This is the final few days of football recruiting, the final few days of football recruiting in Paul Wulff's first full class at Washington State, as defined by the first time he had all year to recruit. As the crucial season outside the season winds down, we wanted to stop and take a look at the results thus far for the Cougars. If you're interested, read on.
• Of course, nothing is official until Wednesday. That's the first day of the football letter-of-intent signing period, the key day when most of those committed to a program sign on the dotted line. As you probably know – if you're reading this post, you've probably been here before and we've talked about this a few times – the Cougars have gathered commitments like their offense scored points against Portland State – hey, it's the one game I can say that about, so get off my back. It started early and hasn't let up.
Looking at the nuts and bolts, it's possible for the Cougars to award the NCAA maximum 25 initial scholarships, there is enough room on the team to stay under the 85 limit. But as Wulff and his staff are rewarding some of the walk on standouts from last year, people like Myron Beck among others, with scholarships that count against that initial total, there are actually less than that available – and if you are wondering, WSU does not expect any APR problems this May, unlike last year when the NCAA docked the school eight rides. But WSU still might sign 20 to 25 players on Wednesday and defer some of their enrollment until the spring – grayshirting them – as they did with a couple of freshmen (Alex Reitnouer and Tim Hodgdon) and JC transfer Josh Luapo this season. Any player that signs Wednesday and then grayshirts, or comes in next spring, will count against the 2010 initials.
• As I write this, the Cougars have 17 solid commitments. That number doesn't include two players who already enrolled in school: Canadian receiver Johnny Forzani and JC tight end Peter Tuitupou, though Tuitupou, who was a good bet to start next season, has already left, deciding to follow the calling of his faith and head out on his LDS mission. With those two – yes, Tuitupou will count against WSU's initial scholarships for the year because he accepted one and enrolled before changing his mind – and the three grayshirts, the total right now is 22. As it seems Wulff has rewarded at least three players with scholarships, any new commitments or signees from now on will probably mean a corresponding grayshirt, which isn't unusual at a lot of schools. Of those 22, which are the most important and why? That's the question we will try to answer here. There is no way of knowing for sure which players the coaching staff are really high on, because the NCAA prohibits them from making public comments until the players signs. The ones listed below, however, seem to hold special significance.
• Gino Simone, wide receiver, Skyline High, Issaquah: When Wulff took the job a year ago December, he threw down the gauntlet to UW. He made it clear he was going to keep the Washington state kids at Washington State. Though you'll get some arguments among football folks, Simone is either the highest-rated or second-highest rated of the state's high school seniors. Getting his commitment back in August was a coup for Wulff, and so was keeping him committed after new UW coach Steve Sarkisian made a run recently. But Simone isn't the only Washington kid committed. Of the Rivals.com top 15, six are headed to WSU. Of Scout.com's top 10, six will be in Pullman next fall.
• Justin Clayton, Siena High, Napa, Calif., and Quayshawn Buckley, Colony High, Ontario, Calif.: The duo aren't the highest rated of the Cougars high school recruits, but they are the two who are projected to play defensive tackle. And that's a thin position for WSU right now. Toby Turpin is the one returnee with any experience and, though the staff is high on redshirt junior Bernard Wolfgramm and Luapo, depth needs to be built for the future. As of now, these two might be it out of this class. One player the staff was seemingly high on, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, a Boise High lineman from the Netherlands, committed this week to Boise State, taking another freshman out of the mix.
• Travis Long, Gonzaga Prep, and Chris Mastin, Lewis and Clark High: If attracting Washington kids to WSU is important, keeping the Spokane-area Division I talent on this side of the mountains is even more paramount. There aren't a lot of Pac-10 caliber players on this side of the state and the ones who have gone to WSU recently – Steve Gleason, Erik Coleman, Jeremy Williams, Josh Parrish, Andy Mattingly among others – have usually made an impact. Though nothing was ever said on the record, it was obvious the WSU coaching staff felt Long (No. 89 pictured above) was as important a player to sign as anyone on their list. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is athletic enough and big enough to someday play just about any position on either line, the type of player the Cougars can't get enough of.
• Jeff Tuel, quarterback, Clovis West High, Clovis, Calif.: All quarterbacks are important to a college football program, but Tuel is the first Wulff and offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy enticed to Pullman. The 6-2 Tuel seems to have the skills Sturdy is looking for to run his offense: A good arm and quick feet. His feet are so good, in fact, he reportedly had the second fastest shuttle time in the nation of all the high school quarterbacks tested.
• Forzani: For a guy who didn't play high school football, Forzani may end being the Cougars biggest prize of the year. The 6-1, 205-pound receiver has been playing for the Calgary's Stampeder's junior team and not only is fast, but quick off the line as well. And, according to WSU coaches, he is strong enough to break through press coverage – something lacking in many of WSU's receivers last year – and engage and drive a defensive back in the running game – ditto. If Forzani can adjust quickly to college rules – hey, when you're used to running forward before the snap, it can be a hard habit to break – he should start the opener against Stanford.
• Those are the players that seem to be crucial parts of this class. Come Wednesday, we'll hear what Wulff thinks of each of the players signing letters of intent. But there is little doubt Wulff and his staff will have a lot to trumpet. Then, in a couple of years or so, we'll see how good the class really is. Because that is the real test. Not the ratings, but the play on the field.
• That's it for this morning on the football side of things. We'll be back a little later today with our look back at the basketball game. Till then ...