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Washington Wins Key Recruiting Battle

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Washington's Chris Petersen is reestablishing Husky recruiting as a regional force.
Washington's Chris Petersen is reestablishing Husky recruiting as a regional force.
Otto Greule, Getty Images

The Washington Huskies, and head Coach Chris Petersen, won a key recruiting battle today, when Jacob Kizer committed to spend his collegiate career in Seattle.

Kizer is a 6'5", 235 and still growing, athlete out of West Salem High in Salem, OR. He's only a 3 star prospect according to Rivals, but in the era of the spread offense, many programs have de-emphasized the position, if they haven't disregarded it altogether. As such, it takes a tremendous prospect, and usually one with a very good publicist, to bet more than 3 stars.

But as Oregon has shown everyone, even track-meet football can have a place for a big, fast receiver who can flat run over defensive backs, and block with the best of them. Kizer fits that job description, and is the best tight end prospect in the state for the 2016 recruiting class.

Wyoming and Air Force, and even Yale, were in the mix for Kizer, and Big Sky notables Eastern Washington and Montana St. as well, but it basically came down to a 3-way battle between the Beavers, Cougars, and Huskies.

That Petersen snared Kizer isn't exactly a shock; even back in the days of Don James, Washington snagging a top prospect out of the state of Oregon, simultaneously filling a need and depriving their northwest opponents, wasn't that uncommon, and had a lot to do with how the Huskies held control of the region for a long time.

It also isn't the end of the recruiting world; in the football business were there are 85 players on scholarship plus 20+ other athletes on every FBS team not under some NCAA scholarship restriction, no single player ever is.

But this one is significant, and it will bear watching whether it signals a change in the local landscape.

You'll never read about it at osubeavers.com, where only ticket sales prompting positive news is ever acknowledged to have happened. And most of the local media will similarly ignore the event (thou shall not acknowledge there was ever any interest in any recruit that was wanted, but not gotten), or report it under the theme of local boy signs with top program.

But it should not go unnoticed, or unreported, in the Oregon St. community.

It's also something of a turnabout by Washington; after all, Mike Riley notably snatched the like of Joe Halahuni and Connor Hamlett, and then Caleb Smith and Kellen Clute (though being from Spokane, that might have been more of a steal from the Cougs) all out of the state of Washington at the same position. And while those events preceded Petersen's arrival on Montlake from Boise, more than a few Husky Honks were not happy about there not being a fence around the state (recall Scott Crichton, for example) during the Tyronne Willingham and Steve Sarkisian eras.

Oregon St.'s shift to a much more spread-oriented offense under new coach Gary Andersen didn't make the Beavers as inviting for a top TE prospect as before, but Andersen's system does use both the TE and H-back positions and concepts, and Kizer was both a positional target, with Smith and Clute in their final seasons, and converted QB Brent Vander Veen gone after next season, and a strategic measuring stick of the state of recruiting.

Oregon St.'s recruiting overall has taken an uptick under Andersen, and especially his staff of assistants, almost all of whom are better at it than most of the departed members of Riley's staff.

But so is Washington's under Petersen, in both the northwest, a place the transplants Willingham and Sarkisian both struggled to gain the status the Huskies enjoyed historically, and elsewhere (Washington has begun to see some success in Texas, for example).

And its hard to envision Riley, who frequently had better stockpiles of tight ends than some conferences had,  losing out on the battle for Kizer.

As noted, its one recruit out of dozens between the programs. And possibly an isolated incident, as far as inter-region recruiting battles go. Or, maybe its a turning point.

It's certainly something to keep tabs on going forward. And one more log on the rivalry fire when the Beavers and Huskies hook up in late fall the next few seasons.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com