What’s going on with Kalen DeBoer’s first UW Huskies recruiting class?

Feb 3, 2022, 1:37 PM | Updated: 1:52 pm
UW Huskies Kalen DeBoer...
New UW Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer speaks during a press conference Tuesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The 2022 National Signing Day has come and gone and the UW Huskies find themselves in a spot they’re not accustomed to.

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After finishing with 247Sports’ No. 30 recruiting class in 2021, which came after No. 16 classes in both 2020 and 2019, Washington ended the day with the nation’s 93rd-ranked recruiting class, good for 11th in the Pac-12.

Currently, the UW Huskies have nine commits for the 2022 recruiting cycle, but it should be noted that that number does not include six players transferring from other colleges.

As far as high schoolers go, UW has eight three-star commits and one four-star in the first recruiting cycle under new head coach Kalen DeBoer, who takes over the program following two disappointing seasons with Jimmy Lake as head coach.

So what’s going on at Washington? There’s not many better to discuss the state of the UW Huskies than former Washington quarterback Brock Huard, who did just that during his daily segment on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk Show.

“It was a really rough year. It just further shows how far behind Jimmy Lake set this program recruiting wise,” Huard told Salk.

Lake was fired as head coach of the UW Huskies after just 14 games in the role, compiling a 7-7 record. He was elevated to head coach of the program after the 2019 season when Chris Petersen retired after six years at Washington.

Lake coached with Petersen at Boise State in 2012 and 2013 and followed him to UW in 2014, starting as defensive backs coach before becoming the program’s defensive coordinator. But Lake’s head coaching tenure didn’t go well and resulted in poor play on both sides of the ball. There was also a physical sideline altercation with a player and, as Huard alluded to, lackluster recruiting. He was fired with three games left in the 2021 season and was not on the sidelines for his final game as head coach due to a suspension from the university.

DeBoer, who was hired days after the Huskies’ 2021 season ended at 4-8 with the program’s first Apple Cup loss since 2012, is coming from Fresno State, where he went 12-6 in two seasons as head coach.

Lake certainly didn’t do DeBoer any favors in terms of recruiting, and while the new head coach has only been recruiting on behalf of the program for roughly two months, Huard believes that recruiting ultimately is where DeBoer will face his biggest challenges when leading the UW Huskies, especially early on.

“Kalen DeBoer, that’s not going to be his greatest asset,” Huard said. “If you rank the things that Kalen DeBoer does very well, every coach – and we’re (seeing this while) watching the NFL hiring process as well and have seen this with all sorts of coaches through the years both at that university and even with the Seattle Seahawks – (there) are things, just like a player, that they do well, and then there are things that are not their strengths.”

Huard isn’t sure whether DeBoer will be able to bring in top-ranked recruiting classes like other UW Huskies head coaches were able to.

“I don’t think you’re going to see him do what Steve Sarkisian did at times and put together a top 10 class or top 15 class, (or) Chris Peterson, even,” Huard said. “And Chris grew in it. When Chris came from Boise (State), that wasn’t the No. 1 (priority) like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to please the donors and the boosters and I’ve got to do all of that. No, I’m going to get the kids that I want to get.’ And then he learned that he had to play the game a little bit and do some mixing and matching and get some of the stars.”

If DeBoer wants to contend for Pac-12 titles at Washington, he and his staff have to do a better job of bringing talent in, Huard said.

“If you’re going to legitimately compete – because his strength is X’s and O’s, his strength is fundamentals, his strength is development, his strength is relationships and connecting with players and those things – you can’t (win if you) have clay to mold that’s outside of the top 50,” he said. “If you’re going to compete with Oregon and USC – and by compete (I mean) actually be able to beat them – you can’t have a class outside the top 30.”

You can head the entire second hour of Thursday’s Mike Salk Show, including the whole interview with Huard, at this link or in the player below.

Earlier in the show during the Need To Know segment, Salk shared his thoughts on where Washington currently stands with recruiting.

“When you see a recruiting ranking in the 90s, that’s more than a little concerning,” he said.

Salk said DeBoer has “a lot of work ahead of him” and that he has the “unenviable task” of trying to clean up the mess left by Lake.

“And if he wants to do it immediately, he’ll probably needs to work the transfer portal really hard,” Salk said. “There’s a lot of talent available through transfers so having a bad recruiting class isn’t the disaster it used to be, but obviously it’s not ideal.”

As noted, the Huskies currently have six transfer commits for the upcoming season, and four have three-star transfer grades while one is rated as a four-star transfer by 247Sports. The other commit is a non-ranked punter.

Hear Salk’s comments in the podcast from the first hour of Thursday’s show at this link or in the player below.

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What’s going on with Kalen DeBoer’s first UW Huskies recruiting class?