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Originally published Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 4:56 PM

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Strong group of in-state football recruits slow to commit this year

The Huskies have received commitments this spring from just one of eight in-state high school football players they have offered scholarships to, but did receive a commitment last week from safety Darien Washington of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High School.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The football recruiting Class of 2012 is shaping up as one of the deepest in state history, led by offensive linemen Joshua Garnett of Puyallup and Zach Banner of Lakes, each considered among the top prospects in the nation (Garnett called by some the best guard, and Banner among the best tackles).

Last year, the Washington Huskies landed all five in-state players regarded as blue-chip recruits by The Seattle Times, the first time they had done so. That, along with Washington's resurgence on the field under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian has UW recruitniks hopeful the Huskies can pull off a similar sweep of top prospects this year.

Recruiting analysts, however, say it's too early to tell, and that Washington fans might need to be a little more patient than a year ago, when three of the five blue chippers — defensive lineman Taniela Tupou, receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins — committed to UW by the end of August.

Banner and Garnett, for instance, have said repeatedly they intend to take official visits in the fall and might not make decisions until shortly before the Feb. 1 signing date.

The Huskies have received a commitment from quarterback Jeff Lindquist of Mercer Island, one of eight state players listed as having an offer from Washington, with a couple others rumored as possibly getting offers down the road.

Lindquist is one of three UW commitments, joining Tairen Owens, a running back from Muir High in Pasadena, Calif., and Darien Washington, a safety from Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High School, who committed late last week.

"I think that the longer the recruitment goes on and the more that college coaches are hitting Lakes and Puyallup, I think that they are now going to be of the mindset, 'I want to see what the options are,' " said Brandon Huffman, a national football recruiting analyst for FoxSports.com and Scout.com. "So I think that while they are more likely to stay on the West Coast, I do think they are now going to go through the recruiting process and take those official visits and use it to their advantage to see all the schools that they are serious about."

Other in-state players to whom UW has offers out, according to Scout.com, are running back Keivarae Russell of Mariner High in Everett, defensive back/athlete Cedric Dozier of Lakes, receiver Michael Rector of Bellarmine Prep, offensive tackle Walker Williams of Tacoma Baptist and offensive tackle Nathan Dean of Juanita.

Dean and Rector have each been quoted saying they'd like to make their decisions before the start of football season next fall. The rest have said they might take their time and not make a decision until the fall, or later.

Washington had eight commitments by the end of May a year ago. Recruiting analysts, though, say it doesn't mean anything that the Huskies have just three so far this year, noting the vagaries in recruiting from year to year. Among Pac-12 schools, only USC (eight) and Arizona State (six) have more than four commitments.

Washington, listed by his coach as 5 feet 11, 175 pounds and slated as a potential free safety, hadn't gained a lot of notice yet — UW was his only official offer. But his coach, Jim Kunau, said more offers were likely to come had he not committed early to the Huskies.

Washington visited UW for the spring game April 30 and among those showing him around campus was current Huskies linebacker Garret Gilliland, who also played at Orange Lutheran.

Kunau said that helped sell Washington on the Huskies.

"When you have a former player who is already there and loves the program, that was a big selling point," Kunau said.

The May evaluation period ends Tuesday (head coaches are currently not allowed to go on the road in May, only assistants). Most schools, including UW, hold football camps in June, often attended by some of the top recruits, and that's typically a time when more players begin to make commitments.

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

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