Zach Banner’s announcement today that he will attend USC (details here) pretty much closes the book on Washington’s in-state recruiting efforts this year. (Actually, Michael Rector apparently still remains up in the air with some thought he may end up signing instead with Stanford. But that’s not one that will change the perception much now).
It means UW will get just one of the state’s “big five” recruits this year, also losing out on
guard Josh Garnett of Puyallup (Stanford), RB KeiVarae Russell of Mariner High (Notre Dame) and Lakes High WR Cedric Dozier (deciding either WSU or Cal tomorrow).
I asked Adam Gorney, the West Recruiting analyst for Rivals.com/Yahoo! Sports, for his thoughts on Banner’s decision and the in-state recruiting this year as a whole:
“There is really no way to spin this: It is not good,” he said. “Losing Zach Banner, Josh Garnett, KeiVarae Russell and Cedric Dozier – three of them to competing Pac-12 schools – is troublesome and while I don’t think it’s the new norm it certainly isn’t good for the Huskies.
“That being said, Washington is by no means giving up on this recruiting class. Five-star safety Shaq Thompson is still a very viable option and so is four-star receiver Jordan Payton. Get those two guys and it soothes the issue a little bit of the in-state players leaving. But just imagine what Washington’s class could have been if even two of those four from the state stayed. It would have been one of the best classes in the Pac-12.”
No doubt, the losses of a few players rated among the best in their position that were not only local but in the case of Garnett and Banner also sons of former UW players — and play positions of need for the Huskies — will sting.
It should be noted that UW has gotten three in-state offensive linemen. And the hope on Montlake now will be that they can also do the job well (we can all point to lots of stories of the three-stars who hit it big and the five-stars who flopped, so you never know how this story might read a few years from now).
The inability to keep some of the state’s best talent home comes a year after UW swept the table in-state, getting all five of the Seattle Times Blue Chip players, the first time that had happened in at least 14 years.
As one person wrote to me, maybe this was just the odds evening out.
As my e-mail and Twitter account can attest, however, that’s not how most fans appear to be feeling. They want to know how this happened and how UW can prevent it from happening again.
The second part of that may be easier to address as UW has already basically acknowledged the problem and taken steps to fix it with the hires of five new assistant coaches, several of whom (notably Tosh Lupoi) are known as among the best recruiters in the conference (assistants recruit by geographical area as well as position). It’s no coincidence UW sought top-flight recruiters in making the changes it did to the defensive staff, in particular.
As for how it happened, it’s worth recalling again the names of the schools UW lost out to here — USC, Notre Dame and Stanford. That’ll sound like an excuse to a lot of people, but most in recruiting will tell you that when those schools come seriously calling, the odds dim considerably. Every UW coach has lost players to those schools, and every coach in the future will, as well. (The one outlier there is Dozier, but his case is also pretty black-and-white — he wanted to be a receiver and UW initially didn’t recruit him at that spot. It sounds like by the time UW decided it would it was simply too late.)
The hope, especially after last year, was that UW had the staff in place to win more of those battles than it would lose. As noted, UW itself has already basically acknowledged it didn’t. Now UW fans will have to wait and see if it has the staff to win those battles in the future.