Happy Monday Cougs, and a back-to-reality greetings to you and yours. Here's hoping you were able to enjoy Father's Day yesterday with family and/or friends. I was able to go fishing with my Dad and youngest son on Saturday morning, and Sunday night we got together with family and enjoyed some Copper River salmon - GOOD EATS! And we got to flip between the ending of the US Open and the Miami Heat taking care of business down the stretch of an exciting NBA Finals game three. All told, a great finish to the weekend!
Back on Planet Coug, I couldn't help but notice that Mike Leach and company received another verbal commitment yesterday, as cornerback Markell Sanders from Eastside Catholic in Bellevue gave his pledge to go Crimson last night. Sanders is a good-sized prospect at corner, at 6-1, 175. Interestingly enough, he's coached at Eastside by former Coug Jeremy Thielbahr, the former physical fullback who played at WSU in the late-90's to 2001. While Sanders had other NW schools like UW, Oregon State and Boise State on his list of interest, it looks like Nevada was the only other offer he had at the moment. That can change, of course, and it often does when you see a kid pull the trigger still pretty early in the process. But for now, Sanders is coming to Pullman.
For your viewing pleasure, here's a highlight video of Sanders from last year (and if you can't view the embedded video, click here to jump to YouTube):
He looks pretty physical and seems versatile enough, playing a lot of safety and wide receiver in addition to corner, his projected position in college. Looks like a good "get" for Leach and WSU!
If you are scoring at home, that now makes five verbal commits to WSU for the class of '13, and we're still only in June (Sanders, WR Demarcus Ayers, QB Tyler Bruggman, O-lineman Cody O'Connell and cornerback Trevor Walker). It SEEMS anyway that five at this early point in the recruiting process is more than years past, but is it? Are things taking a huge step forward in the recruiting game compared to the prior regime with these early commits, or is it really just more of the same? Let's take a look, shall we?....
First, I think it has to be said that under Paul Wulff, the staff early on was publicly not real big on the so-called "early commit" game. Wulff had stated on his radio show on more than one occasion after he first took the job that he thought a lot of times, kids would do the early commit thing just as a way to get some attention, get on the radar of other schools, etc, etc, etc. In other words, there was always a hint of caution with the prior staff on the REALLY early commits. And Wulff and company were no strangers to getting left at the alter by a few of these early commits, including a running back now in the mix for a large amount of carries in purple-n-gold.....
No need to revisit the past, but, Bishop Sankey was a 4-star recruit who committed SUPER early to WSU, only to finally jump to UW late in the process.
Anyway, the whole early commit thing is just part of the process. Whether we like it or hate it, it's the dance that recruits and coaches have to play every year, as the cutthroat world of recruiting gets tougher and tougher year after year. But to put things in perspective on how it's going right now with Leach compared to the past, let's see how many commits we've had at this date in June over the last five years:
Class of 2012: Two commits as of 6/18/11 who signed with WSU: David Bucannon and Austin Apodaca. Both players were of the three-star variety, and both should be in Pullman this fall (in fact I believe Apodaca is heading to Pullman, like, right now per his Twitter feed??). To be totally fair, the job status of Wulff at this time seemed to be less-than-secure, and expecting a huge number of early commits in a year filled with uncertainly wasn't realistic.
Class of 2011: While Wulff wasn't thrilled with the early commit process, 2011 was a different story. This one is interesting (if you are interested in such things), as WSU had five verbal commits as of 6/18/10 (Max Hersey, Max Gama, Logan Mayes, Chester Sua and David Davis). It was a highly regarded group of early commits too, as Sua was a four-star commit and Davis, Mayes, Gama and Hersey were each three-star players. But if you expand the range of dates by just a few more days, WSU added FIVE MORE verbals through 6/23/10 who would end up signing with WSU. Four of these commits were from the Florida kids (Spencer Waseem, Henry Eaddy, Isiah Myers and Darryl Monroe all pledged between 6/20 and 6/22).
Class of 2010: Five more commits by 6/18/09 (Aaron Dunn, John Fullington, Jake Rodgers, Matt Simmons and Damante Horton all verballed by 6/18/09). But if you expand the date range by just one day? Add in Connor Halliday, who committed on 6/19/09.
Pretty strong early haul here, wouldn't you say? Dunn was the highest rated at four stars at the time, while the rest of the commits were all three stars. But even with Dunn transferring out of WSU, there are still five kids who have started games at WSU from these early bird-specials.
Class of 2009: Just ONE commit as of 6/18/08, middle linebacker Darren Markle. This was Wulff's first class after coaching a full season in Pullman, and sure enough the early commits weren't happening. But they definitely made a late "run" on commits in this class, as more than half of this class would commit in December or beyond of 2008. But there were some gems this cycle, as Jeff Tuel committed in August and guys like Travis Long, Nolan Washington, and Casey Locker all committed to WSU in December.
Finally, the Class of 2008: Paul Wulff's first class, but he only had six+ weeks to put it all together. The "earliest" commit for this year? Try Jared Karstetter in NOVEMBER of 2007! This was that total transition class, which often times in any coaching change can be a total crapshoot. But Wulff inherited just three verbal commitments when he took over in early December of '07, and so the early commit theme really doesn't apply here.
I guess the bottom line here - if there is such a thing - is that it IS OK TO LET YOURSELF BE EXCITED THIS EARLY IN THE RECRUITING PROCESS. Just looking at the names from prior years, you can see that there is hope that they will not only fill some needs regarding depth, etc, but there are some real legit starters from the early birds.
Yes, each recruiting story can take on a life of it's own, and different kids are in different places in the decision-making process. And while there are kids who bail, at least in recent WSU history a lot of the super-early commits do wind up at said school. There will always be recruits who are simply using the early commit process to their advantage with the often-dreaded "soft" commitment, which can be translated to "OK, I'll commit....but to all other schools, I'm listening!"
Personally I'm optimistic with how things are going with Leach in recruiting. It's early, and we need to see how they close things up next year, but the early signs are promising. Some of the doubts and criticism about Leach coming to WSU was the question about how he'll deal with Pullman, how it was a long way from Key West, etc. And how would he recruit in to Pullman with very little in the way of NW roots, a stark contrast to the prior staff? But if you just look at the last several years, it seems on paper anyway that things are more or less the same? And to me, I'm encouraged by where things stand right now!
That's about it for a Monday morning. Enjoy your day, and as always, GO COUGS!
Did we just pick up another LB commit?
Holy verbal commits Batman! Sean if your posts predict the future like this, then start writing about National Championships. We are up to seven verbals now. Three in one day.
Good article Sean. Recruiting is one my my obessions with college football because it illuminates which direction the program is headed. Paul Wullf, like him or not, was a dam fine recruiter and got the program headed in the right direction. Mike Leach will have it a bit easier with the rebranding and stadium improvements. That said, this class is shaping up to be a good one. Landing Tyler Bruggman was HUGE for this program, and it's impact cannot be undestated. We already have a stable of good QB's, and adding Tyler just makes it better. But to have a prospect as talented as Tyler comming into the program just means in a couple of years we will be competing for a PAC-12 title. Now that that's said, and I said it, with Wulff classes, and a few good recruiting classes from Leach, we WILL have the talent level to win a PAC-12 titile. There. BOOM. I called it!
I would say so far this recruiting cycle is off to a great start. A highly touted QB, two tall/versatile corners, a burner at wideout and an absolute human mountain offensive lineman. I give it an A+.
I never thought I'd read "Heat taking care of business" but you know what? Against the Thunder, I am okay (even happy?) with it.
Also, now that I've read the rest of the article, it was very interesting and informative to look back at other early recruits. They are sort of dichotomous, aren't they? That is, either they want attention or are serious, already loyal (e.g. legacy recruits), have bought into the program, etc. And since the Bishops of the world seem to get the most media attention, it is easy to forget all of the Karstetters, Su'as, etc.
I'll take the potential of losing some "quality" recruits that commit early just to get attention because when they see what WSU has to offer I believe they'll sign on the line. I especially like that Leach views these players as students #1 and athletes as #1A. We should all take pride in the overall quality of our athletes.
Terrific post, Sean! I think that this staff, perhaps more than any, is really going to catch fire with recruits once the games start. I mean, assuming that the line does okay, we should really be able to light up the scoreboard during the season's first month. And then, if Breske shows the aggressiveness that we think he will, we should start to see a lot of movement on the commit front by October 1.
How I wish the BYU game was this week!
@Sutra Only 73 days
@LucasNurmi @Sutra I do wonder how things will change. Will we see more early commits the rest of June and July? Or will things settle down and then pick up again once the season gets off the ground in September? One thing that suprised me though was not just the decent quanity of early commits from the past, but the quality the last few years has been strong. I know the Sankey recruiting situations are what we remember, but that is more the "outlier" than the norm. It seems anyway that just in the Wulff era alone, the early commits are not only making it to school, but the majority of them are working out quite well. I expected it to be a lot more split, where several of the early birds didn't work out or whatever, but that doesn't look like the case.