UW win sends message to recruits

SEATTLE -- As the final seconds ticked off the clock, fans inched closer and closer to the rails that ring the CenturyLink Field stands. They prepared to jump down to the turf and celebrate Washington’s 17-13 win over No. 8 Stanford. As they leapt, five official visitors followed.

Washington commits center Dane Crane and athlete Connor O’Brien -- teammates at Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita -- were embraced by Huskies offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto.

Defensive backs Jermaine Kelly (Los Angeles/Salesian) -- a UCLA commit -- Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) -- a USC commit -- and Johnny Johnson Jr. (Fresno, Calif./Central East) disappeared in a sea of black, purple and gold.

And add to that list unofficial visitors and Bellevue (Wash.) teammates Myles Jack (a UCLA commit), Sean Constantine (a Washington commit) and Bishard “Budda” Baker (an uncommitted 2014 safety), who huddled on the sideline among the revelers.

It was a wild scene postgame that meant more than the Huskies winning their Pac-12 opener. It was also a recruiting victory.

Before the game, Hawkins wore a Washington beanie. Kelly had on a white and purple Huskies scarf, while Johnson wore a beanie that matched Hawkins’. They soaked up the sideline atmosphere and then settled into their seats for the start of the game.

After each big play, like running back Bishop Sankey’s 61-yard touchdown run and Kasen Williams’ 35-yard touchdown reception, every recruit in attendance -- no matter who they are currently committed to -- was celebrating Washington’s success.

Commits who weren’t at the game -- quarterback Troy Williams (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) and Darrell Daniels (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) -- took to Twitter to praise the program. Washington’s defensive performance even caught the attention of USC linebacker commit Michael Hutchings (Concord, Calif./De La Salle), who tweeted, “Washington is having a game on D right now. Playing like some boys.”

The Huskies took center stage Thursday. They were the only game on the schedule, playing on national TV. Recruits were watching.

They liked what they saw.

Will Thursday’s win lead to a commitment or two? Maybe. But the Huskies have plenty of positive momentum they will most certainly look to benefit from. In fact, minutes after Washington’s win, the recruiting process resumed in earnest.

Before leaving the field, Tosh Lupoi, the Huskies’ ace recruiter, jumped in circles around Jack, Baker and Constantine. He had a very specific message for the UCLA commit and the uncommitted junior.

“What are you waiting for?” he said.