For whatever it’s worth in such matters, the statewide fence around in-state recruiting that coach Steve Sarkisian was building seems to be made of balsa rather than oak, at least according to the self-styled experts in high school football players.
Zach Banner of Lakewood’s Lakes High School is the latest blue-chip recruit to announce he is going out of state. The 6-9, 300-pound offensive tackle is taking his talents to the Southland, calling USC “his home away from home” at a ceremony today. He said he also plans to play basketball.
Banner, who was pursued hard by Sarkisian, was one of the nation’s most highly regarded offensive linemen. Losing him is considered a blow to Washington, which appears to be landing just one of the five top state prep players that it pursued.
Mercer Island’s Jeff Lindquist, considered the state’s best quarterback, orally committed in April to Washington and has not wavered. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder will be considered among the best in UW’s class when choices become official on national letter-of-intent day Wednesday.
Guard Josh Garnett of Puyallup said last week he would attend Stanford while RB KeiVarae Russell of Mariner High chose Notre Dame. A teammate of Banner’s at Lakes, WR Cedric Dozier, is believed to be leaning to Cal over Washington State.
Washington is believed to be in on two highly regarded players in California, safety Shaq Thompson of Grant High in Sacramento and WR Jordan Payton of Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, CA.
Sarkisian had hoped to pull in players with a staff shake-up that brought new assistants regarded as premier recruiters, including Tosh Lupoi, whom Washington poached from Cal.
The rankings of classes, as well as the evaluation of 17-year-olds, is largely guesswork, but Washington appeared to have guessed wrong a lot on defense, a unit that became the worst statistically in UW history, topped by 777 yards surrendered to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl Dec. 29.
The urgency for improvement is compounded for Washington because of the desire to do well when the Huskies return to a renovated Husky Stadium in 2013, a $250 million project that is funded through bonds and private donations.