Strong recruiting class expected for Huskies

If everything plays out as expected, the University of Washington football team will reel in a strong class of incoming freshman recruits Wednesday, the NCAA’s national letter-of-intent signing day.

Alas, it could have been much better.

The recent weeks have been an example of good news/bad news for the Huskies. Under the heading of good news, Washington has verbal commitments — which are non-binding; only a signed letter-of-intent is binding — from 15 of the top high school seniors on the West Coast. Seven are ranked among the top 300 nationally by scout.com.

“It’s a good class,” said Greg Biggins, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com/Fox Sports. “They got some really good players.”

“It’s a really solid class,” said Adam Gorney, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports. “A lot of these kids are terrific football players, and they also seem to be terrific individuals.”

Unfortunately for the Huskies, there were also disappointments. Running back/defensive back Connor Wedington from Sumner and defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu from Independence, Ore., switched their commitments in recent weeks from Washington to Stanford (Wedington) and USC (Tuipulotu). Both players were rated in Scout.com’s Top 100.

Also, offensive lineman Foster Sarrell from Graham outside of Tacoma, rated by Scout.com as the top offensive lineman nationally and one of the top players at any position, announced his commitment to Stanford.

Had the Huskies collared all three, it would have made this recruiting class special and almost certainly the best in UW history.

“There’s no way around saying that those were some big losses,” Gorney said. “You lose Foster Sarrell, a five-star offensive tackle that basically lives down the street (from the UW campus), that’s a big hit. He’s a starting left tackle from Day 1 at Washington.

“And then you also lose the other guys. Connor Wedington could have been a tremendous player at Washington and Marlon Tuipulotu could have been a tremendous player, too. … As Washington continues to try to win Pac-12 championships and tries to be on the national stage (every season), they’ve got to lock those guys up.”

Biggins said he had long expected Sarrell to declare for Stanford, and Wedington had always considered Stanford “his dream school.” But the switch by Tuipulotu to USC a week ago after an official recruiting visit to Los Angeles “was a shocker.”

“That one came out of left field,” Biggins said. “I didn’t know that USC was that involved with him. … It was kind of crazy how it all came out kind of fast.”

Despite the disappointments, Biggins and Gorney agree there are some real gems in this Washington class. Among the top prospects are tight end Hunter Bryant of Sammamish (Eastside Catholic HS), cornerbacks Elijah Molden of West Linn, Ore., and Keith Taylor of Anaheim, Calif., safety Brandon McKinney of Orange, Calif., and running back/defensive back Salvon Ahmed of Kirkland (Juanita HS).

“I think Molden and Taylor can come in and compete (for playing time) right away,” Biggins said. “I think Molden is the most ready to go right now. He’s really smart and he really understands the position. And I also think Hunter Bryant is physically developed enough to come in and play right away.”

The Huskies dipped into Snohomish County for one recruit in this year’s class, 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end Ali Gaye of Edmonds-Woodway. He is “a kid I really liked when I saw him last summer (at camps),” Gorney said.

The numbers in the class still could change in the final hours. Washington is in the running for a couple of additional top recruits, and one of their current commits, wide receiver Ty Jones of Provo, Utah, took an official recruiting visit to UCLA last weekend, meaning he might be wavering.

This will be the fourth recruiting class for UW head coach Chris Petersen, who was hired in December of 2013. He is, Gorney said, “a no-nonsense winner who gets talented players. He did it at Boise State (from 2006-13), and now with him being at Washington and going to the College Football Playoff you’d expect recruiting to pick up even more. … I suspect Washington is going to continue to surge in the Pac-12 and be one of those perennial contenders like USC and Stanford.”

“(Petersen) is very well respected,” Biggins said. “I don’t think there’s a coach as (highly) respected among his peers, recruits and parents, and I think the Washington brand right now is the strongest it’s been in a long time. Chris Petersen has built a great staff and everybody knows they’re going in the right direction.”

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