Washington vs. Washington State Recruiting: Bigger '14 Impact?
By Tom Rohrer
Much like the annual Apple Cup matchup on the field, the recruiting battle between Washington and Washington State brings a high level of competition from both schools.
The two rivals look to the Evergreen State and California to make up their rosters, setting the stage for several recruiting wars that ended Wednesday.
In 2013, Washington State featured 38 in-state players and 29 from California, with Washington standing at 33 and 52 respectively.
Due to the program's string of consecutive winning seasons, the recruiting battle has swayed in Washington's favor in recent years. This is not a new trend, as the Huskies have traditionally signed higher-rated prospects then the Cougars.
Under Steve Sarkisian, Washington consistently finished within the consensus Top 25 by sites ranking recruiting classes, laying the foundation for the nine-win season in 2013.
That run of highly-ranked classes ended Wednesday, likely due in part to the transition from Sarkisian to Chris Petersen. Washington finished 35th, 36th, or 45th according to Scout.com, Rivals.com and ESPN. Given the coaching change, the efforts by Petersen and his staff to stay in range of a Top 25 class is not bad.
Never known for bringing in “blue-chip" recruits, Washington State continues to search for the perfect fits for Mike Leach’s style of play and culture within the program. Despite being ranked as low as 71 by Rivals.com, the Cougars' 2014 class features both short and long-term solutions on both sides of the ball.
Class rankings take precedence in February, but it remains to be seen which collection of freshmen will have a greater impact on the 2014 season. Time to take a look at the new Huskies and Cougars and decide which group of freshmen will shine most this coming fall.
The Case For Washington
Offensive Skill Positions
With the recent suspension of projected starting quarterback Cyler Miles, consensus four-star recruit Kyle Carta-Samuels (6-foot-2, 224 pounds; San Jose, Calif.) should have an even greater opportunity to step in and replace three-year starter Keith Price. Though not as dynamic running the ball as Miles, Carta-Samuels is comfortable as a pocket passer and has a bright future in Seattle regardless of his role in 2014.
Thought to be set at receiver in 2014, the Huskies have yet to determine how long the talented Damore’ea Stringfellow will be suspended. If Stringfellow is to miss significant time, Washington could turn to Brayden Lenius (6-foot-5, 220 pounds; North Vancouver, B.C.) as a deep threat on the outside. Lenius is joined by Dante Pettis (6-foot-1, 175 pounds, San Clemente, Calif.) as the only other wideout recruit in the class.
In what was the biggest recruiting battle over an individual player between the two schools, Washington came away with a signed letter from Kaleb McGary (6-foot-7, 285 pounds; Fife, Wash.). Given his size and athleticism, he could be a future NFL draft pick. A talented basketball player with quick feet, McGary had been heavily pursued by Leach in recent weeks, and had narrowed his final four choices to Washington, Washington State, Oregon State and Wisconsin.
Washington returns all five starters on the line and could easily redshirt McGary with the four offensive line recruits next season. However, McGary is currently listed as a defensive lineman on the Huskies official roster, and could end up earning playing time attacking quarterbacks rather than protecting them.
If McGary plays defense, Washington could have a potential all-conference pass rusher for several years. Regardless of McGary’s role, Washington put together a solid group headlined by Shane Bowman (6-foot-4, 250 pounds; Bellevue, Wash.), who had 20 tackles for loss and 14 sacks as a senior for one of the top high school programs in the country in Bellevue High.
A hidden gem may be defensive tackle Jamie Bryant (6-foot-5, 300 pounds; Tumwater, Wash.) who grayshirted a year ago. Bryant played tight end, running back and was a member of the Tumwater High School basketball team. He could be an option to plug the middle given his athleticism and size.
Blue-chip safety Budda Baker (5-foot-10, 180 pounds; Bellevue, Wash.) made every Huskies player, coach and fan happy Wednesday by signing with his hometown school. The state's top recruit figures to make an instant impact for Washington.
The nation's fourth-ranked safety according to Scout.com, Baker is one of the most accomplished prep athletes in Washington history given his three state championships in football and three more as a junior on the BHS track and field team, including 10.77-second performance in the 100-meter dash at the 3A state championship.
Joining Baker is cornerback Naijel Hale (5-foot-11, 180 pounds; Lakewood, Calif.), ranked as the 31st-best cornerback by ESPN and the 260th overall prospect by Scout.com. Hale and Baker should see significant playing time and both could start in 2014 as Washington loses three senior starters from the secondary.
The Case For Washington State
Offensive Skill Positions
Could running back Squally Canada (6-foot, 195 pounds; Milpitas, Calif.) or fellow back Keith Harrington (5-foot-8, 176 pounds; St. Petersburg, Fla.) crack the Cougars' current three-back rotation in 2014? Canada, considered a Top 60 recruit at his position by all three major recruiting services, seems to have the confidence and playmaking ability to do so. The majority opinion appears to be that neither will get significant run come fall, but given the ineptitude of the WSU backs a season ago, two pairs of fresh legs could breathe life into the Cougar running game.
Even with the recent departure of Austin Apodoca, the Cougars have quarterback depth. Peyton Bender (6-foot-1, 185 pounds; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), who spurned Penn State to come across the country to Pullman, adds to that. Bender is similar in size to former four star recruit Tyler Bruggman, a redshirt last season that is now the likely backup to Connor Halliday.
While he may not have an impact on game day, Bender should take over Bruggman's scout team duties and give the Cougars' defense a challenge every practice.
Unlike the Huskies, Washington State must replace several starters on the offensive line in 2014, as they return only juniors Gunnar Eklund and Joe Dahl. While these replacements likely may come from players already enrolled in the program, there is a chance Washington State could see playing time go to at least one of these signees.
All three signees stand taller than 6-foot-5, with the biggest being Brandon Evers (6-foot-7, 290 pounds; Redding, Calif.), who may be most ready for Pac-12 play. Andre Dillard (6-foot-5, 250 pounds; Woodinville, Wash.) was the sixth-rated in-state recruit by ESPN and joins a collection of tall underclassman lineman already on the roster. Leach and his coaching staff have made it clear they want depth at the position, and this class will help in that regard this season and many more to come.
Jalen Canty (6-foot-8, 270 pounds; Vallejo, Calif.) could be the latest towering pass-rusher to have an all-conference impact at Washington State.
Like Travis Long and Mkristo Bruce before him, Canty has the size and speed to create havoc for opposing quarterbacks as an underclassman.
Canty was rated the 44th-best prospect in California by ESPN and is even more intriguing considering his senior year was his only season playing prep football. The California state leader in sacks in 2013 (22) was at one point verbally committed to Washington and may play basketball for the Cougars as well.
Washington State needs to replace four senior starters in the secondary. Incoming freshman Deone Singleton (6-foot-1, 175 pounds; Pasco, Wash.) probably has the best potential to start.
Singleton played his first three years of high school in Florida before transferring to Chiawana High School and leading CHS to the 4A state title. The No. 3 prospect in the state according to ESPN, Singleton is a huge get for a WSU coaching staff set on keeping the state’s best talent east of the Cascade Mountain Range from ending up in Seattle.
Given the Cougars' returning depth at linebacker, neither Greg Hoyd (6-foot-2, 215 pounds; Murrieta, Calif.) or fellow three-star recruit Frankie Luvu (6-foot-2, 215 pounds; Pago Pago, American Samoa) will likely see significant playing time.
Offensive Skill Positions
Carta-Samuels is the top skill-position offensive prospect between the two schools and could have the biggest impact of any freshmen in the conference if he wins the starting job. Washington State did add 6-foot-3 receiver Barry Ware (Corona, Calif.) to an already-prolific receiving core, but it’s not likely a Cougars freshmen will have the impact of Carta-Samuels in 2014.
In terms of overall talent, Washington has the advantage. However, playing time will not be available in large quantities for the four Washington recruits, and Washington State's new collection of "big uglies" may help patch a Cougars offensive line that's a work in progress.
Edge: Washington State
Regardless if McGary switches to defense, Canty appears to be the most talented pass rusher between the two schools recruiting classes. An off-season of collegiate training and coaching should only bolster Canty’s potential impact, giving the Cougars a potential pass-rushing weapon not seen since the graduation of Long.
Edge: Washington State
You won’t find many other cornerback/safety duos across the country who will have as big an impact at Hale and Baker. While Singleton should play right away for the Cougars, Washington’s depth in the recruiting class (six other consensus three-star defensive backs) combined with the top level talent of Hale and Baker gives Washington the check mark despite the lack of linebacker recruits.
It's hard to ignore the talent of Baker and Hale and the fact they will be needed right away. Canty and Singleton have the potential to earn All-Freshmen Pac-12 honors, but the overall talent in the Huskies' class exceeds Washington State's. If Canada makes an impact, the odds could shift in Washington State's favor. However, Petersen will find ways to get his young talent on the field, giving them the necessary opportunities to change games.
Recruiting statistics provided by Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN.com, wsucougars.com and gohuskies.com.