High school football players on the West Coast dealt with unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic, losing out on games, seasons and plenty of exposure. While football east of the Rockies largely was business as usual, players from San Diego to Salt Lake City to Seattle went without in a lot of ways.
They dealt with fewer opportunities to close the gap between themselves and others in regards to reputation, technique and physical development.
That said, with high school football returning to common ground everywhere, here are five University of Washington commits for the Class of 2022 who should benefit the most and enjoy breakout seasons:
TJ Hall, DB, San Joaquin Memorial HS, Fresno, California
Hall is just coming into his own as an elite defensive back. As of late the bigger the stage, the brighter he shines. Since his junior campaign, Hall has added 10 pounds and it's paid off. At The Opening, one of the biggest recruiting events in California, he proved to be sticky in coverage against some of the nation's best receivers.
"Hall shows that he knows what the offense is doing; he reacts to plays quicker than some receivers," said Trevor Mueller, Husky Maven recruiting analyst. "He's played all over the offensive side of the ball, at wide receiver and even quarterback. He understands defenses and is consistently in the correct position."
With his newfound confidence and added bulk, Hall has positioned himself to make a big jump up the defensive-back rankings this fall.
Jackson Stratton, QB, La Jolla HS, La Jolla, California
The San Diego signal-caller showed off his big arm in just five games during his junior season, completing 70 percent of 106 passes for 1,269 yards.
Stratton was 110th in the state in pass attempts while he was 28th in passing yards and yards per game. However, he was 10th in the state in passing touchdowns with 19 and threw just two interceptions.
It's fair to say that with a more pass-heavy team, Stratton would put up some gaudy numbers.
"He is a playmaker," Mueller said. "His efficiency numbers are off the charts. As a junior, he usually made the right decision and it netted his team touchdowns. He grew tremendously between his sophomore and junior seasons, and he should continue to progress as a passer in his senior season."
Lance Holtzclaw, Edge rusher, Desert Ridge HS, Mesa, Arizona
Holtzclaw has, perhaps, the biggest room to grow both physically and in reputation. In fact, his athleticism is off the charts. He has the ability to beat offensive linemen off the ball, be disruptive in the rushing game and drop into coverage.
The only reason he's not rated as a top 15 edge defender is he played on the lighter side during his junior season, weighing in at 200 pounds. He's now closer to 210 and will fill out a lot. The added weight will be an asset in run support and getting around some elite offensive tackles.
Ben Roberts, DL, East HS, Salt Lake City
When the Huskies lost Sir Mells to Oregon following the departure of defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski to Texas, Utah defensive tackle Ben Roberts benefitted. While 247 Sports has Roberts as its 53rd-best defensive lineman nationally, SI All-American recruiting analyst John Garcia sees someone capable of drawing a much higher ranking.
"Roberts played defensive end at against some very good offensive tackles during his junior season and he beat them all like a drum," Garcia said. "He stuns his opponent with violent hands, exploding into their chest pads. He is very comfortable using push-pull, giving us confidence in his ability to make the transition to life in between the tackles. Should be able to win one-on-one matchups at the next level."
Germie Bernard, WR, Liberty HS, Las Vegas
Bernard might be the forgotten man in Washington's 2022 recruiting class. He has been committed since the end of his sophomore year and he didn't play in a junior season because the state of Nevada opted out of high school last season for pandemic reasons.
He's continued to hone his skills in relative anonymity, but Garcia likes what he's seen from Bernard from the recruiting events.
"There can't be enough said about bigger-bodied targets with polish who can move the chains," Garcia said. "It's the essence of an effective and efficient offense, and Bernard fits that profile to a tee. He is strong, and strong at the line of scrimmage, with diverse releases and quick hands to combat the press."
Garcia projects Bernard as a multi-year contributor at the college level. After no junior season, the reclusive Bernard can be expected to turn heads again down in the desert.