Caple: A closer look at UW Huskies’ big June recruiting haul
Jun 27, 2023, 5:50 PM
(Norm Hall/Getty Images)
UW Huskies football coach Kalen DeBoer might have made some fans nervous with his June visit recruiting strategy, but maybe that made the payoff a little sweeter.
Eight prospects have announced their commitments to UW since Saturday, each of whom took an official visit to Seattle at some point last week. Similar to the 2023 cycle, the Huskies hoped to use June’s final official-visit weekend to build the majority of their 2024 recruiting class, and sure enough, DeBoer spent Monday flooding his Twitter feed with the custom GIF he uses to signify a new commitment.
Going into the weekend, four-star offensive lineman Paki Finau was the only player committed to UW in the 2024 class. By Sunday, there were four. By Monday night, there were nine.
Additional commitments could be imminent. Three-star cornerback Elias Johnson from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, another weekend visitor, is announcing his decision on Tuesday night, and Dominic Kirks, a four-star edge rusher from Cleveland (Ohio) Villa Angela-St. Joseph who visited UW earlier this month, is scheduled to announce Friday.
The Huskies also are in strong contention for other weekend visitors such as three-star Palo Alto (Calif.) High offensive lineman Ikinasio Tupou and four-star defensive back Peyton Waters from Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham.
Here’s a look at each of the eight prospects to commit since Saturday morning. (Official visit information per 247Sports.)
Jason Robinson, receiver
School: Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Rating: Four-star, No. 424
Official visits: UW Huskies, Syracuse
The second blue-chip recruit to join Washington’s 2024 recruiting class, Robinson caught 46 passes for 671 yards and five touchdowns in eight games as a junior. He was once committed to USC, and his reported offer list includes Georgia, Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, Robinson seems to fit the mold of a slot receiver in UW’s offense, though coordinator Ryan Grubb likes to move personnel around the formation.
Regardless, Robinson brings an element of speed and playmaking ability as a smaller receiver that UW could really use. And he’s the third blue-chip receiver to commit to Huskies receiver coach JaMarcus Shephard in the last two classes (not counting another blue-chipper, Germie Bernard, who transferred from Michigan State).
Khmori House, linebacker
School: Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Rating: Three-star, No. 487
Official visits: UW Huskies, Texas
Typically, coach Jason Negro has at least some familiarity with the incoming freshmen who might eventually become stars for St. John Bosco’s powerhouse football program. That was not the case with one particular linebacker.
Yet it took only a few days of freshman camp practices for Negro’s brother, Jacob, an assistant coach, to mention one of the standouts: “We’ve got this dude named Khmori House. He’s pretty legit.”
House wound up joining a UW program that already lists two former Bosco linebackers on its roster, committing to the Huskies on Monday after his weekend visit. He visited Austin the week prior.
An injury — Negro described it as a “weird quad bruise that just wouldn’t go away” — limited House as a junior. He tried to play through it, making 29 tackles and 3.0 tackles for loss, but Bosco was so deep at linebacker — led by 2023 UW signee Deven Bryant — that House was able to rest some while healing.
Otherwise, Negro said, “he’s a front-line starter, a dude that plays a ton.”
House’s strongest traits?
“His intensity is pretty out of control,” Negro said. “He’s very similar to Deven Bryant, who obviously is up there as well. He’s relentless. He’s pretty impressive in terms of his overall speed and athleticism. He has all kinds of skills that are going to let him develop into a pretty good player.”
Listed at 6-1 and 205 pounds, House uses his speed to track down ballcarriers and can really cover ground sideline to sideline. UW co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach William Inge offered him a scholarship in early March. The Huskies weren’t among House’s earliest offers, but it did come a month and a half before Texas’.
“His recruitment kind of skyrocketed this offseason. It was good during the season, but (schools) wanted to see a little bit more of him in person,” Negro said. “… He was a guy that popped on film. Washington was in so early. I think Coach Inge does a great job of recruiting. So as his offers began to grow — ACC, SEC, Big 12 — Washington was still there. They were there from the beginning, and I think that’s something that really resonated well with him.”
Noah Carter, edge rusher
School: Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial
Rating: Three-star, No. 583
Official visits: UW Huskies, Louisville
Carter is athletic enough that he also plays receiver, leading the team with 27 catches for 348 yards and four touchdowns. His college future, though, is as a pass rusher, and he logged 14 sacks and eight hurries in 11 games as a junior. Listed at 6-3 and 225 pounds — similar measurements, actually, as UW senior safety Dominique Hampton, another Centennial product — Carter falls more into the Lance Holtzclaw category of fast, lean edge rushers who will likely need to put on some weight before contributing in college. But his athletic traits aren’t easy to find at the second-most valuable position in football.
Aside from Carter and Kirks, the Huskies hosted another edge rusher this month, Keona Wilhite, who could at least be worth keeping an eye on. The Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe prospect recently committed to Arizona, but reportedly still took his visit to UW. Deshawn Warner, a three-star edge rusher from Goodyear (Ariz.) Desert Edge, visited UW early last week and took his final official visit to Kansas.
Decker DeGraaf, tight end
School: Glendora (Calif.) High
Rating: Three-star, No. 701
Official visits: UW Huskies, Michigan State, Arkansas, Utah
DeGraaf didn’t get to play much football as a junior, limited to five games by state transfer rules after moving from nearby San Dimas High. But he still caught 23 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns, and his highlights also show some impressive run-blocking at 6-4 and 230 pounds.
Once he gets to UW, there could be a real opportunity for DeGraaf to get on the field early in his career, though he might need to bulk up between now and then. Jack Westover and Devin Culp both exhaust their eligibility this season, and Quentin Moore only has eligibility through 2024. Otherwise, the Huskies have only Cal Poly transfer Josh Cuevas, a third-year sophomore, and redshirt freshman Ryan Otton on scholarship. A portal addition could be in order at some point, but DeGraaf still could become a crucial part of the Huskies’ depth from a young age.
Justice Williams, receiver
School: Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian
Rating: Three-star, No. 737
Official visits: UW Huskies, Utah
The son of former Oakland Raiders tight end Roland Williams, Justice appears to be a natural athlete who moves exceptionally well for somebody listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds. He uses that size to make a lot of contested catches downfield, but also outran the defense for a couple of long touchdowns during his big junior season: 54 receptions, 910 yards and 10 touchdowns. That production, combined with his build, helped run his list of scholarship offers to 19.
It was the end of his sophomore year, though, when Oaks Christian coach Charles Collins saw Williams take a big step in his game.
“Going into the playoffs, we had some injuries, so I was forced to start him and go with him,” Collins said. “I think that helped him, being thrust in that position.”
It provided some motivation ahead of what Collins described as an important summer for Williams’ development. Collins coached Chad Ochocinco Johnson and Steve Smith at Santa Monica College and spent time in the NFL as a receivers coach. He has a lot to teach, and emphasized to Williams: “The art of route-running, the art of patience, the art of getting leverage, the art of threatening cushion. Understanding how to play with his eyes, understanding how to attack the football.”
As a junior, Collins said, Williams “started to understand the ‘why’ — not just what to do, but why he was doing it.”
Williams describes his game in simple terms: “Tall, strong and physical.”
“I think what really sets him apart is, he plays with a lineman’s disposition, in terms of mindset,” Collins said. “I call him my Megatron. He’s a war daddy. Loves football. He’s just as aggressive in the run game as he is in the pass game.”
Give running backs coach Lee Marks an assist on this one. Collins said Marks is a good friend, and it was Marks and Shephard who first initiated contact. UW offered Williams in late May.
“They’ve definitely been one of the schools that has been on me the most — the ones that have actually shown the most love and appreciation for me,” Williams said.
“They were very up front with everything. They were very transparent and not trying to give me any smoke and mirrors.”
And he liked what he heard about UW’s offensive philosophy, which coaches distilled to him as: “Don’t just isolate a tall receiver to the outside. You can move them around and have them inside, outside, coming in motion. I can be versatile anywhere, but I’m a big, tall receiver who can go up and get the high balls.”
Dermaricus Davis, quarterback
School: Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Etiwanda
Rating: Three-star, No. 785
Official visits: UW Huskies, Oregon State, Arizona
I wrote some about Davis last week in between his official visits to OSU and UW. The Beavers probably finished second for his services. And like OSU’s 2023 quarterback signee, four-star Aidan Chiles, I could see Davis rising in the rankings before the 2024 cycle is complete.
He has an ideal frame, at 6-4 and 190 pounds, and his arm immediately stands out upon viewing his junior-year highlights.
“Initially, we were kind of in awe by his size and his arm strength,” said Etiwanda coach Nick Baiz.
Etiwanda was the third school Davis had attended in three years, after transferring from Upland (Calif.) High to Gardena (Calif.) Serra, where he sat behind star prospect Maalik Murphy. Davis found a fit in Baiz’s offense, throwing for 3,390 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while leading Etiwanda to a section championship.
“I think the best thing for him is that we ended up playing 15 games,” Baiz said. “We played five extra playoff games, which is huge for his growth and development.”
Davis describes himself as poised and even-keel on the field. Baiz agrees: “He’s not overly outgoing. He’s a mature, intelligent kid. As a player, he’s kind of lead-by-example. He’s not a big rah-rah guy. But he’s a competitor. He’s a tough kid — doesn’t want to come out if he’s dinged up. We’re excited we get him for one more year.”
The key for Davis as a senior, Baiz said, will be to “just keep learning defenses, No. 1. Where to put the ball. Because he can make any throw, but is he placing it in the right spot, away from the defender? Things like that. Ball placement, and continue to learn defensive football.”
Ratumana Bulabalavu, defensive lineman
School: Carlsbad (Calif.) Army and Navy Academy
Rating: Three-star, No. 998
Official visits: UW Huskies, Arizona, Oregon State
The Army and Navy Academy is a military boarding school for boys, with a beachfront campus in Carlsbad Village. The school competes in the CIF-San Diego Section. Army-Navy’s schedule was no match for Bulabalavu, whose junior-year highlights are borderline silly. His numbers might tell you that on their own: 108 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 30 tackles for loss. And that was after totaling 18 sacks and 7.0 TFLs as a sophomore.
Listed at 6-4 and 260 pounds on his recruiting profile, Bulabalavu was primarily recruited by UW d-line coach Inoke Breckterfield, so we’ll assume he winds up playing on the interior. The Huskies badly needed to restock that position in the 2024 class, with sixth-year seniors Tuli Letuligasenoa and Ulumoo Ale moving on after this season, and fifth-year players Faatui Tuitele and Jacob Bandes with eligibility expiring after 2024.
The big prize still is four-star Fairfield (Calif.) Armijo defensive tackle Jericho Johnson, who also took his official visit to UW over the weekend, but told 247Sports he plans to take other visits and likely won’t decide until December.
Omar Khan, defensive lineman
School: Cypress (Texas) Bridgeland
Rating: Three-star, No. 1,355
Official visits: UW Huskies, California, Arizona
Lonnie Madison just took the head coaching job at Bridgeland in February, so he’s yet to see Khan play in a game yet. But he saw enough during spring practices to know, in his words: “He has all the physical tools that you would want in any Power 5 d-lineman.”
Perhaps Madison would know. He played d-line and tight end at Texas A&M in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Khan’s recruiting profile lists him at 6-foot-2-and-½, but Madison figures that has to be a misprint. “I’m 6-3 and ½, and he’s taller than me,” Madison said. Bridgeland’s own prospect sheet listed Khan at 6-2, which prompted Madison to ask if he had grown recently. The coach puts Khan closer to 6-5 and 275 pounds.
Khan wasn’t a stat stuffer for Bridgeland as a junior, but his film does show the kind of agility and twitchiness that is hard to find in an interior d-line prospect. He also wrestles.
“Very natural with movement,” Madison said. “Explosive, incredibly strong, athletic. He is a very talented young man.”
The disparity between Khan’s ranking and offer list is interesting. He reports 22 scholarship offers and took visits to Arizona and Cal, and also reported offers from USC and Utah. He’s another prospect who could be in line for a rankings adjustment with a strong senior season.
“His recruitment blew up probably right after spring break, early April,” Madison said, though UW offered in early March. “I think when schools were able to get out and see him in person, and see his actual size and get to watch him at practice, I think that’s what kind of blew people away.”
This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.