My former colleague, the longtime high schools writer Craig Smith, liked to begin the Chip List each year with one simple declaration: either “the chips are down” or “the chips are up.” And for the last decade, the declaration has varied, as has the size of each class of blue chips.
The blue-chip list is supposed to predict those Washington players capable of Division I stardom. And as our list has shown throughout the years, there’s a big difference between being capable of stardom and becoming a star. Sometimes, injuries can bring down a career, and in other occasions, academic difficulties restrict a top prospect from ever getting to a Division I college. And sometimes, the recruiting analysts — and The Times — get it flat out wrong.
This could not be more clear today as I took a look back at the last 10 groups of Blue Chips, going back to 1999, to discover just how well we did. We have had some solid NFL players — Jonathan Stewart and Reggie Williams come immediately to mind — but many more players whose careers never quite worked out.
3: Gino Simone, Deandre Coleman, Kirby Moore
Verdict: Obviously, too soon to tell. I spoke with one close recruiting watcher Monday who said he wouldn’t have had any blue chips at all this season. And surely, the 2006 class had much more bulk and was rated much higher. But take a look at Deandre Coleman and tell me he doesn’t belong in Division I football. And Simone and Moore have the chance to really surprise some people. Moore, reunited with his brother, could have a great collegiate career.
6: Kavario Middleton, Everrette Thompson, David DeCastro, Alameda Ta’amu, Jermaine Kearse, Nick Cody
Verdict: Too soon to tell. Middleton, Thompson, Ta’amu and Kearse all got playing time with the Huskies this year as true freshmen, as Tyrone Willingham’s staff showed no hesitation to burn through redshirts. Cody reshirted at Oregon and DeCastro redshirted at Stanford.
4: Kellen Kiilsgaard, Kevin Freitag, Marshall Lobbestael, Nate Williams
Verdict: Still too soon to tell, but count out Kiilsgaard, who quit football to play baseball after being converted from quarterback to tight end. Freitag didn’t start at Washington State last season and played in a few games. Lobbestael, a quarterback, started three games for the Cougars because of the massive injuries to Wazzu quarterbacks — and then he had a season-ending injury, too. Williams started all season for the Huskies as part of an often-burned secondary.
4: Jake Locker, Stephen Schilling, Taylor Mays, Andy Mattingly
Verdict: The chips are way up. Locker has shown obvious flashes of potential at the Huskies, and the hope at Montlake is QB guru Steve Sarkisian can help his passing game complement the threat he maintains as a runner. Schilling has started both of his seasons at Michigan and was named the team’s top lineman this season. Mays was possibly the best safety in the country this season at USC, and he turned down a sure-fire first-round draft spot to return to school. Mattingly is the only non-Division-I star of the group; he started a pair of games last season for Washington State at defensive end, though he did have a very solid season in 2007.
6: Jonathan Stewart, Leon Jackson, Anthony Felder, Kenny Alfred, J.R. Hasty, E.J. Savannah
Verdict: The chips are up and down. Up because of Stewart, already an impact runner in the NFL after playing at Oregon. Felder had a decent career at Cal, starting 24 games the past two seasons. Alfred started all season at center for Wazzu. But down are Jackson, who transferred from Nebraska to Hawaii and has played sparingly (he’s now know as Leon Wright-Jackson) and J.R. Hasty, who could never make it work with UW coach Tyrone Willingham. Neither could E.J. Savannah, but the linebacker will have another shot under Steve Sarkisian to live up to his potential.
8: Keauntea Bankhead, Aaron Klovas, Andy Roof, Walter Winter, Matt Tuiasosopo, Johnie Kirton, Chancellor Young, Ryan Burks
Verdict: The chips are way down. The largest Blue Chip class might also be the most disappointing. At least one is a pro: Tuiasosopo, who’s in the Mariners’ system as a third baseman. Bankhead had committed to the UW, but he never qualified, and then he spent years attaining his AA degree, which he did receive this past June. Klovas left Oregon for Idaho State, where was a starter at offensive tackle. Roof, after multiple scrapes with the law, was expelled from Washington State this season. Winter, Kirton and Young never became stars at Washington. Burks, a punter, went to Eastern Washington.
5: Craig Chambers, Johnny DuRocher, Tahj Bomar, Derrick Bradley, Jordan Carey.
Verdict: The chips are down. DuRocher was a quarterback at Oregon and Washington before he discovered he had a brain tumor, from which he recovered, and impressively, he started a career in baseball. He retired from baseball last year after a rotator cuff injury Bomar had a decent career as a Washington linebacker. Carey transferred from Oregon to Western Washington. Chambers, a UW receiver, transferred to Montana, and Bradley, a UW defensive back, had his career ended by a shoulder injury.
3: David Beall, Cody Boyd, Isaiah Stanback
Verdict: The chips are up. Two-thirds of the blue-chip class made the NFL. Stanback went to Washington as a quarterback and is now a special teams player and receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Boyd, who went to Washington State, was on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster last summber before going on injured reserve before the season. Beall left Stanford after his redshirt sophomore season.
4: Evan Benjamin, Ty Eriks, Justin McCullum, Reggie Williams
Verdict: The chips are up. Williams was one of college football’s top receivers before becoming the ninth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. He has 18 career NFL TD catches. Benjamin, after a solid career at Washington, was signed by the Seahawks in 2006 and the Buccaneers in 2007, but he was released before the season. McCullum, who starred at Stanford, was briefly on the Carolina Panthers roster, and he played in NFL Europe before the league disbanded. Eriks scored one career touchdown as a fullback at the UW and played quite a bit on the defensive line.
5: Dan Dicks, Skyler Fulton, Jimmy Newell, Larry Stevens, Zach Tuiasosopo
Verdict: The chips are up and down. Dicks’ career was cut short at UW because of injuries. Fulton, a receiver, was Arizona State’s offensive MVP as a senior and journeyed through the Colts, Vikings and Seahawks organizations but did star with the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe. Newell played on the 2001 Rose Bowl team and started at safety for UW in 2002 and 2003, but he finished his career in 2004 as a backup after battling injuries. Stevens was a second team all-Big Ten defensive end at Michigan, and he spent some time in the Cincinnati Bengals organization. Tuiasosopo was one of the Pac-10’s top fullbacks while at Washington and has been with the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
6: Paul Arnold, Matt Berry, Dan Major, Robin Miller, Brett Pierce, Jeremey Williams
Verdict: The chips are mostly down. Arnold’s Washington career was clouded by a nagging back injury, but he moved to receiver and caught 37 passes his senior season. He briefly was on the Indianapolis Colts roster before the 2003 season. Matt Berry played four years at Brigham Young and started eight games as a sophomore. Major quit football after a semester at Colorado. Miller appeared in 14 games in four years at Nebraska. The best player in the group was Pierce, who played tight end at Stanford and then played for the Dallas Cowboys. He caught a pair of NFL touchdown passes, but knee injuries ended up sidelining him. Williams was a reliable defensive tackle one some great defenses at Washington State and was an impressive four-time all-academic Pac-10 selection.