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Down season? Washington’s conference-leading recruiting class doesn’t seem concerned

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 14, 2019

Washington cheerleaders run onto the field before a game against Eastern Washington on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Washington cheerleaders run onto the field before a game against Eastern Washington on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – One: The Washington Huskies are 6-4, unfortunate owners of their worst start since 2015. They are 3-4 in conference play, tied for sixth in the Pac-12 and third in the Pac-12 North. They’ve lost three games at home for the first time since 2015 as well.

Two: UW’s 2020 recruiting class is ranked first in the Pac-12 and in the top 15 nationally by 247Sports and the 247Sports Composite, an algorithm that compiles the rankings of most major media recruiting services.

One and Two are simultaneously true. So, what does that say?

It’s not that on-field success doesn’t matter. That would be an oversimplification. But this class’ belief in the stability of UW’s program pulverizes any enduring doubt.

“We’ve got such a young team right now that will definitely make so many improvements,” four-star offensive line commit Geirean Hatchett told The Times prior to last weekend’s win over Oregon State. “With the class we’ve got coming in, in the next couple years we’ll be a national championship contender for sure. I just can’t wait to see what the coaching staff can do with us and see how we play on the field.”

It’s natural, in the wake of devastating conference defeats, for a fan to worry about the fragile psyches of highly touted teenagers. UW entered the 2019 season with 19 oral commits. But how many would stick through the stumbles? How many minds would wander when the Huskies tripped on hurdles against Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Utah? How many would keep talking to other teams? How many would take additional visits? Four-star cornerback Jacobe Covington decommitted from the Dawgs on Oct. 15, though they remain in contention for his services.

But for most, a commitment decision seems to transcend any individual season.

“I didn’t just commit to the school based on a win-loss record,” four-star UW quarterback commit Ethan Garbers told The Times this week. “It’s more on the coaching staff and how I’m going to do my best at that school. So if we lose a couple games, we lose a couple games. That’s part of the game. But losing a couple games is not really going to affect how I feel about the program or anything like that.

“I’m pretty sure every single one of us is solid (in our commitment). I know Jacobe decommitted, but he did what’s best for him and at the end of the day that’s what matters. But I think everyone else is very solid. I think we’re just ready to get to UW and start playing some football.”

“I know at least with our O-linemen we’re all 100 percent Dawgs right now,” Hatchett said. “I don’t see anything changing there, and same with the rest of the guys. I don’t talk as extensively with the rest of the guys as I do with the O-linemen, but when I’m talking to them I don’t see any waver in their decision. I think they’re all 100 percent Dawgs, and that’s a good thing. They want it. We all want it. So we’ll get there and win a national championship, hopefully.”

The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder’s words bubble with bravado, but why not? For several seasons, the Huskies have signed classes capable of consistently contending for Pac-12 titles. Their last three classes have been ranked 22nd (2017), 16th (2018) and 15th (2019) nationally by the 247Sports Composite. Their 2020 class currently includes five-star Kennedy Catholic outside linebacker Sav’ell Smalls, as well as three four-star offensive linemen and two four-star wide receivers.

Of course, the key word there is “currently.” Nothing is certain until the reinforcements actually arrive. But Hatchett said that, even during the season, he’s in contact with offensive line coach Scott Huff and head coach Chris Petersen “all the time.” He and Huff talk three to four times a week. Garbers has a weekly call with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan. He called Petersen “the best guy I’ve ever been around.”

UW’s coaches never stop recruiting their commits.

And, yes, the “down season” has been occasionally addressed.

“There’s been some reassurance and stuff like that, but I don’t really see that big of a need for it,” Hatchett said. “They know that we’re all Dawgs and committed there 100 percent. They’re coaches. It’s their job to coach us, and I think they believe they can do that. I know for sure I believe and the rest of the guys hopefully believe that they can do their job and get the best results that we want to see out on the field.”

Washington will look to close its class with roughly three more commitments – likely including a tight end, a defensive lineman and an additional defensive back or wide receiver. Regardless of One, UW’s coaches will keep striving to solidify Two.

“You’ve got to look at body of work,” Petersen said last week. “You’ve got to look at the philosophy of the program. You’ve got to look at the university you’re coming to. That’s what I think our guys do.

“There’s no message change. Why would we change our message? We’re not going to change who we are. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you play two really good teams back-to-back (in Oregon and Utah). Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re young. It’s just all those things. That’s life. So our message doesn’t change.”

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