Happy Tuesday Morning Cougar Nation!
First of all, I must apologize for my extended absence from the blog and Twitter, the last week has brought about a series of turns and twists that were unexpected, which took away from my ability to keep a constant eye on the Crimson & Gray Newswire.
What I wanted to do today was take a look at our Football Roster beyond the 2011 season, to continue reading, click "Read More" below.
Over on the Cougfan Message Boards, and even in some of my posts here, I have made it known I believe our coaching staff will have a difficult time on the recruiting trail for the 2012 class, given their current Lame Duck Status. Some people have tried to tell me that's an unfair title to bestow upon them, but unfortunately it's true. In this day and age, college coaches never make it into the final year of a contract; they're either fired or extended before the final season. How brutal were the recruiting classes of Bill Doba and Tyrone Willingham, while each was still coaching, but unsure of their job beyond the season they were currently coaching?
In Wulff's first three seasons on the job, he and his staff have averaged ten verbal pledges by the start of the season, so I was convinced these guys would be lucky to have two or three by the time September rolled around. Yet here we are on July 12th, roughly seven weeks from kickoff, and these guys already have eight verbal commitments! Although I was doubting this staff, I did say if anybody could prove me wrong in their ability, it would be these guys. More of an, "I'm not doubting your ability, but the circumstances stacked against you are brutal!" if you will.
Of our commits, we have two Safeties, two WR, and one each at RB, QB, DT, and MLB.
Wanting to know what the scholarship math for what our program currently looks like, I compared notes with the current roster on the Official Website, as well as the 2011 Verbal Commitment list. On the current roster, I see 48 scholarship players returning (16 Sr, 17 Jr, 15 So), as well as Max Gama and Eli Edwards who will be enrolling as Grayshirts in January 2012. The edition of 17 players this Summer and Fall should bring the number to 67. I classified Jeff Tuel as the only possible candidate to leave Pullman after this season to play in the NFL, but if he returns, we are looking at 68 guys. Alex Mitchell, Wendall Taiese, and Rahmel Dockery are not included in the 17 players set to enroll. The only walk-on player I see who could potentially earn a scholie is Andrew Furney.
By my math, I see 67-72 scholarship guys from 2011, being on our roster in 2012. But we all know things don't always work out according to plan, and some players will become ineligible, transfer elsewhere, or never make it to Pullman (see, Arthur Burns, DBB, and Aire Justin). So for the Class of 2012 as of today, and not January 31st, 2012, I for see this staff signing no more than 20 players.
As I mentioned, above, eight of those slots are already filled with verbals. This is where things start to scare me.
Beyond the 2011 season, only nine scholarship OL are returning, including; Rico Forbes, John Fullington, Tim Hodgdon, Taylor Meighen, Tyson Pencer, Alex Reitnouer, Jake Rogers, Dan Spitz, and Matt Goetz. Of those nine, only John Fullington is somebody who I would consider experienced. While all of those guys could prove themselves to be extremely valuable to our OL Rotation this season, how scary do things look in 2012 and beyond? Now I am not trying to be a "Glass Half Full Guy" here, but let's be honest with ourselves.
Let's say for hypothetical's sake, you were kidnapped and the ransom to your family was your death if the the 2012 WSU Football team failed to produce a 1,000 yard RB. How confident would you feel in your chances of living, behind an OL of Fullington, Forbes, Hodgdon, Goetz, Pencer, Rogers, and Reitnouer? While they could all potentially develop into a nice group, what if Wendall Taiese and Alex Mitchell never see Pullman? What if Pencer, Hodgdon, and a handful of walk-ons decide to hang up their cleats? Not much depth there. We all know Coach Wulff and this staff have done an excellent job recruiting, because in the darkest hours of our program's history, they have brought talented players into our program. However, they have had their fingerprints on parts of five classes, and for reasons unknown to me they have failed miserably to recruit/retain, high school, OL. Sebastian Valenzuela and William Prescott both retired, Jake Rogers is a RS Fr currently in our two deeps, and John Fullington looks like a future NFL Tackle. That is four total, high school OL. While one JuCo OL has came and made a mark and a few others are in school now and looking to make a mark, we need to continue recruiting OL to make this work. When nearly half your starters on offense play on the line, landing one per class, and retaining even fewer makes building depth incredibly difficult.
While there is potential for this position if Mitchell or Taiese make it in, a walk-on or two develops into a Pac 12 caliber OL, and we land four or five of the nearly 30 known offers to OL; guys like Sam Flor, Alex English, Josh Mitchell, Walker Williams, and Jake Eldrenkamp. However, let's not count the chickens before they hatch. As a former linemen himself, Wulff knows the importance of a quality OL, and this is one group of coaches that I believe will get the job done.