They're The Few But The Proud: Huskies' Latest Recruiting Class
When the University of Washington decided early in the recruiting process not to offer his star safety a scholarship, Bo Yates, the coach at Oregon's Lebanon High School, shook his head.
"There is an example of how the sanctions will hurt," said Yates, who started at linebacker for Washington in the 1980s. "Any other year the Huskies would have recruited Chad."
It came to pass that the Huskies returned to Lebanon last weekend to offer Chad Wolfe a scholarship, but only after Woodinville's Brad Hutt had jilted them for Air Force and Wolfe had already committed to Oregon.
It was messy, but necessary for a program operating with as many as 10 fewer scholarships than other Pac-10 schools. Jim Lambright and Randy Hart spent three hours in Wolfe's home successfully making up ground they never should have lost in the first place.
Certainly, Lambright said all the normal things yesterday in reviewing his first recruiting class.
"It is a real strong class," he said, "and it is strong because we control the state of Washington. Our success in the past has been founded on Washington state products, especially in the offensive and defensive lines."
Lambright said only two in-state players offered scholarships to Washington chose not to accept them: Cascade High's Paul Mickelbart, who picked Notre Dame, and Hutt.
In a year in which they were on Pac-10 probation and lost Don James as their coach, the Huskies did well to keep players the caliber of Tony Coats, Benji Olson, Josh Smith, and Chris Lang. Indeed, they'd done well to get running backs George Keiaho and Jason Harris, safety Reggie Davis and defensive end David Cruikshank out of Southern California.
But there was an awareness, especially by Lambright, of how much better the class might have been without the Pac-10 sanctions.
"Potentially, we could have taken another five to eight kids," Lambright said. "And you think, out of that number, three eventually would be starters. Now they'll start for someone else."
Limited to only 15 scholarships and 35 visits, the Huskies became their own stiffest competition, relentlessly culling lists and eliminating names.
"We couldn't afford to bring in any tourists," Lambright said.
They decided not to recruit any quarterbacks, tight ends or kickers. They dropped some because they were marginal students and others because they didn't like their attitudes.
It was well known in Southern California that they dropped highly publicized running backs Marlin Carey, Wilbert Smith and Teniel Etheridge. It is presumed around here they would have gone after Bellevue's Chris Dixon and Snohomish's Rory Rosenbach if they had had more scholarships.
In some cases, they were forced to pin their hopes on too few players. They got a commitment from a great high-school wide receiver, Jim McElroy from Los Angeles, but then McElroy recanted and signed with UCLA.
They went down to the end with one of the top cornerbacks in the West, Kelly Malveaux of Long Beach Poly, but lost him to Arizona. And as late as yesterday, they lost defensive end Vavae Tata of Honolulu to UCLA.
Typically, the best players in a recruiting class are among some of the least known. Last year, for example, the Huskies took tight end Jeremy Brigham at the last moment, and yet he played so well in the fall, the Huskies thought they could get away from recruiting tight ends.
Andy Mason, Steve Emtman, Jaime Fields, Dana Hall and Shane Pahukoa - the heart of a national champion's defense - were under-appreciated in the recruiting process. They were just names on a recruiting list, names the Huskies don't have as many of this year.
While he had no margin of error - and won't next year when the limit will again be 15 - Lambright pushed the numbers the best he could. He brought in four players this spring - junior-college linemen Matt Hicks and Opu Seminavage, wide receiver Greg Quesada and high-school defensive back Brendan Jones - so they would count against last year's numbers.
He also took a chance on two local players who have yet to post the required 700 on the SAT, Olson from South Kitsap and wide receiver Marvin Kasim from Sealth in Seattle.
"We think both those kids will make it," Lambright said. "In Marvin's case, you want to make a statement to Seattle's African-American community. He is such a good kid and comes from such a fine family that you're willing to take a chance."
One of too few the Huskies were able to take.
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