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Originally published February 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 6, 2008 at 5:17 PM

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Recruiting | Success in the state key to UW's class

The Washington Huskies will sign one of their best classes in years today, recruiting analysts agree. What's a little harder to gauge is...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Washington Huskies signed one of their best classes in years today, recruiting analysts agree.

What's a little harder to gauge is how much that means.

Washington's class was rated No. 10 in the nation and No. 2 in the Pac-10 by Scout.com as of Tuesday morning, and No. 18 nationally and third in the Pac-10 by Rivals.com.

Those numbers could vary a little, but probably not a lot, giving the Huskies their loftiest rankings of the Tyrone Willingham era.

"It's easily their best class in some time," said Greg Biggins, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com and StudentSportsFootball.com. "It's probably the best year for in-state talent in a lot of years, and they've pretty much gotten everybody they wanted [in the state].

"There were a lot of really good in-state guys like Kavario Middleton and Everrette Thompson that in the past might have left the state, and they were able to keep those guys. And then they were able to come into California and get some real quality players like [receiver/running back] Chris Polk [of Redlands, Calif]."

And in a season when there was little else to feel good about, Huskies fans have latched onto the high recruiting rankings as reason for hope, especially in that early December period when guys like Middleton and Thompson committed and the ratings spiked.

But as the old saying goes, a high recruiting ranking and, uh, $4, will get you a cup of coffee.

"I think it's taken a little too seriously as far as what it actually means," said Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Scout.com. "Having talent, what it does is put you in the ballgame. It's certainly not going to win it for you. Coaching and development is. You don't have to have the best talent, you just have to have enough."

Indeed, everybody has their stories of the five-star recruit who washed out, and the one-star recruit who became an All-American. The most famous of the latter in Huskies history might be Steve Emtman, a Cheney native who had offers mostly just from Northwest schools before becoming one of Washington's most celebrated players.

The last Washington class to rank this high might serve as its own cautionary tale. This is the highest-rated class since 2001 when a group led by receivers Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick was ranked fifth nationally and first in the Pac-10 by Rivals.com. That was UW's highest-rated class since 1991.

But four years later, those players were finishing out a 1-10 season and seeing their coach fired.

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None of this is to throw water on a UW celebration today that has been long in coming, just to point out that the work is hardly done once the players are signed.

Rivals and Scout each devise their rankings by first rating the players and giving them a star rating on a scale of one to five. The players are typically evaluated at camps, on film and in all-star games. Adding up the combined star ratings of the recruits gives a baseline for each class. But then the classes are also rated and judged on how well they fill needs and if they are balanced.

"People need to step back and look at how a team meets its needs," said Jeremy Crabtree, the national recruiting editor for Rivals.com.

Analysts say the Huskies appear to have done just that.

Washington signed six players projected as defensive backs, four as offensive linemen, four as defensive linemen, four as receivers, three as running backs, two as quarterbacks, two as linebackers and one as a tight end.

The class also is praised for how it should help UW in the long term — there is not a single junior-college player in the bunch.

Willingham and his staff put the class together in the wake of much speculation about his future, and the recruiting success played at least a small role in the decision to keep him.

Crabtree this week rated UW's as one of the five most surprising classes in the country for reeling in a top-20 class despite the uncertainty.

"We rated it there not because we don't think coach Willingham is a good recruiter, but [were] surprised based on what happened on the field this season," Crabtree said. "It's definitely a class that has some star power in it, and you have to love how he protected his own backyard."

The highest-rated player in the class, according to Scout.com, is Middleton, the only player to get a five-star rating.

The Huskies aren't expecting any signing-day surprises but on Tuesday the L.A. Daily News reported that quarterback Kevin Prince of Crespi High in Encino, Calif., had committed to UCLA after committing to UW in December.

But the rest signed today with UW, giving the Huskies a February victory they hope turns into a few more in the years ahead.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

UW commitments
Washington has received commitments from 26 players:
Pos. Player Ht Wt Hometown (school)
QB Dominique Blackman 6-4 ½ 245 Carson, Calif.
RB Demitrius Bronson 5-10 195 Kent (Kentwood)
WR Cody Bruns 5-11 170 Prosser
G Allen Carroll 6-3 290 Oakland, Calif. (McClymonds)
RB Terrance Dailey 5-10 195 Vacaville, Calif.
S Johri Fogerson 6-2 190 Seattle (O'Dea)
RB David Freeman 5-7 ½ 178 Inglewood, Calif.
CB Justin Glenn 5-11 185 Mukilteo (Kamiak)
RB Anthony Gobern 6-0 185 Fair Oaks, Calif. (Del Campo)
G Mykenna Ikehara 6-3 282 Honolulu (Kamehameha Secondary)
WR Jermaine Kearse 6-2 175 Lakewood (Lakes)
DL Senio Kelemete 6-4 ½ 255 Seattle (Evergreen)
QB Luther Leonard 6-3 180 Seattle (Evergreen)
CB Adam Long 6-0 175 Playa Del Rey, Calif. (St. Bernard)
LB Kurt Mangum 6-0 ½ 230 Chandler, Ariz.
TE Kavario Middleton 6-6 240 Lakewood (Lakes)
DT Craig Noble 6-3 285 Woodland Hills, Calif. (Taft)
WR Chris Polk 5-11 195 Redlands, Calif. (Redlands East Valley)
WR Jordan Polk 5-10 170 Portland (Lincoln)
LB Bradly Roussel 5-11 215 Baton Rouge, La. (Redemptorist)
OT Drew Schaefer 6-5 275 Redmond (Eastlake)
DT Alameda Ta'amu 6-4 330 Seattle (Rainier Beach)
S Vince Taylor 6-3 185 Bellevue (Eastside Catholic)
OT Terence Thomas 6-8 295 Caldwell, Idaho
DE Everrette Thompson 6-6 255 Burien (Kennedy)
S Greg Walker 5-11 200 Playa Del Rey, Calif. (St. Bernard)

Note: Chris Polk has already enrolled and won't sign a letter today, having already signed a financial aid agreement.

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