So the recruiting season for this year's class is winding down. And even though there are always some surprises that emerge late in the game (see Bumpus, Michael), usually what you see this close to the finish line is what you are going to get. And with less than two weeks to go until signing day, things are starting to crystallize.
For the most part, it is looking like coach Wulff and staff are holding the line with the current verbal commits. So far, the only verbal lost this entire recruiting season has been Geoff Meinken, and that was for a full ride to Stanford. Honestly, can you blame the kid for changing his mind? A full ride to Stanford and playing for Captain Comeback, the most enthusiastic coach in the conference next to "High School Harry" Pete Carroll?? Not a bad option if you can get it.
Don't take our word for it though. A scan of the recruiting services show that Stanford has done a FANTASTIC job this year, currently a strong #2 to USC in the conference and staring at a top-10 or so ranking nationally. We said last spring in the fishwraps that Stanford wouldn't be down long, and they were just one win from a bowl last year. So good for them.
Anyway, barring some shockers, this WSU class is holding up.
Speaking of recruiting, both the Times and News Tribune have released their Nuggets and Chips lists. I know the Times is old news, but the Nuggets just hit over the weekend. Check 'em out, Nuggets here and Chips here.
Interesting lists aren't they? A couple of things immediately stand out - 1) There are articles and quotes that it isn't a good year in Washington, and 2) lots of WSU sprinkled throughout for the "committed to" or "college" categories, something we didn't always see from days gone by. And normally one would think having the majority of the best local talent heading for Pullman as a very good thing. But IS IT GOOD for this year??
Ask any Husky Honk about recruiting this season, and there are two common messages among UW elites - 1) Sarkisian rocks, so brace yourselves for the recruiting superpower of Jesus in a purple visor once he has time to build this thing, and 2) IT IS A BAD RECRUITING YEAR IN WASHINGTON. Not that you are out there asking UW types what they think of recruiting right now. But they love to share their insight out in the wonderful world of message-board-land.
I don't know about Jesus in a purple visor. Even though "he" has shown the ability to conjure up fog on-demand to show off for recruits? Something tells me this isn't the second coming. Looks like that search will continue.
But part of what they are trying to do is to simply rain on the parade of WSU goodness, in ways only they know how. The proverbial wet blanket, if you will. You know, little brother accomplishes something and is happy/excited. Yet "big brother" is thoroughly unimpressed, rolls his eyes at the dinner table and in dismissive fashion quickly replies "simmer down little bro. It's not that big of a deal. Yes, I'm here to put you back in your place."
But there is at least some truth to it. No, not the Jesus part. But it isn't a GREAT year in Washington recruiting......or is it?? Maybe on signing day there isn't a Drew Bledsoe to parade around and show off for the villagers. But that is just for today. How do we know what is going to happen with these kids in the future?
Remember Marcus Trufant? Here was an interesting high-character kid out of Tacoma, but relegated to two-star status with an "OK" upside. (To loosely translate, two stars basically amounts to Pac-10 roster filler out of a scale of one-five stars). A fringe starter, likely a special-teamer and backup for his four years of college ball. Hardly an all-conference/All-American type, and certainly not a high NFL first-rounder.
But that IS the story of Marcus Trufant. He came in, took to the coaching of Chris Ball, Bill Doba and others on the defensive side of the ball, worked his tail off, and the rest is history. What if he would have been written off with a shrug on signing day??
How about Jason Gesser? Another under-estimated kid by the recruiting wonks, mainly for a lack of prototype size (a less-than-imposing 6'1" and on the skinny side when he signed) and missing the big-time arm or elite speed. Yet all Gesser did from his redshirt frosh season was make plays and lead the team to consecutive 10-win seasons, including a Pac-10 title his senior year. Mike Price called him the MVP in the history of WSU athletics (and Price coached Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf). All that from an unknown straight outta Hawaii??
According to the experts who do this for a living, they point out that the true BCS all-conference types just aren't plentiful in Washington. Period. SI had a pretty good read last week about where the talent is (Cali, Texas, Florida) and where it isn't. And UW honks will quickly pull out their press release on last year's signing day, a highly decorated collection of talent from the state, and claim that there isn't anyone comparable for this year's crop of talent. The UW class, remember, is filled with guys who are going to explode under "Sark".....
By the way, why is it UW'ers say in one breath that Ty Willingham was lazy and couldn't recruit, and that was why he was fired? Yet in their next breath, they all claim "boy was last year's recruiting class great or what!?" Or "Sark has a ton of young talent already on the roster to turn this thing around fast". How can you have a great class and a lot of young talent when your head coach can't recruit? Either you keep the cake under glass, or you eat it. Can't have it both ways....or maybe they have split the atom and figured out that only they can do it?
And meanwhile, how is a "great class" even decided anymore? Do you declare a winner on signing day, ala Dewey Beats Truman? Do you, as a fan-alum, throw a party or demand firings, all based on how grumpy old men project how high school hotshots they haven't even seen play will do in the different programs? I know the recruiting grades and rankings and such move newspapers and online premium subscriptions, but how much weight does that stuff really hold? Sort of like when the talking heads on the NFL Draft coverage unveil their winners and losers the day of the draft, it is CRAZY to fret about the rankings every February!
I remember a conversation a few years ago with someone who talked to a former WSU assistant about a specific signing class. If you can recall, there was much excitement over the class that signed in February 2004, coming off the Holiday Bowl win. But among all the hype and hoopla, the conversation went like this:
Alum: "Hey, looks like you guys got a GREAT recruiting class! Lots of high-ranked kids, some big-time talent coming in!"Maybe the sensible thing is to wait until at least a few seasons have passed and the recruits have settled in? You know, after they actually passed admissions, kept up their grades, practiced well, hit the weight room, stayed healthy and out of trouble, learned the playbook and are actually PLAYING to see how things are working out? Let's see what happens with a few years of the Paul Wulff weight room GAUNTLET, where these kids can get into a serious program that can make them bigger/stronger/faster with proper instruction and nutrition.
WSU Assistant: "Eh.....talk to me in four years."
Most of all, when it comes to signing day, RELAX. Let the naysayers downplay the state of, well, the state. Trust the process, understand the time and hard work it will take, and hope the coaches in place who are actively out there recruiting will get the job done. But give the kids a chance to show what they can do, before they are labeled nobodies. You just never know who will break through, or who will never make it.
ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!