So I guess the worst recruiting secret in modern WSU history was finally made official last night, as former Coug recruit Bishop Sankey turned his back to Paul Wulff and the rest of the coaching staff, casting his lot with the University of Washington. I say worst recruiting secret because the rumors have been rumbling for months now that young Bishop had been wavering on his earliest-verbal-ever commitment to WSU since, oh, last spring, when the word "soft" started to get thrown around? Soft is basically the equivalent of saying "I'm committed, but I'm looking for something better." And recently, WSU appeared to be focusing more on the running back position, and even received a verbal commit from speedy back Marcus Mason, posessor of a 4.39 40-time and 7.7 yards-per-carry average.
But this isn't a "we didn't want him anyway" post. No, that's not it at all. We DID want Sankey. And losing him to an in-state rival is the equivalent to taking a football in the lower region, no doubt about it.
I guess we could tear into the reasons as to why Sankey pulled the switcheroo. We could blame the departure of running backs coach Steve Broussard, who was often mentioned as a big reason why the Sankey's were enamored enough with WSU to make such an early verbal commitment (note - Sankey committed in December of '09. If you recall, shortly thereafter Broussard left the WSU program and ended up at ASU). We could blame the kid himself, saying he was only an early commit so he could get on the recruiting map, and therefore look more appealing to any number of BCS programs. We could blame UW for poaching yet another WSU verbal for the second time in a week, as they grabbed Stephen Nembot last week, now they've removed Sankey's name from the WSU verbal commit list.
I do have to admit that I have an issue with that term though, "poaching". Is it really poaching if it's still hunting season?? Poaching by definition is to hunt game illegally. But it's not like Sankey was enrolled and Sarkisian and company stormed his dorm room and bagged him in the middle of the night when nobody was looking. Nope, young Sankey was fair game the whole time. As much as coaches like to hope that there is some sort of a "gentlemen's agreement" to not recruit Pac-12 athletes once they commit to a Pac-12 school? Well, here we are.....
But really, what's the point? It's been said a thousand times around here, there and everywhere, and we'll say it again - this stuff happens EVERY YEAR, and it happens to many, many programs. It happens in Pullman, Seattle, Eugene, LA, you name it. Kids you think are all set to join the ranks suddenly change their minds at the last minute, and the reasons are so many that there isn't even time to cover it all. But the bottom line is that Sankey's commitment was always of the verbal variety. There was never anything truly "binding" about it. As Paul Wulff has lamented for the last couple of years now, the soft commit status has to just drive him crazy. Until they can implement an early signing period in NCAA football, where kids can put pen to paper in, say, July or August, somewhere in there, this will keep happening again and again and again.
Some of you might wake up today and try to blame Wulff for what's happened. You know, how the really one strong area he has performed the last couple of years was off the field. With his ability to deliver some pretty strong young talent to the Palouse, even amidst the epic struggles on the field, Wulff and the staff had done an excellent job when you look at all the circumstances. Yes, Wulff has lost Nembot and Sankey, two of the most highly regarded verbal commits on the list for 2011. But I have a hard time blaming him for this.
Why? Because let's face it - the man is officially in "lame duck" land as a head coach, isn't he? From Bill Moos' announcement after the season that the best course of action at this time is to continue with the current leadership of the football program, right down the stretch in recruiting season, are we starting to see some collateral damage from such a tepid endorsement? If Bill Moos had come right out and said Paul Wulff is our coach for the next two years, and he will get the chance to get his full five years of his contract, it would certainly make it easier for recruits to buy the message Wulff and the staff have been selling. But ask yourself, seriously, how in the world can Wulff look parents and recruits and high school coaches in the eye and tell them that he will be in Pullman beyond the 2011 season? They might all believe that they will win enough games next year, and that great things are ahead, an extension is coming, that sort of thing. But how does he really KNOW that?
The reality is, my friends, is that Paul Wulff doesn't know. He is heading into his fourth year, and it's pretty loud and clear that it's win-games-or-else time. And if we know anything about Paul Wulff, we know that he is a man of values and a man of his word. So it's not very likely that he is sitting in living rooms and lying to recruits and parents and high school coaches about his future, is it? For the first time in his WSU tenure, he doesn't know what the future holds. He can only answer those questions with his hope that it will all work out.
A few of us had a discussion about a month ago. This was before the Nembot and Sankey losses from the verbal list, and of course, we were talking recruiting. I admitted that while things looked good, I was holding my breath that we were actually going to see these kids sign. And the reason was not just the less-than-impressive endorsement from the A.D., but that for the first time, we are going to see whether this coaching staff can survive the job stability rumors that started from the first game of the 2010 season. The Bellotti-to-WSU rumors, the talk that WSU might pull the plug in the middle of the season if things didn't turn around, names like Mike Leach were thrown around, etc. You know the stuff I'm talking about! But even though the 2008 and 2009 seasons were a struggle, Wulff wasn't totally dogged by these types of rumors and the resulting recruiting classes were pretty good overall. That wasn't the case in 2010 though. All the message board stuff and blog commenting stuff over the course of the year, I guess we are seeing now that the reality is that it can in fact hurt the rebuilding efforts.
I guess we'll see how things go over the next week. Maybe a surprise or two is coming as the final weekend approaches. But Sankey and Nembot, hey, it's not the end of the world! They have made their choices for their own reasons, and we wish them luck. And this class is still looking pretty good, and it's not over yet. The headliners for now anyway are still guys like Chester Sua, Logan Mayes, Max Hersey, etc. And it is starting to look like a decent class for the linemen, where now 11 verbal commits are either offensive or defensive players up front. The lines on both sides of the ball sorely need some depth, so this class certainly has the potential to be a big boost in the near future.
That's it for now. Enjoy your Humpday, and as always....GO COUGS!