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

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July 18, 2008 9:19 AM

Is Willingham's uncertain status hurting recruiting?

Posted by Bob Condotta

That was the question I asked in this story today.

As has been discussed here before, UW has no commitments for its class of 2009 while every other Pac-10 schools has at least four.

The answer? No one's completely certain, though recruiting analysts think it could be a factor while one recruit, Gino Simone of Skyline, said he thinks it definitely is playing a role.

Simone said Willingham's uncertain status "weighs heavily on a lot of guys' minds'' as they are deciding whether to commit to UW.

However, the state's top recruit, Deandre Coleman of Garfield, says that isn't an issue with him. He said he simply hasn't committed yet because he wants to take all of his trips.

As mentioned in the story, UW acting AD Scott Woodward also says he doesn't think it's a real concern. He also said there have been no talks about extending Willingham's contract, which runs out after the 2009 season. Obviously, nothing will be done on that until it's apparent which way this season is heading.

The one thing I've read on here and elsewhere, however, is that Willingham can earn that final season by what he does this year. The reality is that UW either gets rid of Willingham after this season, or commits to him for another three, four, five seasons. The discussion right now about whether Willingham's status is hurting recruiting is why they couldn't simply just keep him on his current contract for one more year. The conjecture would be even greater next season, and for recruiting purposes, the school has to either fish or cut bait with Willingham after this season.

In the story, I note that UW had at least one commitment by this time every year since the class of 2002. That includes the Class of 2005, though you wouldn't know it by looking at the wrapup for that year which shows that no Huskies who signed committed before Aug. 14.

However, UW did have two players commit by this day in 2004 --- cornerback Keno Walter-White and tight end Adam Grant --- who each then headed elsewhere once it was apparent Keith Gilbertson wouldn't be back. Walter-White, a JC transfer, played at Arizona State while Grant signed with Arizona.

Woodward is quoted in the article saying he thinks this will soon be a "non-story'' once a few recruits start rolling in. He and others pointed out UW has to be a little more selective this year with fewer scholarships to offer. Others pointed out the state doesn't have as many top-level recruits this year --- early commits tend to come from in-state. But given that UW apparently has at least 30 scholarships out there, that doesn't necessarily seem to explain all of it.

The reality, as is always the case with recruiting, is that there is no one, single answer. Much as people liked to portray last year's class as a sign of support for Willingham, a number of the big in-state recruits said they simply wanted to stay home --- not that they didn't want to support Willingham, just that staying home was ultimately the most important factor, as it often is for in-state players who commit to any in-state school.

As well with the recruits who haven't jumped on boat yet. Some, like Simone says, may be wary. Others, like Coleman, may simply want to take their time.

But another reality is that this will remain a story until the day someone does commit, growing a little bigger every day until that happens.

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