When Washington hired Chris Petersen away from Boise State to replace USC-bound Steve Sarkisian, it was seen as a win across the collective college football world. A couple of weeks into the job, Petersen is showing that his first endeavor in the Pac-12 is going to be an uphill battle, especially on the recruiting trail.
The current Huskies class sits at 16 strong, thanks to a huge week by Petersen to land seven commitments in the last seven days. Ranked No. 8 in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports, Washington's class climbed 30 spots to No. 52 nationally, thanks largely to the addition of 4-star quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels.
Carta-Samuels understands the problem with Washington's class as well as Petersen and the rest of the nation. The Dawgs need bodies, and although they got seven including Carta-Samuels, there is plenty of room in the boat for more.
Yet, it is not just the need for more players. The Huskies need more talent. There is a legitimate talent drain as Bishop Sankey, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keith Price all walk out the door, leaving Washington without the stout core that set the pace in 2013. Washington needs talent all over the field and, while Petersen has added some bodies, the 3-star and 2-star players are not immediate contributors.
Targets like Kaleb McGary, an offensive tackle, and Budda Baker are high priorities for Petersen who is realizing just how much different the recruiting landscape is within the confines of the Pac-12. The former Boise State coach has moved from being the big name in his league to just another program with mediocre recent results trying to entice players.
He's dealing with new relationships, new targets, a new type of recruit and doing it all with signing day fast approaching. For the last decade-plus, the head coach has been giving kids a chance to knock off the big boys, play FBS Football and compete. Now, he is dealing with a group of recruits that are not looking for a chance, they are looking for their best landing spot.
And it is on Coach Pete to shift gears and prove to kids why he is a better choice. A better choice than UCLA, where Jim Mora is looking to turn out NFL talent on a yearly basis. A better choice than Oregon, where the program has multiple BCS Bowls in recent history. A better choice than USC, the conference's glamour spot and big name football factory. A better choice than Stanford, a physically dominant program that has controlled the Pac-12 North.
It is not an easy task, and early returns are not in Petersen's favor.
Football is football and when it comes to X's and O's, player development and in-game adjustments, Petersen is going to be just fine transitioning to the Pac-12. His biggest challenges will come on the recruiting trail, working to change his targeting strategy and then altering his sell to kids that are picking between higher caliber programs.
KJ Carta-Samuels is a win for Petersen in that regard. The former Vanderbilt commit, who changed his mind after James Franklin left for Penn State, is the type of player the Huskies need to climb the ladder in the Pac-12 North. Petersen's teams always played good football, but to push into the conferences upper echelon, it will require getting better talent to develop, not simply developing players.