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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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May 17, 2007 2:33 PM

So what happened to the Class of 2002?

Posted by Bob Condotta

A lot of interesting discussion inspired by the post the other day on how many Huskies of recent years have made it into the NFL. It was fun to read.

I mentioned in that post that the book can now essentially close on UW's Class of 2002, which Rick Neuheisel generally regarded as maybe his best at Washington. To be accurate, the Class of 2001, which included Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick, was rated higher --- the '01 class was rated as high as No. 4 while the '02 class was generally in the mid-teens to early-20s. (It's also worth pointing out that I actually made an error in that previous post since Jordan Reffett is technically part of the class of 2002 and has a year of eligibility remaining.)

But while '01 had more star power, Neuheisel said several times he liked the overall balance of the 2002 class and regarded it as the one that would lay the foundation for the program for years to come. Neuheisel redshirted all but one player, Nate Robinson, who the coaches knew had basketball as an option so they figured they'd better get him on the field as quickly as they could (plus, he was supremely talented at a position of need that season).

I bring this up because having made a quick reference to the Class of 2002 the other day, I decided a full accounting of those players might be in order.

So here goes:

Brandon Ala --- Became a part-time starter at defensive end. last two seasons.
Demar Baisy --- Didn't qualify academically and never enrolled.
Ben Bandel --- Tight end injured knee in 2004 and had to stop playing.
Jason Benn --- Tight end saw little action and didn't return for his final season of eligibility.
Dash Crutchley --- Tight end saw little action and wasn't asked to return for his final season
Stanley Daniels --- Became a two-year starter at guard. Now a free agent signee of the Rams.
Matt Fountaine --- A two-year starter at cornerback.
Dashon Goldson --- A three-year starter in the secondary and a fourth-round pick of the 49ers.
Eddie Jackson --- JC transfer receiver played one year, then transferred to West Virginia where he played his final season in 2004.
Kenny James --- Essentially a two-year starter at RB and now a free agent signee of the Seahawks.
Robin Kezirian --- OL spent one year as redshirt, then transferred to Fresno State where he was little more than a backup.
Donny Mateaki --- A two-year starter at defensive tackle.
Dan Milsten --- Ankle injury against Oregon State in 2004 ended career for a promising DT.
Jordan Reffett --- Delayed enrollment a year and will be a starting DT this season.
Nathan Rhodes --- Highly-touted OL never played a down due to pre-existing back injury.
Nate Robinson --- Played one year of football, then walked-on basketball team and now in the NBA.
Shelton Sampson --- Never started a game but did have a few moments early in career before quitting team in 2005 then coming back last season, though without ever getting any playing time.
Jordan Slye --- Receiver spent one year as redshirt, ran into academic problems, then transferred to Hawaii. Left Hawaii last summer and last reported to be at Clark Atlanta (Ga.) University, a D-II school.
Isaiah Stanback --- Two-year starter at QB and a third-round pick of the Cowboys.
Clay Walker --- Made 31 starts on OL.
Scott White --- Made 32 starts at linebacker.

Several criticisms I received for the post the other day were not acknowledging player development (the assumption being Neuheisel would have done a better job turning these guys into NFL prospects than the two coaches who followed him) and attrition (the assumption apparently being that Neuheisel can't be blamed for guys leaving the program, especially once he was no longer coach).

But as concerns this class, there really wasn't that much attrition. Seven players either left early (including Robinson), were academic casualties, or had their careers cut short by injuries. The others all finished up their football careers at UW.

Of those who were gone quickly, Neuheisel can't be excused for two of them --- Baisy (taking a risk on an academically challenged player falls back on the coach, in my book); and Rhodes (everyone knew he was an injury risk and he was never able to participate in any practices at UW).

Of the three players who transferred, two (Kezirian, Slye) didn't do much after leaving UW, so it's not as if the total body of this class would have likely looked much better had they stayed (one more year of Eddie Jackson, who was erratic at best, also wouldn't really improve things much).

As for player development, I readily admit it's important, especially in maximizing a player's college career.

But when it comes to the NFL, I'll repeat what I said in a comment the other day that I think it's a little overrated. When NFL scouts examine players, they look for some specific attributes --- speed, strength, the proper physical dimensions. Those scouts have obviously come to UW the last few years and not seen a whole lot that piqued their interest --- certainly not from a draft standpoint.

UW has had just five players drafted the last three seasons, the fewest over any three-year period since the 1940s.

Granted, the draft is now just seven rounds. If you include just the first seven rounds of the draft, it is still the fewest players drafted since 1975-77 when UW had four players taken in the first seven rounds of those three drafts.

Would a more cohesive coaching situation made a difference in the careers of those players listed above? Without a doubt.

Would it have turned a whole lot more of them into NFL players? I have my doubts.

Several of you said, for instance, that Stanback was sorely mishandled after Neuheisel left, particularly by Gilbertson. It's worth noting that the whole idea of using Stanback some at receiver first came to light when Neuheisel was still coach (here's a story previewing spring ball in 2003 where Neuheisel talks about it.).

Am I unduly picking on Neuheisel here? Not trying to, just think it's fair, and interesting, to evaluate exactly what did happen with some of these classes, especially now that you can more accurately do so with the passage of time.


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