Huskies make push for in-state recruits

SEATTLE -- When Devante Downs landed a scholarship offer from Washington, the junior couldn’t help but think about the future.

Even though he isn’t ready to give a verbal commitment to the program, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound running back (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace) is already talking about lining up in the Huskies’ backfield.

He was asked what he thought about the potential of one day sharing the same backfield with 2015 running back recruit Chico McClatcher (Federal Way, Wash./Federal Way). He said he sees a duo that would create a “Smash and Dash” combination.

“Just like LenDale White and Reggie Bush were in college,” Downs said.

The Huskies have been busy recently, extending scholarship offers to elite prospects around the country. But, while the coaching staff continues to broaden its reach into SEC territory and, while Washington continues to make its mark in California, coach Steve Sarkisian has made a point to send a statement to the recruits in his back yard.

“It’s just reppin’ the hometown state, staying true to the local people,” Downs said.

When Sarkisian was hired in December 2008, he made a commitment to fencing off Washington. The Huskies went to work hauling in the state’s top talent, adding blue-chip prospects like offensive lineman Colin Porter (Bothell, Wash./Bothell) and defensive lineman Sione Potoa’e (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) in 2010.

The next year, Washington landed receiver Kasen Williams (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor, Wash./Gig Harbor), running back Bishop Sankey (Spokane, Wash./Gonzaga Prep) and defensive tackle Danny Shelton (Auburn, Wash./Auburn).

After Sarkisian’s first two full recruiting classes, the perception both locally and nationally was that the Huskies had locked up Washington.

But, in 2012, that perception changed.

Offensive linemen Joshua Garnett (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup) and Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes) committed to Stanford and USC, respectively. KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash./Mariner) committed to Notre Dame and is now starting for the Irish.

While the Huskies still did well Washington, the big-name losses stood out.

So far in the 2013 recruiting class, the Huskies lost quarterback Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline) to USC but secured commitments from four local prospects, including four-star linebacker Sean Constantine (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue).

As the program pushes toward signing day, the coaching staff continues to try and flip Myles Jack (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) from UCLA over to the Huskies.

The senior has talked often about how much the added attention has meant. The same can be said for his teammate, 2014 safety Bishard “Budda” Baker, who received a box of handwritten letters from Washington’s staff after a win over Portland State.

Whether it’s Jack or Baker, McClatcher or Downs, the Huskies have paid plenty of recent attention to local prospects. In addition to the players they have already offered, Washington appears to be close to extending one to 2014 offensive lineman Kaleb McGary (Fife, Wash./Fife).

Downs was so excited after he received the offer, he didn’t think it was real when he first heard the news. McClatcher said the offer “has a lot of impact, because I kind of want to stay close to home.”

If Washington can land Jack and Baker, the program will have established a pipeline to a perennial power. The Huskies have sent a message that they want to win over local recruits. They want to be the first choice for the state’s top talent.

Like Downs said, they are “staying true” to local recruits.