By Christian Caple
SEATTLE — Rylan Kennedy will likely remember Sunday, Nov. 6 for a long while.
An edge rusher at Mansfield (Texas) Lake Ridge who didn’t play high school football until his senior season, Kennedy nevertheless cuts an intriguing athletic profile. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. He plays basketball and is a 6-foot, 6-inch high jumper, with a personal best of 20 feet, 9.75 inches in the long jump; he wants to jump 6-10 as a senior this spring, noting the school record is 6-11. And despite not playing football since eighth grade, Kennedy posted 61 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and five sacks as a senior this fall.
His recruitment, though, had been quiet. Missouri Southern, a Division II school, had offered in September, but that was it — until, that is, three staffers from California followed him on Twitter less than two weeks ago. Later that day, he was on a Zoom call with outside linebackers coach Vic So’oto, who extended Kennedy his first Power 5 scholarship offer.
The day wasn’t over before Courtney Morgan, Washington’s director of player personnel, added an offer from the Huskies to Kennedy’s list. In the days since, Kennedy also has reported offers from USC, San Diego State and Auburn. Before Cal reached out, Kennedy said he had sent film to schools with no response.
During an interview last week — at which point Cal and UW were his only FBS offers — Kennedy said he knew little about the Huskies before they reached out, but that, “They were telling me about how they liked my film and stuff, loved that I’m explosive, and could really see me at their school. They also explained how they wanted me to come down there, saying the campus was nice and all that.”
He isn’t sure yet which visits he’ll take, but Kennedy said he does want to sign during the early December period.
Kennedy grew up playing football but stepped away from the game after eighth grade. He had broken his arm and hadn’t played for a while, “And I just lost it, and didn’t want to play anymore, which I kind of regretted.” He focused more on basketball, but his friends talked him into returning to football as a senior. At the time, Kennedy didn’t necessarily think he was chasing a college scholarship. But his production instilled belief.
“I’m just playing hard, working hard, tackling and stuff,” he said. “I’m finding out, ‘Oh, I’m tackling five-stars? I’m tackling Texas commits?’ So I was like, ‘I can definitely do this,’ if I’m going against the best of the best.”
As the Huskies put the finishing touches on their 2023 recruiting class before turning full attention to 2024 — and those efforts already are well underway — you probably shouldn’t expect many fireworks between now and the early signing period. With 18 prospects committed, Washington is nearly done with its class, considering the Huskies have only 11 scholarship seniors and also must keep spots open for potential additions from the transfer portal. Coach Kalen DeBoer said recently there is still room to add “one to three” high school prospects in the class, which currently ranks third in the Pac-12 and No. 28 nationally in the 247Sports Composite.
2023 prospects to watch
That’s what makes the offer to Kennedy interesting and should tell you something about the Huskies’ positional priorities as this class comes to a close. They’re certainly finished at quarterback, running back, offensive line, linebacker and likely the interior defensive line, though they do have an offer out to three-star prospect Tavake Tuikolovatu from Fontana (Calif.) Summit and to three-star Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral D-lineman Ashton Sanders. The Huskies have four defensive backs committed, including four-star prospects Curley Reed and Vincent Holmes, and are particularly high on Leroy Bryant, a three-star cornerback from Fairfield (Calif.) Angelo Rodriguez who also stars as a receiver and returner. He’ll play cornerback at UW, but Bryant leads Rodriguez with 58 catches for 837 yards and six touchdowns, in addition to three interceptions, including a pick-six.
The Huskies don’t have a tight end committed, and DeBoer has mentioned they still would take the right player at that position, but it doesn’t appear they are actively involved with any. That leaves two positions to watch as signing day approaches: edge rusher and receiver. The Huskies made a splash by landing four-star receiver Rashid Williams from Pittsburg (Calif.) High and also picked up an early commitment from three-star prospect Keith Reynolds out of Adelanto (Calif.) High. But the Huskies also are among the finalists for Taeshaun Lyons, a four-star receiver from Hayward (Calif.) Tennyson, and JeyQuan Smith, a three-star prospect from San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon who has UW in his top three along with Oregon and Utah.
Either would provide a nice boost to the class. Lyons is fresh off a 47-catch, 1,007-yard, 10-touchdown senior season, and Smith ran a 10.63-second 100-meter dash as a junior last spring. He’s also run the 200 in 21.14 — faster than Rome Odunze’s top time as a high school junior, for example, and that was good enough for the Nevada state title.