Edmonds-Woodway’s Ali Gaye dons a University of Washington hat during a signing day celebration in the school’slibrary on Wednesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Husky football program welcomes 18 players on signing day

SEATTLE — The University of Washington football program welcomed 18 new players on Wednesday, and head coach Chris Petersen made it clear that he was thrilled with the additions.

Petersen also made it clear that he was not bothered by any names not on the list.

In recent weeks Washington failed to land one of the nation’s top offensive line prospects, Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarrell, who chose Stanford over the Huskies. Also, two onetime UW commits de-committed and then signed with other schools — running back/wide receiver Connor Wedington of Sumner who opted for Stanford and defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu of Independence, Ore., who switched to USC.

But as Petersen explained to a mid-day media gathering, “We never worry about the kids that don’t come here. That has nothing to do with the success of our program. What has everything to do with our program and how good we’re going to be? These (18) guys better be able to play.”

He added, “We’re thrilled with these guys. … They’re not going to be on this list unless they’re big-time players, in our opinion, and have a chance to have a really, really big upside.”

Some of the players signed on Wednesday, the NCAA’s annual letter-of-intent day, committed to the Huskies several months ago. Among them, tight end Hunter Bryant from Sammamish, wide receiver Terrell Bynum from Long Beach, Calif., and cornerback Keith Taylor from Anaheim, Calif.

Others made their commitments in recent days. That includes offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland of Portland, Ore., and Ali Gaye of Edmonds (Edmonds-Woodway High School). Their opportunities firmed up after Sarrell and Tuipulotu ended up elsewhere.

The last player into the UW fold was defensive end Jordan Lolohea of Salt Lake City, who made his announcement on Wednesday morning. But Lolohea is likely to make a two-year LDS mission, meaning he is not expected to join the Huskies until the 2019 season.

The Huskies also held onto one player who looked elsewhere in the last week. Ty Jones, an athletic wide receiver whose stock has soared in recent months, took an official visit to UCLA last weekend, but in the end stayed true to his commitment.

In an interesting twist, Washington signed the son of a former Husky — Kirkland, whose father is ex-UW offensive lineman Dean Kirkland (1986-90) — and the son of a former Oregon Duck — cornerback Elijah Molden, whose father is Alex Molden (1991-95).

In total, the class includes 17 high school athletes and one junior-college player — punter Joel Whitford from Neerim South, Victoria, Australia, and Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College. Among the high school players, 10 are slated for offense and seven for defense; six are from Washington, eight from California, two from Oregon and two from Utah.

During the press conference, Petersen said he was not inclined to talk about specific players, including the chances of some contributing significantly as true freshmen. But he did drop comments here and there about particular players, beginning with Molden, who is one of the top-rated players in the class according to Scout.com.

“We feel so great about Elijah,” Petersen said. During home visits or when Molden came to Seattle, “we’d just walk (away thinking), ‘This is the kind of kid we want to coach. This is who we want to be around.’ And fortunately for us he felt the same way.”

Petersen also couldn’t keep from saying nice things about running back Salvon Ahmed of Kirkland (Juanita HS), who is probably the fastest player in the class with a John Ross-like clocking of 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

“Salvon, we think, is as good as anything we’ve been around,” said Petersen, who added, “You could make a case on either side of the ball for him, but we need to start him somewhere to get him going. And I think in his heart he wanted to be a running back, which is awesome for us.”

Ultimately, the quality of this recruiting class will not be known for a few years. By then it will be seen how many of the 2017 recruits are not only still in the program, but making big contributions on the field.

But for now, Petersen said, “I think this is a really quality crew. … We’ve been recruiting a lot of these guys for a long, long period of time, and we’ve watched just about every game film they’ve played in the last few years.

“I feel great about all these guys. I could make a case for all these guys (to play early), but I won’t know until they get here. … But they wouldn’t be on this list if they weren’t talented. And where I really get excited, these guys just fit us. They fit the culture that we’re all about and they’re all really good kids.”

UW’s 2017 recruiting class

Salvon Ahmed, ATH, Juanita H.S.

Henry Bainivalu, OL, Skyline H.S.

Hunter Bryant, TE, Eastside Catholic

Terrell Bynum, WR, Bellflower, Calif.

Alex Cook, WR, Sacramento, Calif.

Ali Gaye, DE, Edmonds-Woodway

Jake Haener, QB, Danville, Calif.

Ty Jones, WR, Provo, Utah

Jaxson Kirkland, OL, Portland, Ore.

Jordan Lolohea, LB, Salt Lake City, Utah

Brandon McKinney, S, Orange, Calif.

Elijah Molden, CB, West Linn, Ore.

Ariel Ngata, LB, Reno, Nev.

Cole Norgaard, OL, Stockton, Calif.

Cade Otton, TE, Tumwater H.S.

Keith Taylor, CB, Anaheim, Calif.

Joe Tryon, DE, Hazen Senior H.S.

Joel Whitford, P, Neerim South, Australia

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