Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yes, Recruiting DOES Matter

We at the WSU Football Blog staff are first and foremost die-hard Coug fans. You know this when you read this stuff. So the following comes at you with the idea that this isn't to rip on WSU, but to simply help further explain an angle as to why we are where WE are right now.
It's a normal human reaction to play the blame-game. It happens in every sport, at every level. Joe Torre is likely out of his job this week after the Yanks came up short, again. Is it his fault that his starting pitching was so poor? Is it his fault Roger Clemens got $28 million pro-rated in one of the biggest wastes of money of all-time? Probably not, but Joe will get the axe. I'm not comparing the Cougars to the Yankees, but I am using it as an example that people want to blame someone for failure to succeed. And, obviously Alex Brink and Bill Doba get the brunt of the blame for where we are.
The thing I've been harping on, and something that some of you have downplayed, is recruiting. The hype and the 4-and-5 stars are overrated, you said. The Cougars are better off getting the lower-rated guys and developing them, and that there are a lot of highly-rated players that never pan out. But ask anyone that involved with this sport, at any level, and they will tell you flat-out that recruiting is THE LIFEBLOOD of a program. It's a fun experience to win with a bunch of scrappy kids that the other big programs passed on for whatever reason, but it's becoming painfully obvious that it's harder than ever to actually pull it off with lesser talent. Things have changed drastically since our big run in 01-03, and diamonds in the rough are harder than ever to find. Not only do you need a lot of luck, but you also need a coaching staff that can coach 'em up better than the average bear. Beano Cook always said that Mike Price had to be one of the best coaches in the nation, period, because he always did more with less, and we always tout Price for finding guys that others overlooked, such as Rien Long, Jason Gesser, etc. You know the list.

Anyway, we said a few weeks ago to go back in time, and look at the recruiting classes under the Doba era. Go look at the first few years, especially 2004 and 2005, and then look at where we are today. I'm sure none of you actually did it. But Bud Withers did, and wrote an excellent article about how we got into this position. Among the highlights:
  1. 2003 - 16 signees, including Brink and Jason Hill. But only 7 are even in the program anymore.
  2. 2004 - Collins, Harrison, Bumpus and Brackenridge. But out of 28, only 13 are still in the program(!). That 2004 class is this year's true senior class.
  3. 2005 - 21 signees, but only 10 are left. This is the biggest failure of any of them. Just 10 players left from a class signed two-plus years ago? BRUTAL.

Withers also points out the dreadful special teams - zero touchbacks this year, while the rest of the Pac-10 has 34. I was touting Drew Dunning's excellence for bailing us out, time and again, and a huge part of our successful run (does anyone shudder at the thought of trotting Romeen out there, trying to make field goals against USC in that amazing 2002 game?? How frustrating would that have been??). Did you know that WSU kickers are 34 for 60 since Dunning graduated!?!? DOH.

This is the most powerful statement yet: "So of the 65 players added from 2003-05, only 30 remain. Of those who left, 12 were JC recruits who yielded mixed results, leaving 23 who simply washed out of the program."

We're a program that's traditionally thin anyway, even under Price. But to have less than 50% of the players you signed from 2003-2005 that are still even on the roster?? Is there any doubt now as to why we are where we are!??

We are exhibit A of why recruiting makes you - or breaks you. I challenge anyone to argue against this point. Before you want to throw Brink under the bus, yet again, for "just not being clutch" or whatever else you can come up with, you must consider that less than half the players signed from 2003-2005 are even in the program.


longball said...

Retention has been awful in the Doba era. It is definately what has left us hurting at so many positions. This is exactly why i think we need to quit getting all star-y eyed over the 4 and 5 star recruits that commit to us. It seems to me that almost without exception they never end up contributing. I think we MUST be honest, that any 4 or 5 star kid that comes to us was most likely passed on by other schools and probably for good reason. In fact, i don't think this is speculation anymore, but has just been proven again and again and again. i feel like the rest of the Pac-10 is sniggering behind our backs "Can you believe they bit on that Mixon kid? What idiots!"

Also, during the zona game my friend and i were talking about how good Price seemed to be at keeping troubled kids in the program... Mark Fields? Leon Bender? guys who had to leave at some point but came back and contributed. These days, nobody comes back. ever.

We used to be known as a great scouting program, in fact teams like Oregon used to cherry pick off our recruiting lists, essentially counting on us to do all the hard work of finding the kids, then swooping in and grabbing them from under us. We found a lot of 2 star kids that were actually 4 and 5 star talents this way, but we were the biggest dogs barking at their door since they were off the major recruiting services radar. I mean, we actually established a talent pipeline from British freakin Columbia.

Anyway, so we seem to be bringing a lot of kids with shaky character into the program and we are failing to keep them here. I actually think the late offers gambit is this staff's first genuine attempt to do something about what has been a problem for too long.

longball said...

James Hasty is now a commentator on NFL Live!

Anonymous said...

I agree on the stars thing, and they can get in the way of true analysis. But even some lower-rated kids never made it, so I don't think that's the only issue here. I think bottom line, we've done a lousy job the last few years and it's left us in horrible shape. Of course there are exceptions, and a player like Brandon Gibson comes out of Puyallup without a ton of fanfare and has Jason-Hill-Junior written all over him. But there's a huge hole right now and I don't know if Doba can dig out of it.

At least we're not talking about Brink's inability to get it done in crunch time! :)

spokane-duck said...

Don't blame Oregon for your recruiting problems. Who would want to go to Pullman anyways? BTW, the numbers don't stack up very well for the cougs this weekend.

Hooty McBoob said...

Would you guys be interested in a Terry Mixon report? I haven't heard how he's doing at EWU but I'm a little curious myself. I could be persuaded to take in a game in November...

Oh - and FUCK the Ducks!

Hooty McBoob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am over Mixon. But maybe you could scout Paul Wulff? On, and ditto on the Ducks. No, we don't blame you Spokane Duck. We just HATE you. Let's see if Pflugrad can ruin your depth too.

Hooty McBoob said...

I like Paul Wulff but I think the in-breeding needs to stop!

longball said...

Lets face it, Doba and Co. are done. Lets start naming candidates. I like:

Joe Glen at Wyoming, He is winning in Laramie which is very similar to Pullman,

Jerry Glanville, a legend in our own backyard who would bring bucket loads of personality and great name recognition in the talent rich recruiting lands in texas.

Sedihawk said...

Hooty's right, let's stop the in-breeding. I just hope we take our time and do it right, and not rush into handing it off to some other Coug. It's a hire that will define Sterk's legacy, period, and he needs to somehow have lightning strike twice ala Bennett.

As our good buddy in the program told me the other day, people are mad and Sterk knows it. And, the hardest part is that a lot of donors are walking around thinking it's simple to just hire a rising star, again, ala Bennett, and things just happen. But we'll see. I'm not ready for lists, at least not yet. I do like the guy at Wyoming, as do a lot of other programs. The thing that could really hamper us however is that we're likely looking at some big-time schools with vacancies this year, like Michigan, Arkansas, maybe UCLA.

Even on our level, Arizona, could be wide open as well. But I've been telling Brinkhater that let's see what names pop up out of the weeds once we're open. You just never, ever know who's going to be interested. And with the stadium fundraising pressure on Sterk to get some excitement going, he's going to have to dig deep on this hire.