By Derek Johnson
With Letter of Intent Day coming up fast, UW coach Chris Petersen looks to secure an exciting class of talent. After two years of a certain internet CEO sounding the alarm that Petersen couldn’t recruit at the Pac-12 level, the Husky coach has proved himself fully capable. As a result, the future of Husky Football hasn’t burned this bright in the off-season since the first two seasons of the Neuheisel era.
But since those days back in 2000, football teams have become more reliant on freshmen contributing right away. With that in mind, it begged the question: Which of these new Huskies will most likely see the field in 2016?
To find answers, I drove last night to Lynnwood to pay a visit to a fellow HHB, and Hardcore Husky’s resident recruiting expert, CokeGreaterThanPepsi.
I knocked on the front door of his rambler. His mom’s face was suddenly a smile at the window. After exchanging pleasantries, I walked through the living room and descended the squeaky staircase into the basement. Coke was in his easy chair, dressed in grubby sweatpants, gazing at the TV which showed footage of an O’Dea game from the 1990s. He put that on pause and cleared pizza boxes from the couch so as to provide me a place to sit.
“There are lots of good players in this class,” he said. “It’s not a big class, but pretty packed with talent. Especially on defense, every recruit is very talented. He’s recruiting very well, and he’s doing this without any wins yet. So what he is selling is working.”
I cleared my throat to speak. “So tell me Cokehead, what are the three players you think will play right away?”
“For starters, Byron Murphy is going to see the field right away,” he said. “Murphy might be moved to receiver. But he's also a very good defensive back. Either way he will play. He’s right on the edge of being a top 100 player.
“It's the ease with which he plays, he's very fluid,” Coke said. “One of the things I always look for in skill position players is how quick his feet move. And his feet move very quick. It's like a sewing machine, it allows him to cut. He almost makes it look like he's not that fast or isn’t trying very hard. But no one is touching him when he's cutting and running. Up until when he committed I didn't think we had a chance at him.
“Wide receiver is a position of need,” he said. “But that’s a bonus position. If you have a good quarterback and a good offensive line, receivers aren't that important. A good quarterback makes average receivers better, if that makes sense. But still, you need playmakers, and Murphy could be a playmaker right away. He could break through right away on offense.”
I then asked Coke for the second player.
“Taylor Rapp, the safety from Bellingham,” he said. “He's actually my number one most likely to play. As a senior in high school, he's already physically ready. And he has the fundamentals. He's the perfect complement to [current UW safety] Budda Baker for us. He's one of those missing parts to our defense, as a safety who can intimidate and come up in run support and lay down the hammer for us. His fundamentals are perfect. He's the lowest rated defensive recruit in the class, but I think he might be the best player on defense in our class. It's a crime that he's not a four star on Scout. For some reason they don't like him as much as fifty other safeties, and I don't understand what they're looking at… As his career progresses he will be an all-conference player.”
“My God,” I said. “When was the last time we had a safety like that? Talk about sad.”
“We haven't had someone like him since Tony Parrish or maybe Hakim Akbar," Coke said. "Nate Williams was a safety for us, Justin Glenn was a safety for us. Justin is now helping UW in recruiting. Tripper Johnson was a safety for us. Anyway, Taylor Rapp will play right away and will start by mid season.”
Something caught my eye and I looked across the room at the far wall. Hanging there was a giant white bed sheet with a spray painted depiction of a hand giving the middle finger.
“What the hell is THAT?” I asked.
“A gift,” Coke said. “From a Native American friend.”
“Anyway,” I said. “Who’s the third player from this class most likely to play right away?”
“Sean McGrew, the running back,” Coke said. “I've talked about the sewing machine feet, right? He has the quick feet, quick movement, quick cut. He makes little cuts, people dive for him and he's not there. Very, very athletic. One of the best sprinters in California. I know people [decry] that he's only 5'7" or 5'6" and 160 pounds, but he's a track guy and he's put together. But the thing is that he doesn't need to carry the ball 20 times a game. He can come in and carry 5-10 times a game, and spell Myles Gaskin a little bit.
“I have not seen a running back like this for UW in a long time, in terms of pure athleticism,” Coke said. “He will be another guy that people will have to account for when he's on the field. When Chico McClatcher is on the field running jet sweeps, people have to acknowledge it. McGrew will be like that, but on another level.”
“Well this could get ugly,” I said. “If Jonathan Smith refuses to be stubborn with the run again, with two dynamic backs like Gaskin and McGrew, the degenerates on our message boards will be jumping off the Aurora Bridge in droves.”
“What I want to see is an offense predicated on a throwing game 5-20 yards down the field, because Browning is really good in that range,” Coke said. “And then we run play action. 55-58% run, and then intermediate throws. With an improved offensive line and Gaskin back there, and Browning having improved decision making and understanding of the game and progression with the wide receivers, we could be pretty dynamic this year -- as long as we don't [f**k] it up.”
Suddenly Coke's mother could be heard descending the stairs. She entered the room carrying a tray. “Here you go honey,” she said, placing a glass of warm milk upon his TV tray. “And here is your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with the crusts cut off. Just the way you like it.”