How can UW recruit its best class ever? It starts with these five prospects

By Andy Yamashita

Seattle Times staff reporter

Jedd Fisch has lofty recruiting goals at Washington. He didn’t waste any time laying out his expectations to “do everything we can to have the best recruiting class Washington has ever had for the class of 2025” during his national signing day news conference on Feb. 7.
Washington’s best class since 1999 was the 2019 class, which was rated 15th in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Brandon Huffman, 247Sports national recruiting director, said Fisch faces an uphill climb to fulfill his objective this season.
Fisch hasn’t been helped by timing, Huffman added. Former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer’s departure to Alabama following the College Football Playoff championship game meant UW was undergoing coaching changes while other programs were hosting junior prospects on campus.
“You can’t just assume you can rest on your relationships and the laurels of success,” Huffman said. “You have to sell every part of the package.”
UW’s new coaching staff’s first priority was to finish up the 2024 cycle. Then, the NCAA calendar entered a recruiting dead period on Feb. 5, prohibiting coaches from any in-person contact with prospects or the prospect’s family until March 3.
“January ended up being a net loss, so they haven’t had as many visits as maybe they would’ve had a year ago,” Huffman said. “But it’s still early. There’s still an opportunity for them to get more guys on campus for spring football when it starts or even official visits.”
Here are five players Washington can’t miss out on if it wants to achieve a top-15 class for the 2025 recruiting cycle:
Zaydrius Rainey-Sale — 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker
Bethel High School, Spanaway, 247Sports composite four-star
Six hours before Washington took the field against Michigan in the CFP championship game, the Huskies got some good news.
Local linebacker Zaydrius Rainey-Sale — the No. 1 high school player in the state of Washington in 2025 according to 247Sports composite ranking — committed to UW and DeBoer. It was a statement of intent for the Huskies, who didn’t have a single Washington resident among their 2024 recruits at the time.
Rainey-Sale’s pledge lasted about 96 hours. He decommitted from UW during the aftermath of DeBoer’s abrupt exit.
He was quickly reoffered by Fisch’s staff, and Huffman said Washington still has a chance to keep the state’s unanimous top high-school talent in the Pacific Northwest.
Huffman added Rainey-Sale is considered a particularly high-upside prospect because of his age. He celebrated his 16th birthday in November 2023, near the end of his junior preps season, and will play a majority of his freshman year of college at 17 years old.
“He’s a three-phase linebacker, who’s best football is still ahead of him,” Huffman said.
Dijon Lee — 6-foot-3.5, 180-pound cornerback
Dijon Lee, one of the top prospects in the 2025 class, included Washington among his eight finalists on Jan. 5, along with Arizona, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oregon, Penn State and USC. Huffman said the Huskies were considered Lee’s leaders entering the CFP championship game.
Landing Lee’s commitment would be a major coup for the Huskies. He’s currently considered a 247Sports composite five-star prospect, the No. 5 cornerback in the nation and the top player in California.
“I like his positional versatility,” Huffman said. “I think he’s a corner, but he can also play safety if he needs to.”
Washington hasn’t added a five-star prospect since former UW quarterback Sam Huard in 2021. Lee’s current rating would be sixth highest in UW program history according to 247Sports, just behind Matt Tuiasosopo and before Sav’ell Smalls.
However, Lee also picked up an offer from DeBoer and Alabama just three days after the former Washington coach was officially announced as Nick Saban’s successor.
Huffman said Lee’s size, ball skills, physicality and speed have made him a highly touted prospect. His strong performances for Mission Viejo, which won the 2023 CIF Division 1-AA state championship game against prep powerhouse De La Salle, have also proven he can compete at some of the highest levels of competition.
“He’s the kind of well-rounded DB that college coaches covet,” Huffman said.
Josiah Sharma — 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive lineman
Folsom High School, Folsom, Calif., 247Sports composite three-star
Similar to Rainey-Sale, defensive lineman Josiah Sharma committed to Washington and DeBoer during the lead up to the CFP championship game. The Huskies had been the first program to offer Sharma, and he rewarded their early outreach.
Sharma also chose to decommit when DeBoer left. Huffman called it a tough blow for Washington because the 2024 defensive line class on the West Coast was strong, but the Huskies failed to retain signees Noah Carter, Ratumana Bulabalavu and Keona Wilhite after all the coaching turnover.
Sharma’s options have also changed. His only held offers from UW, Nevada, Washington State and Arizona when he declared he was heading to Montlake. Since decommitting on Jan. 27, he’s added offers from Texas, Oregon, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Miami, Utah and DeBoer’s Alabama among others.
“I don’t think they can afford to miss on him,” Huffman said.
Huffman said Sharma’s frame makes him an intriguing prospect. A weaker defensive line class on the west coast in 2025 also raises his value. Huffman also added he considers Sharma, Lee and Rainey-Sale UW’s most crucial targets in 2025 because the Huskies either had a commitment or led for all three at one point in this cycle.
Christian Thatcher — 6-foot-2, 205-pound linebacker
Arbor View High School, Las Vegas, 247Sports composite four-star
Christian Thatcher didn’t become a major option for Washington until Fisch’s arrival on Montlake.
Thatcher was heavily leaning toward Arizona early in the recruiting cycle, Huffman said, and picked up a UW offer on Jan. 20, a week after Fisch was officially unveiled at Washington.
“He loved Jedd Fisch, he loved (UW defensive line coach) Jason Kaufusi,” Huffman said. “I would say they’re on his shortlist right now.”
Thatcher can continue Washington’s recent run of success recruiting Las Vegas natives. Projected 2024 first-round picks Rome Odunze and Troy Fautanu were prep stars in Southern Nevada, along with former UW wide receiver Germie Bernard. Huffman described Thatcher as a modern linebacker who can cover the entire field.
Huffman noted there are other perks to recruiting Christian Thatcher, too. His younger brother, Thaddeus Thatcher, is a quarterback in the class of 2027 and already holds offers from UNLV and Colorado.
Jackson Lloyd — 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive lineman
Carmel High School, Carmel, Calif., 247Sports composite four-star
Huffman admitted the Central Coast is rarely the focus of the conversation when discussing California recruiting.
Yet Jackson Lloyd has continued to draw attention because of his athleticism, conditioning and size. Huffman said he thinks Lloyd is one of the top-3 offensive lineman on the West Coast.
“He’s kind of a unicorn for that area,” he said.
Lloyd, a three-sport athlete who also plays baseball and basketball, has demonstrated many of the traits considered crucial to translating high school dominance into college production. Huffman said Lloyd’s basketball highlight reel includes one-handed dunks off inbounds passes, while his baseball abilities hint at good muscle memory and coordination.
Additionally, Huffman said Washington might’ve led early for Lloyd, too, since the offensive lineman’s mother is a UW alum. He also plays a position of need for the Huskies, who only have 11 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster.
But the Huskies will again face a challenge from DeBoer and the Crimson Tide, and Huffman said he currently believes Lloyd will head east.
“He’s a guy that when you get him to college,” Huffman said, “you put on weight, get in a strength and conditioning program and put him on a training table, and he’ll have a chance to really flourish.”

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