The nation's premier safety in the 2012 class is a Washington Husky.
Impact Report - Shaquille Thompson
Twenty-four years ago, Washington picked up a similar safety from California, a kid from Lancaster named Tommie Smith. Thompson is about Smith's size - 6-foot-2, 210 pounds - and Thompson should garner a perfect score of 10 votes when the Long Beach Press-Telegram issues its yearly Best in the West poll. Coincidentally enough, Smith also earned a perfect score. Both have been named to numerous All-America teams, and Scout.com's Scott Kennedy even added Thompson to his All-Decade Team
Had Kennedy been doing an All-Decade Team for the 80's, there's a decent chance Smith would have found his way on that list too. All Smith did at his time at UW was letter all four of his seasons, start 25 games on a team loaded with talent, and finish out his Husky career with one of the all-time great classes. The graduating class of 1992 included Walter Bailey, Jay Barry, Mark Brunell, James Clifford, Jaime Fields, Dave Hoffmann, Lincoln Kennedy, Mike Lustyk, Shane Pahukoa, Darius Turner….and Tommie Smith.
Wouldn't it be nice in four years if we could be saying the same thing about the 2015 class, to see players like Shaquille Thompson, Cyler Miles, Jake Eldrenkamp, Ryan McDaniel, Kendyl Taylor, Nathan Dean, and Jeff Lindquist held in the same esteem as that heralded '92 class? That would be something special.
Needless to say, Thompson's tweet was sweet music to a fanbase reeling from the commitment of Lakes OL Zach Banner to USC earlier in the day. Why many of the local studs decided to fly the coop in search of their own path is the topic for another story; right now it's all about Shaquille Thompson.
Honestly it's hard to overestimate not only the infusion of talent this immediate provides a defense sorely lacking in game-breaking playmakers, but also the timing of which the announcement was made. Thompson is a player who played quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back, and he was also a special teams marvel. The coaches at Grant High School in Sacramento are brilliant coaches. Their job? Get Shaquille Thompson the ball as many times, in as many different ways possible.
Even though Thompson starred on offense, he'll start his UW career on the other side of the ball - something he's very comfortable with. He moves like a cheetah, hits like a tank, and takes no prisoners. Just yesterday he de-friended Chuck Norris on Facebook. That's tough. And on top of that, he'll be reunited with former Grant star and current Husky James Sample. Sample is a big reason why Thompson picked UW; there's a level of trust there that gives Shaq some comfort when looking at Seattle as his home away from home.
Like I said earlier, Husky Nation took a body blow Monday afternoon when Banner chose Southern Cal. But #Calgang, the twitter hashtag for the group of players currently committed to California, suffered a haymaker to the temple when Thompson decided #HUSKYNATION was more to his liking.
For Cal, this was a kid in their own backyard, a legacy recruit that had already committed twice to them before and even put on the hat during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl to prove his loyalty to the Golden Bears. But when Tosh Lupoi was hired by Washington, all bets were off.
At the time of the hiring, Thompson's commit immediately went soft - pillowy soft. He announced his decision was now 50/50 between the two schools. Lupoi went to work. Some say he not only told Thompson to look hard at UW (he had been looking hard at UW prior to both his verbal commitments to Cal), but also not to go to Cal.
Only Thompson and Lupoi know for sure what was said, but whatever it was - it worked. And on top of that, Thompson was so intrigued by Washington he decided to take an unofficial visit to UW this past weekend. Anyone of that caliber who visits on their own dime is serious; you just don't see that happen very often.
It was hoped that Lupoi - known throughout the college football world as one of the top recruiters around - could sway a player like Thompson. He did, and that alone could prove the $350,000 he's set to receive as Washington's defensive line coach in 2012 (a fee that was more than double what he was paid at Cal) was a straight-up steal of a deal. Simply put, players like Shaq Thompson puts butts in seats. What they do on the football field takes your breath away; it electrifies and exhilarates, much like what DeAnthony Thomas is doing right now for Oregon, or what Matt Barkley has done for USC.
And it is coaches like Lupoi who can make those recruiting dreams reality. He's been doing it in Berkeley for years, even taking players from the Evergreen State like Trevor Guyton and Deandre Coleman. It's that kind of superstar talent that turns good programs into great programs. Tommie Smith's class helped turn a very good Washington program into National Champions.
Will Thompson's gallop toward the purple and gold provide impetus for others in position to join him? He could be the first domino to fall in what could end up looking like a game of recruiting Chicken Foot; Jordan Payton, Kenny Walker, Jaydon Mickens, Brandon Beaver are all ripe to fall. I'm sure all these players saw Thompson's tweet and experienced a visceral reaction, because that's the kind of game-changing move it was.
The commit wasn't wholly unexpected; when word got out of Thompson's unofficial visit to Montlake, rumors started going viral that he was UW's to lose. Turned out, those rumors had Usain Bolt-type legs. Orchestrated by Steve Sarkisian and put into practice by Lupoi and Thompson, the move could spur Washington into a final recruiting frenzy Husky fans have never seen before. Right now there are no fewer than 10 players with UW interest that will announce their college intentions in the next 36 hours, and by now they've all heard about Thompson's infamous tweet.
Will it make a difference come 2 pm Wednesday afternoon - the time Sarkisian is expected to announce Washington's 2012 recruiting class? One thing is for sure - the country is talking about Thompson's decision. It's already having ramifications up and down the Pac-12. #Calgang is a shadow of its former self; Payton, Walker, Bryce Treggs and Cedric Dozier are already listed as 'soft commits' in the Scout.com database, and all could very easily bail out of Berkeley faster than loggers lost in the oak grove outside Memorial Stadium. They could end up in places like Westwood, Pullman, or even Seattle.
What is for sure is this: People are most definitely paying attention to what Sark is cooking up on the coast, and that can only help the Huskies' cause when it comes to landing studs like Payton, Walker, and others.
Not very many outside the Washington recruiting war room had a good feel about the true impact of Lupoi's hire. Many thought that he would simply be Jimmy Olsen to the recruiting Clark Kent he was at Cal. At best, he might be able to sway one or two recruits, but the reverberations of his hire wouldn't fully materialize until this time next year. By getting Thompson to turn tail and head north on a rail signifies a sea change in Washington's recruiting fortunes.
It's tough to say that whatever haul the Huskies end up with at the end of Signing Day will ever make up for the loss of so many in-state studs. What isn't tough to say is that the signing of players like Shaquille Thompson means Washington is finally back in the blue-chip sweepstakes. Getting the local studs to stay home - like Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams - is always a UW recruiting staple. But if Sarkisian, Lupoi, and the rest of the Husky coaching staff can supplement those top players with sure-fire, Best in the West-types like Thompson, then all bets are off.
The last time Washington overhauled their recruiting philosophy and brought in a whole new level of talent was back in 1986. Could it happen again a quarter of a decade later?
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