Sports Out West

Washington football: Examining Chris Petersen’s first recruiting class

UW head coach Chris Peterson (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

The Washington Huskies ended the 2013 season with a ton of momentum. Three straight wins, including a 31-16 victory over BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl, helped the Huskies finally break the seven-win barrier with their first 9-4 record in a decade. To top it off, the UW hired one of the hottest names on the coaching market in Boise State’s Chris Petersen to replace the departed Steve Sarkisian, a move viewed as an upgrade by most in Seattle that would move the Huskies towards contention in the Pac-12 North.

A big question surrounding Petersen upon his arrival at the UW was how he would recruit in the Pac-12. It might not even matter – Petersen became the winningest active coach in the FBS with two-and-three-star players and owned an 8-2 record against the Pac-12 in eight years at Boise State – but most figured he would need to land at least a few of the big-name recruits to stay competitive in what might be the nation’s toughest division.

So far, Petersen has exceeded expectations. Despite having only a short amount of time from Petersen’s hiring to National Signing Day on Feb.5, the UW has risen from one of the worst-rated classes in the conference to being ranked No. 35 nationally by Scout.com and No. 37 by 247Sports.

Along the way, Petersen has flipped a couple of big names that seemed unlikely to be Huskies under Sarkisian. Here’s a look at some of the top recruits joining the UW this year, along with an examination of the class as a whole.

Budda Baker, 4-star Safety, Bellevue, WA

For years, Sarkisian’s mantra was to “build a fence” around the state of Washington and ensure that the elite local recruits became Huskies. He succeeded occasionally, but failed more often, including most recently with UCLA’s two-way star Myles Jack, Baker’s high school teammate.  Petersen set the tone by landing Baker, the consensus top recruit in the state.

A tremendous athlete, Baker is similar to Jack in that he can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball. He was a dynamic running back and kick returner at Bellevue, but Petersen has informed Baker that he will be allowed to play defense with the UW. Expect him to be in contention for playing time as a safety, as the Huskies lost both their starters to graduation.

Signing Baker is more important for the UW than just adding a great player. Not only did Petersen land the best player from the premier high school football program in the state, he flipped Baker from the archrival Oregon Ducks, a program the Huskies have been chasing for a decade. This is one of those moves that could be culture-changing.

K.J. Carta-Samuels, 4-star Quarterback, San Jose, CA

When a new staff comes in, one of the typical top priorities is to add its own hand-picked quarterback. It looked for some time that Petersen was going to be unable to do that, but he was able to grab Carta-Samuels, who decommitted from Vanderbilt when James Franklin left for Penn State.

Carta-Samuels is yet another Elite 11 quarterback recruit to come to the UW. He is praised for having possibly the strongest arm of any quarterback in this year’s class, but Carta-Samuel’s accuracy and mobility are also plusses.

He will join a battle for a spot on the depth chart that is becoming very interesting heading into spring practices. Cyler Miles was the favorite for the starting job and showed plenty of ability in relief of Keith Price, but has reportedly been suspended indefinitely for an alleged assault. Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams are two other highly-touted underclassmen quarterbacks who will compete for the job.

Kaleb McGary, 3-star Offensive Tackle, Fife, WA

The largest consistent weakness for the Huskies under Sarkisian was the offensive line. Whether by injury or ineffectiveness, the UW rarely had enough depth on the line to be successful. If Sarkisian was a failure in terms of keeping local recruits, offensive line was the position he struggled the most to do so at.

For the first time in years, the UW signed an elite local lineman by getting McGary, the most sought-after recruit in the state after Baker. McGary is a force at 6-feet-8 and 284 pounds and will be in the mix for playing time right away. This is a huge win for Petersen.

Others

Overall, the UW has 24 commits, 20 of which are 3-star players. Petersen went for quantity along the lines, adding four offensive linemen and six defensive linemen. The Huskies have seven new members of the secondary including Baker, which is not surprising considering three out of four starters graduated. The group is highlited by Naijiel Hale, who barely missed the four-star designation. Speedy wide receiver Dante Pettis, cousin of Austin Pettis of the St. Louis Rams, is being discussed as one of the more underrated members of the class. Running back Jomon Dotson and tight end Drew Sample will help add depth after Bishop Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins departed early for the NFL. 

Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

 

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.