National signing day might as well be a Holiday. And around these parts, Steve Sarkisian just might be Santa Claus.
But he’s not dropping down your chimney and leaving you presents.
Instead, in exchange for your milk and cookies Sark is delivering the Husky faithful…athletes. Lean, mean, football playing machines.
Oh and signing day 2011 was a good one. According to the three major online recruiting services, Scout, Rivals and ESPNU, the Huskies reeled in a Top 25 class. In a majority of cases, that is correlated with wins down the road.
Husky Nation must have been on good behavior.
But in years past Dawg fans must have been naughty, because past UW coaches delivered coal on signing day more often than not. How else do you go eight years without a bowl?
Still, it has to be noted that in leading Washington’s 2010 resurgence, Sark did so with quite a bit of Tyrone Willingham’s talent. The two classes he’s mainly worked with, Tyrone’s last two, 2007 and 2008.
Since the 2007 class has had an opportunity to play four seasons it would be appropriate to be able to pass full judgment on how they’ve worked out.
Upon reviewing the class here are some things that surprised me.
Holiday Bowl victory contributors
Surprisingly, I found a number of players who either started or at least played a significant role in the Huskies first bowl victory since the 2001 Rose Bowl. Starters included WR Devin Aguilar, K Erik Folk, LB Mason Foster, LB Cort Dennison, S Nate Williams CB Vonzell McDowell, CB Quinton Richardson, and FB Austin Sylvester. DE Kalani Aldrich, LB Victor Aiyewa and OT Skyler Fancher were also in the picture in this game. None of those players were rated more than three stars by Rivals. Starting LB Cort Dennison was a two star recruit. A number of them also played different positions than recruited. Sylvester was a LB recruit. Nate Williams came from Kennedy HS as a runningback. Aiyewa was a safety.
Four star flame outs
the more celebrated players in this class did little to nothing for the program while they were here. They include
TE Chris Izbicki
OL Emeke Iweka
ATH Anthony Boyles
Iweka had trouble from academics from day one. Izbicki had off the field problems that put him in Willingham’s doghouse quickly, which was a place impossible to get out of. Boyles had trouble breaking in at Wide Receiver and after more position changes just recently flamed out of the program.
This class was also a big transfer fair
About a third of the 27 recruits that Willingham brought onboard for Jake Locker’s debut season at Washington didn’t make it to see Locker’s grand finale in the Holiday Bowl. Willingham wasn’t the most pleasant of individual’s to play under, and Sark isn’t the easiest guy to get playing time from. QB Ronnie Fouch was probably the biggest known name to transfer after a season with Sark. After redshirting in 2007 Fouch had his time to shine in 2008 after Locker’s injury. He figured that Locker would enter the NFL early leaving 2010 his season to show some things. When Locker returned, Fouch got frustrated. He ended up at D-IAA Indiana State. Runningbacks Curtis Shaw, Brandon Yakabowski and Brandon Johnson all ended up leaving the program in 2009 as well. With the return of Chris Polk and Johri Fogerson the RB pool was getting a little crowded, and Sark was only going to divvy so many carries in his offense. The aforementioned four star flame outs also found their way out of the program eventually.
Tyrone Willingham received quite a bit of criticism when it came to his recruiting. I tend to give him a little slack when it comes to that department. He inherited a Washington program with a damaged image that he had to slowly repair and piece back together. It was hard for him to lock down the state with USC and Oregon creeping into Seattle and was just started to grow his California relationships. What this class did have a lot of was over achieving. Of course, a majority of these players didn’t break out until Sarkisian entered the picture, which is what Willingham lacked, practice and in game coaching where he got the most of his players. But give Willingham credit for finding these gems that eventually played a big role in Washington’s resurgence. Rivals rated the class of 2007 the 36th best class in the nation. It will see maybe, three players at most in the NFL, but more importantly, it saw a crop of kids play a key role in the biggest Husky victory in ten years in the Holiday Bowl.