In another conversation on this site, a UW supporter asserted, rather testily, in response to a comment about a recruit switching from UW to Oregon, that UW was retaining its in-state talent. Sarkisian had "closed the border".
WA has far more top prospects year in year out than OR. UO recritus nationally out of necessity, UW can get by with locking down the top 5-15 guys in state annually and plucking the rest from CA and HI.
-- "B Money"
Seems we've heard this before. Lambright couldn't keep the border closed, so Neuheisel said he'd be making it a priority. As did Gilbertson in his only recruiting class. (Willingham never seemed to mention the border.)
The fact is that most years, UW signs most of the top football players in Washington. This is not debatable. The borders are closed, and have been for years.
And yet, the Huskies continue to underperform.
Analysis of data provided by a premium web site that will not be named (we'll call it "Spout, Hot Mom") shows that the last six years of bottom-tier football at Montlake has been played by teams liberally stocked with the State of Washington's "top talent."
Let's go to the chart...
The graph data is based on analysis of the top 40 players eligible for recruiting from the state of Washington each year, and includes verbal "commits" for 2010. If a player committed to Washington during the signing period, they're part of the purple line, which represents the share of 3 star or higher recruits in the state for each of the top 6 schools.
In only one recruiting season -- 2009, when you really couldn't blame a kid for not wanting to sign onto a sinking garbage scow, and Wulff cleaned up in-state -- did UW not retain a clear majority of three-star-or-better talent from its home state.
Occasionally, UW absolutely cleans up in-state. In 2003, not knowing he was a lame duck, Neuheisel retained an astounding 75% of the top state talent. Willingham's last recruiting season -- the one before the Husky O-fer -- reflected, at 65%, a well-sealed border. Even in Tyrone's leanest years, no school got as much top Washington talent as Washington.
With the elite, 5* talent, UW doesn't fare as well lately -- possibly a factor of their recent also-ran status; why would a top player go to UW if he had a choice? Since 2002 there have been five 5* players in Washington:
2005 Jonathan Stewart RB Oregon
2006 Taylor Mays S USC
2006 Steve Schilling OLB Michigan
2008 Kavario Middleton TE Washington
2010 Jake Heaps QB BYU
(You could say that UW is tied for 1st place among schools competing for elite Washington talent.)
Is Sark improving things for UW? Maybe. It's hard to tell, as this year there isn't a great deal of top-tier talent coming out of the state. Compared to last year, he's working miracles. With only 5 in-state players rated at 4 or 5 stars, UW appears to have landed three of those, and Sark might not have had a real shot anyway with the others (the nation's #1 QB prospect, Jake Heaps, will sign with BYU -- Heaps is LDS, which never hurts when recruiting to Provo -- and 4* TE Aaron Dunn is headed to Wazzu, in his Spokane backyard). Sark has (as of 2/2) a good collection of 4* players on his prospective commit list, but only three are from Washington. And UW gets the bulk of the 2* or lower players they want in-state, which is to be expected considering the local competition.
Overall, though, focusing on in-state talent might be a good way to keep the local media and members of the Tyee Club happy in early February, but it's demonstrably not a recipe for competitive football. Sarkisian certainly realizes this, but he'd be a fool to admit it.