SEATTLE — National Signing Day used to be a care-free event for Chris Petersen.
On signing day in February 2015, Petersen insisted he had gotten nearly his full eight hours of sleep the night before, having gone to bed at his usual time, around 10:30 p.m.
As Petersen has returned the Huskies to their glory days as a program, his nights, it seems, have gotten longer as the recruiting process has, in his words, “gotten worse.”
At his signing day news conference Wednesday afternoon, Petersen wasn’t speaking directly about four-star recruit Asa Turner when he bemoaned “the vultures” that have been circling some of the prospects who have had long-standing commitments to Washington.
But it was clear what Petersen meant.
Turner, a 6-foot-4 safety ranked as a top-200 recruit nationally by 247Sports.com, sat down with two other classmates at Carslbad (Calif.) High for a signing ceremony early Wednesday morning, balloons floating behind them and cameras rolling in front of them.
Except, Turner did not sign his National Letter of Intent.
Instead, the Carlsbad Twitter account announced that Turner “will take some more time to make his final decision.” Turner, who made a public commitment to the Huskies in July, is reconsidering his options, with Notre Dame reportedly back in the mix.
The Turner saga provided some drama to a signing day that has largely been devoid of that during Petersen’s tenure at UW.
“I think about three or four years ago, or certainly when I first got here, I felt zero (suspense),” Petersen said Wednesday afternoon. “Like the night before, I didn’t think about it twice. … And I think as the recruiting situation has — I’m trying to think of the right words — gotten worse, it can be painful. The vultures and the lowdown tactics that (are) going on behind closed doors — now I think about it a little bit more than I did.”
How much worse has it gotten?
“I don’t know,” he said. “We just operate such a different way, so when it happens to the guys that have been committed to us — why would you be calling those kids? They’ve been committed to us forever. But they do. And they’re sending texts and doing all this stuff just to see if there’s any slight change (of a change of heart), and if there is — look out. I think it’s hard. These are kids. And even the families that are going through this stuff for the first time. But it’s the nature of the beast.”
The Turner uncertainty aside, Petersen described Wednesday as a “really, really fun day.” By 9:19 a.m., the Huskies had announced the signing of 20 recruits, and about an hour later Petersen and the Huskies were on the practice field resuming workouts in preparation for the Rose Bowl.
“Doesn’t get much better than that,” Petersen said.
This is the highest-ranked class Petersen and his staff have put together in their six recruiting cycles in Seattle. 247Sports ranks it as the No. 2 class in the Pac-12 and No. 13 in the nation. Rivals.com ranks it No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 15 in the nation.
Beyond the industry rankings, Petersen seemed more proud of the fact that the class has an average high-school grade-point average of 3.1.
The Huskies signed three recruits from Washington and five from Hawaii in a class most celebrated for its depth and heft on the lines.
Jacob Bandes, a 315-pound defensive tackle from Antioch, Calif., is the highest-ranked recruit in the class (No. 32 overall by 247Sports), and Hawaii’s top prospect, 304-pound defensive tackle Faatui Tuitele, is close behind (No. 68 overall). Add in Honolulu’s 336-pound Sama Pa’ama — who is still just 16 years old, Petersen said — and 280-pound Noa Ngalu (East Palo Alto, Calif.), and the Huskies have perhaps their most touted defensive line class ever.
The Huskies also signed four offensive linemen: Nate Kalepo (6-6, 341 pounds) out of Seattle’s Rainier Beach High; Julius Buelow (6-8, 331) from Kapolei, Hawaii; Troy Fautanu (6-4, 289) from Henderson, Nev.; and Corey Luciano (6-3, 270), a junior-college transfer from Diablo Valley College).
Ideally, Petersen said he would like to sign about eight linemen in every class.
“That’s right where we want to be with those guys,” he said. “First of all, they’re really hard to find. Big guys — just really hard to find. If you find eight guys you like, we are not holding back. We feel really good about them.”
The early signing period runs through Friday. Petersen said there could be several more additions to this UW class by then, or by the regular signing period in February.