Can Jimmy Lake Take Full Advantage of Washington State Recruiting?

Mike Martin

When Sam Huard committed to the Washington Huskies in December 2018, people thought the quarterback's decision  would influence other high-profile players such as JT Tuimoloau, Emeka Egbuka, Junior Alexander, Jabez Tinae and others to join him.

It seemed like a Washington legacy player like Huard would be the perfect way to build a nucleus, especially with four of the top five players from the Seattle metro area. Decades earlier, legendary coach Don James talked about building a virtual fence to keep this kind of talent at home.

James' success was built on keeping local players such as Steve Emtman, Joe Steele, Greg Lewis and Mario Bailey from going elsewhere.

Jim Lambright, Don James' successor and a Washington native himself, made sure that in-state recruiting remained a priority.  

However, the feeling was in-state recruiting took a backseat when Steve Sarkisian took over in 2009. In reality, it had slipped long before Sarkisian's arrival because the program  had bottomed out under Tyrone Willingham, when the gold helmets were tarnished by an 0-12 season.

"Top high school athletes want to go to a program that's high profile," said Trevor Mueller, Husky Maven recruiting analyst. "For the better part of the early 2000s, that wasn't Washington. Wins on the field, and especially the 2016 playoff run, led to wins in recruiting."

The class of 2022 may not have the elite talent of 2021, such as Huard, Tuimoloau or Egbuka, but it might be deeper. Many of those players appear to be interested in staying home and playing for the Huskies. Signing highly regarded line recruits such as Malik Agbo, Josh Conerly and Dave Iuli would go a long ways to protecting the recruiting borders. 

Lake has been at Montlake since 2013 and understands the quality of athletes within the state. In fact, his success as a defensive coach has helped elevate the UW, which in turn has lifted the quality of high school football on the whole.  

"In general, I think that with Washington's success it's made high school football players more interested in playing football," said Landen Hatchett, younger brother of current Husky freshman offensive lineman Geirean Hatchett and a center for Ferndale High School.  "It also makes players want to stay close to home where their families can watch them play."

UW coach Chris Petersen and Lake had a huge win initially in getting Budda Baker to flip his commitment from Oregon to Washington. There were high-profile in-state misses, but splashy commits such as Baker often offset them.

Legacy quarterback prospect Cale and Clay Millen, sons of former UW quarterback Hugh Millen, chose Arizona and Oregon, respectively. In those cases, there simply wasn't a spot for the either Millen. Instead of Cale Millen, the UW took in-state QB Dylan Morris. Clay Millen was in the same recruiting class as the younger Huard.

In 2020, three of the top five players left the state, among them Eastside Catholic's tight end DJ Rodgers and cornerback Aiden Hector, who chose Stanford and California, respectively.  However, these players do not appear on either school's rosters after being linked to an off-field incident.

In 2021, three of the top four prospects may be going out of state. Lincoln High School linebacker Julien Simon has committed to USC and Eastside Catholic's Tuimoloau and Steilacoom's Egbuka both could end up at Ohio State.

In-state prospects are treated as more of a priority by the Washington staff.  Given that Lake has been with the Huskies for nearly eight years, he should be able to leverage relationships with the high school coaches and players to keep more players home.