Chris Petersen’s first full year as the Washington Huskies’ head coach has already paid dividends. The Huskies kept six of the state’s top-10 ranked players on Signing Day, which is key for every program when it comes to community goodwill. You never want the locals to say, “What, we’re not good enough for you?”
Depending on who you ask, defensive end Benning Potoa’e was either the No. 1 (Scout) or No. 2 (Rivals) player in the state (ESPN had him at No. 6, which feels like a big discrepancy). It seems like a pretty big get — named the state’s top defensive player of the year by USA Today and was named to a bunch of first-team selections — until you see that his older brother was also a defensive end and played at UW. Although more obviously went into his decision, it seems all Petersen and company had to do was not screw up the recruitment, and they didn’t.
While the younger Potoa’e got USA Today state defensive player of the year honors, the publication gave the state player of the year award — without any superlatives — to Marysville’s Austin Joyner. The cornerback was also Gatorade’s choice for state player of the year. ESPN listed him as the state’s No. 1 prospect, Rivals had him at No. 3 and Scout at No. 4. Rivals also lists him under that “Athlete” designation because he also was a pretty good running back at Marysville-Pilchuck high, with nearly 1,800 yards and 32 scores on just 133 carries last season. He probably saw Shaq Thompson, Washington’s linebacker/running back, and said, “I could do that.” I also wouldn’t be surprised if the UW coaches nudged him to think that as well.
The one top state prospect that Petersen didn’t get a first glance is QB Brett Rypien, which may seem like a problem. The son of Super Bowl-winning QB Mark — who went to Washington State — chose Boise State over UW. He set a lot of high school state passing records and seems like an awful good prospect to lose (Rivals had him No. 1 statewide over Potoa’e), but Petersen didn’t fret the younger Rypien’s decision too much. That’s because the top player in UW’s 2015 class is also a QB, Jake Browning from Granite Bay, California, and widely regarded as a top five prep QB nationwide.
That decision may make an interesting subplot in the Huskies’ first game of the season, Washington at Boise State. It will, of course, be Petersen’s first return to the blue turf, and both QBs enrolled early at their respective schools for the purpose of winning the starting job as soon as possible. So in addition to everything else, it could be the QB Petersen wanted at UW vs the QB he ended up getting (although Browning’s not exactly a bad consolation prize).
Petersen also got three other players on the Rivals’ top 10 list and eight in-state signings overall. For comparisons sake, Washington State had just one in-state player, but he was ranked No. 3 in the state by ESPN and didn’t make the state’s top 10 for Rivals or Scout (there’s that discrepancy thing again).
The Huskies under Petersen appear to be doing well in the state recruiting wars, letting the locals know that “yes, you are good enough for us.” But it’s all well and good to keep six of the state’s top 10 on paper — the next part is translating that to wins on the field.