees filled with potential.
“We’re on course,” Sarkisian said. “We’re doing what we wanted to do.”
If the latest class says anything about UW football, it’s that the Huskies might be making some changes on defense. Four of the players are considered hybrid linebacker/defensive end types, and Sarkisian said the Huskies are toying with the idea of using more 3-4 looks on defense. UW also added size to the secondary, with four secondary players standing 6-foot or taller.
The gem of the class, on paper, is Williams. Parade’s national player of the year was generally regarded as the top recruit in the state and one of the main targets of big-time schools across the country. Williams turned down offers from Florida, LSU, Nebraska and Oklahoma – among others – before deciding to stay home and play for the Huskies.
It’s a position of strength at UW – leading receiver Jermaine Kearse will be a senior in the fall, while Devin Aguilar, James Johnson, Cody Bruns and Kevin Smith are also due to return – and yet Williams might find his way onto the field this fall.
“He’s the type of guy that could have an immediate impact,” Sarkisian said.
Seferian-Jenkins was also a big-time recruit, eventually narrowing his list to Texas and UW before choosing the Huskies.
“At the end of the day, the pride of Washington held true,” Sarkisian said of Seferian-Jenkins’s decision to play for the Huskies.
Shelton could be in the rotation on the defensive line as a true freshman, and Sarkisian tabbed him as the eventual replacement for senior-to-be Alameda Ta’amu.
The Huskies also added in-state players Jamaal Jones (a wiry receiver from Spanaway), Connor Cree (a defensive end who went to high school with Williams) and a pair of Snohomish County products: offensive lineman Dexter Charles of Stanwood and defensive tackle Tani Tupou of Archbishop Murphy.
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