UW goal: Win now, win for the future
With a winning record out the window, it's not so much about trying to save this season for the Washington Huskies, but next season, and...
Seattle Times staff reporter
With a winning record out the window, it's not so much about trying to save this season for the Washington Huskies, but next season, and the next, and the next.
At 1-6, all of Washington's tangible goals for this year are gone as it begins a season-ending four-game stretch Saturday at Arizona State.
The Huskies then play Oregon State, Arizona and Washington State, and in none of their last four games will they be as big an underdog as they were in the previous four — Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon and USC.
And if the Huskies can win a couple, it will be that much easier for coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff to make the case to both returning players and those who they want to join the program that the turnaround is beginning. Lose them all, though, and recruits may start to wonder.
"This is one of the year's most intriguing classes to watch because of the past success Tyrone has had and the fact that he comes off so impressively to recruits while at the same time there is the severity of the poor record that the Huskies are playing with right now," said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting editor for Scout.com. "That naturally has to throw a question mark in your mind — are the kids going to lose faith or will they believe that Ty can turn it around?"
Wallace says a few wins the rest of the way can help answer that question.
Willingham didn't argue that sentiment this week, saying that winning a few of the remaining games "is very important. It helps with the confidence of our football team. It helps on the recruiting front. There's not one area where you can say it's not important."
Willingham, though, calls the reception the Huskies are getting from recruits "very positive."
"I think people like a lot of the things that we are doing in the program, the direction that we are going, because I don't think anybody thought it was going to be easy," he said.
"Certainly, there are a lot of kids around the country looking only at teams that have successful records, so I wouldn't dare say some of that isn't going on. But I would say that our reception has still been very positive and very strong."
Seeming to back up that statement are the words of the most important player left on UW's recruiting list — Bellevue High offensive lineman Stephen Schilling — who said this week that Washington's win-loss record this season "doesn't really matter to me."
"I've been going to their games and seeing that they are definitely a lot better this year and they are competing and right there in a few games," Schilling said. "They just need a little bit more work to get over the hump. But I think they can get to that real easy, and I think coach Willingham is the right coach for that. I think they are going in the right direction."
Schilling, rated as the second-best offensive lineman in the country by Scout.com, is considering UW, Michigan, USC and California and says "any school I pick will be a good choice, football-wise."
He said he won't make a decision until after his high-school season is completed. What he does will heavily tilt the perception of Washington's class.
Get Schilling, and Washington will have landed two of the top three players in the state. The others are quarterback Jake Locker of Ferndale, who has committed to the Huskies, and O'Dea safety Taylor Mays, who is going to USC.
Lose him, and the perception will be that the Huskies couldn't keep enough of the big ones at home.
"If he goes to Washington that will be a giant positive for them in many different ways," Wallace said. "But you can already hear the groans coming out of Seattle if he doesn't stay home. For a lot of people, that will be immediate negative feedback and a bad indicator. In reality, it will be unfair either way since it doesn't mean you're going straight to the Rose Bowl if you get him. And if you don't get him, it doesn't mean you won't get another player just as good."
Six players have already committed to UW, including two generally regarded as among the top 100 players in the country — Locker and running back James Montgomery of Rancho Cordova, Calif.
"Tyrone has always been able to recruit good players," said Bobby Burton, editor of the Rivals.com recruiting Web site. "The question is can he get the great players who can put Washington over the top? I think Locker is in that category, and I think Montgomery is in that category. If you look around the Pac-10, the teams that win are those that have superstars like Reggie Bush or Maurice Drew. I'd put Locker and Montgomery in that class."
Based primarily on the strength of those two players, as well as commitments from in-state linemen Ryan Tolar of Pasco and Cameron Elisara of Spokane, Scout.com has UW tied for No. 25 nationally in its weekly rating of commitments to date.
But the keys now will be holding on to those commitments and filling out the class with enough good players to lay a good foundation.
Due to another small senior class, Willingham said this week he expects Washington will sign 14 to 16 players in February.
Willingham was asked if the Huskies are targeting any specific positions. "I think we need to get all the help in all the areas that we can," he said.
Washington's most recent commitment came this week from cornerback Jordan Murchison of City College of San Francisco, one of about a half-dozen junior-college players on UW's recruiting list.
Willingham said he expects to sign about five junior-college players, which he said won't be that unusual. Though he he signed only a few JC players at Stanford and none at Notre Dame, Willingham wants to recruit from two-year schools as long as they don't skew the balance of his class.
"We did that last year, and we will do that this year and next year and the year after," said Willingham, who signed three JC players in 2005. "You don't turn away good players."
No, and the Huskies hope the good players don't turn away from them.
• No decision was announced on Saturday's starting tailback, though Willingham made light of his indecision on Kenny James vs. James Sims. "Not yet, but I would probably lean towards James or Sims," said Willingham with a smile, repeating what he had been saying all week.
• Willingham said yesterday's practice would likely determine the availability of Louis Rankin (toe) and Ty Eriks (knee). "We didn't get much activity so far this week out of Louis Rankin, so today will be a critical day for him and also for Ty Eriks ... We'll make decisions on them if they can or cannot go through practice."
• Durrell Moss will get his second straight start at cornerback Saturday. The sophomore started in place of suspended Matt Fountaine against USC. Fountaine will is available against Arizona State.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org; staff reporter John Boyle contributed to this article.
|The state's top recruits|
|Washington's top college prospects, according to Scout.com|
|#||Player||Pos.||Ht., Wt.||School (hometown)||Commitment|
|1.||Stephen Schilling||OL||6-5, 290||Bellevue||Undecided|
|2.||Jake Locker||QB||6-3, 210||Ferndale||Washington|
|3.||Taylor Mays||S||6-4, 230||O'Dea (Seattle)||USC|
|4.||Cameron Elisara||DL||6-2, 275||Ferris (Spokane)||Washington|
|5.||Brandon Jones||CB||5-10, 175||O'Dea (Seattle)||California|
|6.||Skylar Jessen||RB||5-11, 196||Mead (Spokane)||Washington St.|
|7.||Ryan Tolar||OL||6-6, 325||Pasco||Washington|
|8.||Cody Habben||OL||6-5, 280||Skyline (Sammamish)||Undecided|
|9.||Keith Rosenberg||WR||6-0, 185||Bellevue||Washington St.|
|10.||Andy Mattingly||S||6-3, 217||Mead (Spokane)||Washington St.|
|Here's a list of players who have made public commitments to sign with Washington:|
|Jake Locker||QB||Ferndale||6-3, 210|
|James Montgomery||RB||Rancho Cordova, Calif.||5-9, 181|
|Ryan Tolar||OL||Pasco||6-6, 325|
|Cameron Elisara||DT||Ferris (Spokane)||6-2, 275|
|Donald Butler||LB||Fair Oaks, Calif.||6-1, 210|
|Jordan Murchison||CB||CC of San Francisco||6-0, 184|
|Here are a few of the players regarded as UW's top targets who are still undecided:|
|Stephen Schilling||OL||Bellevue||6-5, 290|
|DeLaShaun Dean||WR||Fairfield, Calif.||6-3, 184|
|Maurice Purify||WR||CC of San Francisco||6-4, 215|
|Cody Habben||OL||Skyline (Sammamish)||6-5, 280|
|Shareece Wright||CB||Colton, Calif.||5-11, 180|