Washington won big in 2016, and California prospects were paying attention

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- What better way to launch your recruiting than an out-of-nowhere run to a conference title and College Football Playoff run.

After going 8-6 and 7-6 in Chris Petersen’s first two seasons at Washington, the Huskies’ 12-2 season, Pac-12 title and CFP appearance in 2016 did just that.

At Sunday’s Under Armour Camp series stop in Southern California, the Huskies were one of the topics of conversation among many of the state of California’s top prospects, as expected after their meteoric rise.

“You don’t want to go to a school that is not winning,” said Long Beach Poly junior tight end/receiver Camren McDonald. “… the way Coach Chris Petersen is changing the program around is kind of hard to wrap your mind around. They really were the fourth best team in the nation, so that plays a big part in all the recruits' decision because you want to go to college and play for a winning program. The fact that they are a winning program, and their players do well in the NFL is why they are at the top of my list right now.”

ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart, a San Diego product, has Washington among his top-10 schools.

“… [Washington’s season] definitely caught my eyes and has my attention,” Taylor-Stuart said. “It definitely makes me want to take a visit there, and learn more about Washington.”

The Huskies won 10 games and finished in the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time since 2000, or when members of the Class of 2018 were a mere 2 years old.

Offensive guard Steven Jones has been a priority for the Huskies for over a year, and has watched Petersen’s vision for the program unfold.

“When they first offered me I was watching them the previous season [2015] and saw that they were pretty good. Watching them this season, you could tell they are building a great program.”

While the Huskies, in the Class of 2017, signed a top-25 recruiting class for the first time since 2013, it’s the classes of 2018 and 2019 where the Huskies could see the most impactful returns.

Jones, who has Washington on top of his list that includes Utah, Oregon and Colorado, says the opportunity to play for a ring is now in play at Washington.

“If you see a team go all the way up to almost winning the championship, it’s going to make you think you should go there and maybe get a ring.”

Beyond the buzz, it could lead to tangible results.

“A lot of recruits say they are seriously considering Washington now,” said McDonald, No. 131 in the ESPN Jr. 300.

Another Washington target, ESPN Jr. 300 No. 89 Chase Williams, is hearing similar chatter among talented Southern California prospects.

“I feel like they are on the radar more,” Williams said. “More people talk about Washington, what they did and who they are. I have seen a lot more recruits show an interest in Washington now.”

According to Williams, who has Washington in his lead group along with USC, Georgia, Arizon and UCLA, how quickly Petersen has been able to flip the program sticks out to prospects.

“I think a lot of kids are going to be interested more because of how quick Coach Petersen got Washington to jump up, and how he changed the team around.”

Washington currently has three commitments in the 2018 class, with all three being members of the ESPN Jr. 300, including No. 16-overall and quarterback Jacob Sirmon, and Mission Viejo receiver Austin Osborne with many more heavily sought prospects in play.

When the class of 2018 and 2019 were between the ages of 8-12, it was USC and Oregon that ruled the day in the Pac-12, and were the “cool” schools that kids gravitated towards. According to McDonald, that has changed in just a few months.

“It’s SC and Washington basically. Colorado made it to the Pac-12 championship, but it's SC and Washington right now.”