In the end, the class came in rated 39th per Scout.com, 8th in the Pac-10, slightly ahead of Arizona. A little lower than we thought it would finish, but still, in WSU history, one of the top-ranked classes in the modern age, only behind the 2004 class in national rating.
Today, we thought we would weigh in on some post-signing day thoughts, where each of us would belly up with three things we are taking from yesterday. So let's get to it....
Sean's Three Things:
1) Balance. One thing that struck me yesterday, seeing the NLI's reported by Joe Nickell over at the official site (great job Joe), was that there really were a lot of areas covered by yesterday's event.
I know, I know, a lot of people were/are wringing their hands over the lack of defensive tackles in this class. Just one player, Kalafitoni Pole, is actually classified as a "true" defensive tackle. But per Wulff's presser yesterday, there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, WSU coaches weren't exactly thrilled as to the defensive tackles that were available to them, up and down the west coast, but especially in the areas they hit on the recruiting trail. Yes, there were some good ones out there in the west, including Ricky Heimuli, who signed with Oregon, and Sione Potoa'e, who signed with UW, as well as some really good ones signed by UCLA. But overall, the entire Pac-10 signed just 13 players who were classified as defensive tackles! That doesn't take into consideration that some players will end up putting on weight and sliding inside, I mean it happens all the time. But still, 13 tackles among 10 Pac-10 programs, that's what, about an average of a little more than one per team? And programs like Stanford, Cal, and ASU, they didn't even sign one defensive tackle. To me that backs up the idea that the quantity of d-tackles just wasn't there, and it's especially true for where WSU recruits.
Second, per Wulff's presser, they are planning on signing one JC defensive tackle still for this year's class. And just because they didn't sign said tackle yesterday doesn't mean they still can't find some value. If you remember a few years ago, LB Kendrick Dunn and safety Alfonso Jackson both signed very late in the process, well after signing day, and both players basically started for their two years of eligibility. So it is at least possible to get some help, still, even after signing day.
But back to the theme, balance. Aside from signing a kicker or punter, they covered pretty much everywhere else. QB, some running backs, five wideouts, three offensive linemen, a top-10 tight end, some good-looking linebackers, and lots of corners and safeties. And in terms of the d-line, when you factor in that Brandon Rankin is already enrolled and will be unleashed this spring, AND some already-decent defensive line prospects like Justin Clayton and Jordan Pu-Robinson among others will be ready to go this year, you can see things coming together with the talent up front.
2) Good, but not great speed. OK, it's not a HIGH end speed class. But it is certainly fast, with reportedly up to 10 players running under a 4.7 40-time. Again, it's not a class full of burners, but if you watched this program over the last two years, clearly lack of speed has been a big problem. The overall level of speed is upped a notch with these new faces.
But that said, I am especially excited about the defensive speed that they added yesterday! You've seen this team the last couple of years, you've seen a defense that has looked, well, "plodding" is the best way to say it. Deone Bucannon, Brandon Golden, Tracy Clark, all these guys for the secondary are in the 4.5's or better. We need to see the WSU defense get back some of it's swagger, and part of that is just getting kids to fly to the football on every single play. It's a lot easier to do that when you have kids who can actually run! When you mix these guys in with some of the redshirts from last year's class, guys like Nolan Washington and Anthony Carpenter and Jamal Atofau, all guys who are in that same 4.5 area or better, and you see the overall upgrade that they have performed in the back-end of the defense. Hey, it's not world class, but it's definitely a start!
3) I'm getting over the "ones who got away" - Yes, the coaches took some hits when Asante Cleveland and Maxx Forde pulled out at the last moment and decided to sign elsewhere. Yes, it sucks, because Cleveland was a fast-rising prospect, a top-15 tight end who had an impressive highlight tape (so impressive, it got him a scholie to DA U!). And Forde's loss sucks, well, because of the reported athleticism of the kid, as well as some good size and quickness, but also because he was a "legacy" with dad Brian Forde a Cougar tackling machine back in the 80's. You LIKE to keep the bloodlines flowing if you can!
But whatever. If a kid wants to be elsewhere, so be it. This sort of thing doesn't just happen at WSU folks. It happens everywhere, and it happened yesterday, even at USC, UCLA, UW, you name it. It's a rarity that any program keeps ALL their commits, from when they give their verbal pledge all the way through signing day. And it will happen again, you can be sure of that. Like it or not, and clearly Wulff hates it, but it's the way of the recruiting world!
And, on the flip side, yes, they lost a few.....but how about the recruiting story of C.J. Mizell? What a good-looking player they grabbed from out of the blue. 6-3, 215, runs a 4.68 40 and is all over the field? A top-5 nationally rated linebacker from last year who turned down a ton of SEC schools to sign with FSU, and today he's a Coug? Thank you Devard Darling, in the once-a-Coug-always-a-Coug spirit! And thank you for those in the know for keeping that quiet! Based on everything that has been said and written about him, not only is he going to make it academically, but he's going to bring a level of speed and athleticism to the linebacker position that we just haven't seen in some time.
So there you go. All in all, yesterday was a big step forward for this program. Taking into consideration last year's class and now this year, and I believe it is safe to say that these coaches can recruit, even with a 3-22 record. Welcome to all the new Cougs!
Read on for the rest of our "takes".....
LucasCoug's Three Things:
1) How our defense develops. The last two years we have signed Tracy Clark, Tyrone Duckett, Deone Bucannon, Brandon Golden, Damante Horton, Matt Simmons, Anthony Carpenter, Casey Locker, Nolan Washington, and Jamal Atofau. Secondary Coach Chris Ball has developed a stable full of NFL DB's while a coach at Wazzu, and he must be drooling at the amount of talent oozing from our young DBs, plus the return of Chima, LeAndre Daniels, Terrance Hayward, Brandon Jones, Daniel Simmons, Jay Matthews and Aire Justin. Now, do we have any play-makers? Do I get bonus points for two liquid references in one sentence?
Our Linebacker depth includes Louis Bland, Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Darren Markle, CJ Mizell, Andre Barrington, Eric Oertel, Mike Ledgerwood, Sekope Kaufusi. That looks like a lot of freakish, but raw athleticism.
The most important part of the equation is if the boys in the trenches will be able to keep opposing OLinemen off our LBs and DBs, and that is still a huge question.
2) Do we have any offensive playmakers? The last two years, the offense hasn't really clicked a whole lot. Aside from the opening drive of the Stanford game, which was the first game last season, it seems like the offense never really got to string multiple plays together. Granted there was little time to get the play off with the porous OLine play, but is anybody going to step up and become a threat that opposing defenses have to game plan for?
My guesses are Gino Simone (heard he has put on some meat this off season) and Jared Karstetter. Do any of the incoming offensive players even see the field this year? Maybe Aaron Dunn and one or two of the WRs.
3) Wulff and Company can recruit. Even when the on field product is crap, they have still been able to go into living rooms across the country and sell families on Washington State University and themselves. Just think of how many more living rooms they will be welcome in if we start to field a competitive product.
Hello Followers. Hope you all are doing great.
First and foremost, I hope you all enjoyed the coverage that Sean provided yesterday. Outside of the great work by Cougfan (its what they do), I thought that Sean provided the best coverage on the internets, including being the first to post Wulff's post-signing reaction. Bravo!
Like LC and Sean, I have three main takes from yesterday's signing period. They are:
1) Keep it all in perspective.
First of all, I think its important for all of us to recognize how incredibly remarkable this class is given the fact that we were basically a winless team last year. Granted, we did manage to put a "1" in the win column. But, those close to the program, including recruits, know that our "victory" over SMU was a colassal fluke--there is no way in holy hell that we should have won that game. So, to finish in front on ANYONE in recruiting (let alone garner a solid class) is nothing short of a true blue miracle. And let us not forget that.
So, congrats not only Paul Wulff, but recruiting master Jody Sears for all of the work they put in. As Wulff said early on in his tenure, "no one will outwork us in recruiting." They sure showed it this year.
2) Recruiting is about the future, but for us, the future is NOW.
For some programs, recruiting sets the stage for what the program will look like in the years to come. But for us, this recruiting class had to do something to make us more competitive on the field NOW. Cuz lets face it, if we follow the campaign of last year with another 2-10 type season that is replete with blowout losses, not only will we fail to match other teams in the conference in terms of recruiting next year, we're also going to be looking for another head football coach (which will lead to another scramble class that we abosolutely can ill afford).
So, for us this year, this class needed to do something to make us better right away. For that reason, there is a lot to be REALLY excited about with this group--especially when you include our JC signees into the calculus.
Obviously, our biggest problems last year revolved around the futile play of our offensive line and our horrible inability to put any pressure on the quarterback. Now, thanks to Wulff and Co's efforts, we know have added needed depth--if not competence--to our offensive line. And, we've added Mr. Rankin to a more seasoned Travis Long at the DE. The sum? Better line play. And that will make a better football team NOW. (Remember, you don't get better practicing against Big Sky talent--you get better playing against Pac-10 talent in practice. We're MUCH closer to that now).
3) Hold your breath until June.
As Wulff noted in his interview yesterday, there are a few more signees that are in the wings. Reportedly, one of those signees is a real playmaker type at WR--something that we desperately need given the loss of Kevin Norrel. Then, of course, we have to wait and see about Mr. Buckley as well as another unnamed JC DT that is supposedly waiting in the wings. Finally, we need to see whether or not Mizell makes it to campus. If he does, as expected, then the rebuilding project on defense will be complete:
(a) We will have a completely revamped defensive line with guys who are physically ready to compete with the big boys.
(b) We will have replaced painfully slow linebackers with guys who can hit, run, and make plays.
(c) We will have added much needed speed to what has been a HORRIBLE defensive backfield.
(d) We will have amassed enough depth on defense to actually yield a faster and more competent group to play on special teams.
When you sum those factors together, this much is clear: WSU figures to be, by far and away, the most improved defensive football team in the country. Honestly, there is no one out there who will even be close.
So, as we move forward, the only real question marks for our team NOW is how that offensive line improves. As the conference gets deeper and more experienced everyday, we're going to have to improve at a rate 2 or 3 times higher than every other team in the conference just to be competitive (in each game) next year.
Thankfully, Wulff did the smart thing by supplementing a really good group of high school kids with JC talent and a FOUR STAR LB who can play right away.
Make no mistake about it, yesterday was a GREAT day for Cougar football. And if I'm Jim Sterk, I am thinking long and hard about giving Wulff a fifth year right about now.
Look for more from Longball, coming soon.
ENJOY YOUR DAY, and GO COUGS!