Remember when Jimmy Lake said that the Huskies football program didn’t compete for the same kind of players as hated rival Oregon? He said Washington’s standards were higher; “academically prowess,” was the unfortunate term he used to describe the distinction.
Here’s the reminder:
The quote, inaccurate as well as inflammatory, stirred the rivalry more intensely than any trash talk from players. The criticism of Lake’s remarks was compounded after the Huskies not only lost to the Ducks 26-16, his final-minute decision to punt on 4th-and-10 instead of going for it made sense to no one with academic prowess. Plus, the punt snap was last seen headed into Lake Washington.
The re-visit of this sordid episode for Washington’s fans is painful, but relevant, because of the news Wednesday that starting DL Sam “Taki” Taimani not only left the Huskies program, he joined the Ducks.
The Huskies may be above recruiting the Ducks’ kind, but the Ducks aren’t too proud to pilfer the Huskies.
Even when the Huskies were 4-8. Best to kick a program when it’s down.
A 6-2, 330-pound junior from Salt Lake City, Taimani never lived up to his recruiting hype (few do), having failed to register even a single sack in four years, and in 2021, had just two tackles for loss and one QB hit. But whether he helps the Ducks much, the optics grow more grim for Washington.
When the recruiting targets are 17-year-olds, optics are often everything.
The Huskies look bad.
Also lost to Oregon was wide receivers coach Junior Adams, who less than two weeks ago officially re-upped at Washington under Lake’s successor, Kalen DeBoer. Adams was on the UW staff for three years and helped hold together the current meager recruiting class between regimes. It was reported that the class’s top player, four star Nevada WR Germie Bernard, was sticking around because of Adams.
Wednesday brought a report that Bernard, whom DeBoer on letter of intent day called “really special,” had asked to be released from his national LOI.
Also lost Wednesday was the Huskies’ leading tackler, redshirt junior Jackson Sirmon, who moved through the transfer portal to Cal, where his father, Peter, is Bears defensive coordinator.
Monday, WR Terrell Bynum, who played 34 games at UW, and last season led in average yards per game, transferred to USC and its new coach, Lincoln Riley.
Another four also transferred, according to the Seattle Times — WR Sawyer Racanelli (Montana), TE Mark Redman (San Diego State), LB Cooper McDonald (San Diego State) and medically retired LB Laiatu Latu (UCLA). The Huskies have pulled two players through the portal, Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. and Cal-Davis CB Jordan Perryman.
As expected, the Huskies lost to the NFL draft their three top cornerbacks, Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon and Brendan Radley-Hiles. The trio helped make UW the nation’s top-rated pass defense, although that was due at least in part to the ease with which opponents could run the ball against Washington.
From a national picture, UW is experiencing the same phenomenon as nearly every school — the one-time, get-out-of-playing-time-jail-free card of the transfer portal. The long-overdue granting of some rights and some outside cash to players is altering the old world order. Don’t blame the kids; they learned self-interest from the adults in the room.
In fairness, the Huskies have time to recover some lost recruiting ground by the second LOI date in February. But by then, most of the potential hires will have learned a truth: The Huskies program picked a lousy time to be lousy.
All rival recruiters will point to the fact that Washington is now on its third coach in four years, and the same people who thought Lake was a good idea (including former coach Chris Petersen) also hired DeBoer, whose resume glitters with success at small colleges in the Midwest.
Rivals also will point out that Washington State’s Apple Cup victory was by the largest margin ever over Washington, and that was after WSU was the only school in the nation to fire its head coach and four assistants at mid-season for being covidiots.
Then there is the immeasurable but legit collective fact that the three West Coast states in the Pac-12 Conference have some of the most stringent COVID-19 protocols, which is a positive thing for student welfare but a negative thing when recruiting against schools in states that don’t give much of a damn. And a lot of those same schools have the same level of concern about following the NCAA’s “guidelines” on money received from the licensing of players’ names, images and likenesses.
Keep in mind that when you watch Alabama and Georgia in the national college title game Monday night that the rosters were built without concern for a salary cap, unlike the 32 teams in the minor-league NFL.
At least Huskies fans can console themselves in the righteousness of academic prowess.