On the one hand, we've always done well not having to get the 5-star recruits. I mean rarely, if ever, have we landed a player of that stature, yet the last 4 years, 35-14 speaks for itself as an overall record. As the recruiting analyst who's name escapes me said the other day, WSU develops players better than any team in the nation, period. And he's right. You can't point to any school that has done more, on paper, with "less", than WSU.
On the other hand, if we were ever going to land that 5-star super-duper premium recruit, it would be this year. THink about it - UW has never been lower, not just with 1-10 but the last 3 years of extremely mediocre play with turmoil around the program at nearly an unprecedented level; Oregon is coming off a losing season and had coaching and recruiting turmoil the last few years (famous story regarding Marshawn Lynch, Oregon coach actually signed his name to a letter of intent, only to have it throw out and Lynch will now star at Cal. Yeah, that's slimy.).
Factor all that in with our unprecedented success the last 4 seasons, and all the stars it seemed were aligned. Yet, we lost out on the #1 guy around. It makes you wonder, if it didn't happen this year, will it ever happen!? Will it have to be a Bledsoe-type situation, a small town guy that falls in love with Pullman?
Then again, in reading this AM, it's pretty damn clear Stewart was set on being a Duck from day one. I have to admit I'm extremely impressed with this kid, and never once did he lead anyone in ANY direction, Oregon included. In the end, Oregon and Eugene captured his heart and it just looked like it was too much to overcome. I wish that kid luck (except when he plays the Cougs!). I also love the fact that we were in there fighting like hell until the end, and if he wasn't so smitten with Eugene at such an early age, we probably could have overcome that and we'd be happy today.
All that said, and this is NOT to be taken as sour grapes - but there are still some warts on Stewart. While strong as hell and physical, after watching the 10 videos on him more than once and based on what Mead told me, there are things that jump out if you pay close attention.
1) He doesn't make people miss. His highlight reel is basically him hitting the hole, taking on contact from a linebacker or safety and pretty much breaking the tackle. There were several runs where he broke between 3-5 tackles in impressive fashion, but that may not be such a good thing; 2) He doesn't have that extra gear to break away, and a 4.6 40 time won't have you running away from the pack in the next level. Of his entire 10-clip highlight package, there was probably 1 or two plays where he went more than 30 yards. Never once, in any highlight, was he untouched. 3) He's battled some injuries the last two years, not blow-out-your-knee injuries but nagging ankle and other various injuries that tend to haunt power backs, regardless of the level you play against; and finally, 4) His style of run-your-ass-over, well, that's fine and dandy in AAA Washington where your average defensive player is between 170 and 210 and you are stronger and heavier than basically every defensive player except for the d-line at 220. But, can a running back in college, standing 5-10 and weighing 220, can he run over guys at that level? Can you name one running back with 4.6 speed and a power runner that stood 5-10, 220, and was a great player? Jermaine Green comes to mind, but even he was 6-0, 230, and he COULD make guys miss. I can assure you, Will Derting and Scott Davis will NOT be guys he'll be running over. The hope of an Adrian Peterson type breakout season might be a big stretch for next year for them, as that monster was built to run over dudes at 6-3, 245, and even he wore down and required shoulder surgery after the year. Can a guy with an Eddie George style in a smaller package hold up when he's already been beat up in AAA??
The adjustment might be a little bigger than many expect, and in all seriousness, will he live up to the hype?? Think about how excited we would be today if he commited to the Cougs, and think about how much you would EXPECT him to accomplish, right out of the gates. Could he have EVER lived up to that level of expectations??
Hard to say. We'll see next year, but he should be forewarned - you better learn how to make cats miss, or Will Derting will knock you back to Lacey.