By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The day began with one of the country’s top unsigned football prospects sitting in front of a live television camera, flanked by three college hats, and ignoring the colors of USC and Michigan in favor of the University of Washington’s purple and gold.
A few hours later, UW football coach Steve Sarkisian was comparing one Huskies recruit to Terrell Owens, saying another had the “potential to be a top-five NFL draft pick” and explaining how incoming quarterback Nick Montana has all the intangibles of his father, Joe.
It must have been Signing Day.
But unlike some recent spectacles at UW, during which the program promised futures so bright that the Huskies would have to wear shades, the first full Signing Day of the Sarkisian era on Wednesday might actually have some validity to it.
Scout.com ranked the Huskies’ recruiting class No. 11 in the nation, ahead of traditional powers like Tennessee, Notre Dame, Miami and Ohio State, and third in the Pac-10. Rivals.com put UW at No. 28 in the nation and sixth in the conference.
The Huskies earned points for having five four-star recruits, led by Los Angeles-area safety Sean Parker, who spurned USC and Michigan while announcing his commitment live on ESPNU.
Time will tell whether the Huskies’ Class of 2010 has the next T.O. (wide receiver Kevin Smith, whom Sarkisian said was built like the Buffalo Bills receiver), the next Walter Jones (late recruit James Atoe, a 6-foot-6, 339-pound lineman from The Dalles, Ore., has NFL size) or Joe Montana (Nick had offers from several high-profile programs, including Dad’s alma mater of Notre Dame). What the 30-man class should do immediately is provide size, speed and depth to a rising program.
“All in all, this day is a big success in our eyes,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a very complete class from front to back.”
Sarkisian wasn’t doing much overt bragging Wednesday, other than to say: “We took care of our own state, we went to California and did the damage we needed to get done, and we went to Hawaii and signed — in our opinion — the top four players in the state.”
The Huskies took a geographical approach to recruiting, focusing almost exclusively on the West Coast.
Sarkisian said that his first goal was to keep Washington’s top talent in state, and he did that by signing eight of Rivals.com’s top 14 prospects from this state — including No. 2 Sione Potoa’e, a sought-after defensive tackle from Lakes High who chose UW over USC, Oregon and Boise State. None of the nine recruits from Washington were Snohomish County products.
Sarkisian also targeted Southern California, where he had a pipeline from his days as a USC assistant. Fourteen of the Huskies’ 30-man class came from SoCal, while two others also came from the state of California. He also got four of Hawaii’s top 20 prospects.
Montana, who made one of the first commitments to this UW class back in June, carries the biggest name. But it’s Potoa’e and Parker who might be the most well-regarded in recruiting circles. Potoa’e, at No. 92, is the only member of UW’s recruiting class to break the Rivals 100 list of top recruits in the nation. Parker is ranked 37th among recruits from the state of California.
Parker was one of several high-caliber athletes in the class — Sarkisian pointed out that incoming recruits Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, who combined for 5,800 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns last season, were the two top rushers in California last fall — but size was also a priority.
Seven offensive linemen were among the haul, with an average weight of 295. The prize of that group might be 304-pound tackle Erik Kohler, a four-star recruit who blocked for Montana at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, Calif.
As for Montana, Sarkisian said he could be in line to take over as starter after Jake Locker heads to the NFL in 2011. Sarkisian was careful about making any comparisons — to Locker or Nick’s father.
“A lot of (Nick’s attributes) are what they say about his father,” Sarkisian said. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He embodies some of the same characteristics as Joe. But I’m not going to sit here and try to compare Nick Montana and Joe Montana. Nick’s trying to create his own legacy; that’s why he came to the University of Washington. He could have gone anywhere in the country.”
Nick Montana had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Notre Dame but chose UW because he felt comfortable on a summer visit.
“When I got up there I just had a great feeling and a feeling I couldn’t turn down,” Montana said in a June radio interview. “I knew I had to be there.”
The Montana name isn’t the only one that might be familiar to local football fans. Linebacker Cooper Pelluer of Skyline is the son of former UW linebacker Scott Pelluer and the nephew of former Husky quarterback Steve Pelluer. Fullback Zach Fogerson is the younger brother of current UW sophomore Johri Fogerson, while receiver Jamaal Kearse is the younger brother of Huskies receiver Jermaine Kearse.
Sarkisian, whose 2009 class was almost complete when he was hired, was glad to get talent at several different positions.
“It’s a very complete class,” he said, “one that I think can help us immediately and have huge impact for us this fall — but also down the road for us, in 2011, 2012 and 2013.”