December 20, 2011

Huskies missing on state's top recruits

When it comes to notable football players selecting a college, conventional wisdom often points to a path of least resistance.

And that usually means the player stays home.

But there's nothing conventional about the thinking going on this year by some of the top recruits from the state of Washington.

It has been reported that the state's top recruit, Josh Garnett of Puyallup, has eliminated the University of Washington from among his considerations. The powerful offensive tackle is choosing between Stanford, Notre Dame and Michigan and is no longer pondering Washington, where his dad, Scott Garnett, played nose guard, according to a report on ESPN.com.

Although the Huskies have landed verbal commitments from two of the state's upper-tier offensive linemen, the success of Washington's 2012 recruiting class has been largely tied to grabbing two of the nation's elite.

Now that Garnett is apparently out, the focus now is even greater on Lakes High's Zach Banner.

Washington was able to boast the signing of the state's top five recruits last year, but this year the Huskies are in danger of losing the top two unless Banner picks the home team.

Banner is choosing between Washington, USC, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. He's taken official visits to all but USC, which he has scheduled for Jan. 13-14. In early November, Banner said that Jan. 14 would be the day he announces his college decision.

Lakes football coach Dave Miller said he believes that Banner already knows where he plans to go, but hasn't shared that with him. Miller only knows of Banner's final three but didn't want to reveal those publicly.

"He hasn't told me where he's going," Miller said. "He's told me a couple of times it's down to two or three.

"I don't know if you can make a bad choice. I want him to go somewhere where he's going to be really pushed to be the best he can be. I know that's what Zach wants."

If Banner bypasses Washington, he'll be following a Class of 2012 trend.

Of the top 10 rated players in the state of Washington, according to Rivals.com, five have picked out-of-state schools, two have chosen the Huskies and three are uncommitted.

Walker Williams, a mammoth offensive lineman from Tacoma Baptist, is the No. 6 rated player from the state. He picked Wisconsin but remembers a time when he, Garnett and Banner all talked about playing together for the Huskies.

"We had talked about it," said Williams, who worked out regularly with Banner and Garnett during the summer. "We threw it around in conversation but it was never really serious."

Williams chose Wisconsin in part because of its nuclear engineering program. Garnett and Banner are also top students focused on schools' academic offerings.

Williams said that national recruit status gives a football player too many great options to ignore. And it gives them time.

"The home school is a great school," Williams said of Washington. "It has great academics and athletics. They're a fast-rising program. The athletes are going to pick the best school for them. They're in a position where they can do that. They can go wherever they want to. These athletes can hold out however long they want to. They know there's going to be a spot for them."



Washington's 2012 class is highlighted by a pair of quarterback commits in Jeff Lindquist of Mercer Island and Cyler Miles of Denver, Colo. Both are the only four-star rated players by Rivals.

The Huskies also recently got a commitment from Auburn's Cory English, who joins fellow three-star offensive lineman Nathan Dean of Juanita.

Also last week, junior college defensive lineman Josh Banks picked the Huskies over Oregon State, giving the Huskies 19 commitments so far.

"Washington's class is definitely coming together and there are still big pieces out there like Aziz Shittu, Brandon Beaver and others who are still strongly considering the Huskies," said Adam Gorney, west coast recruiting analyst for Rivals. "The gem of this class is the quarterback duo of Cyler Miles and Jeff Lindquist. Their commitments basically ensure quarterback stability at Washington for years to come even if there will be a bit of a controversy as to who should be the starter in the future. I like the athletes in this class and the versatility of a bunch of guys. So far it's a solid class and it could definitely get better."

Another gem Washington is hoping to land is four-star running back KeiVarae Russell of Mariner High near Everett. He is considered the No. 3 prospect in the state behind Garnett and Banner and announced recently that his choice is down to Washington and Notre Dame.

He is expected to announce his final decision Dec. 28 or Dec. 29 at school.

The state's No. 4 ranked prospect, Cedric Dozier of Lakes, also considered Washington but picked California instead.

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