OK, we’ve cobbled together our story on the football recruits signed today. We actually put together a more in-depth one for you blog readers, so read on.
• This is the unedited version, in a longer form, of the story that will appear in tomorrow’s S-R. Afterward, we have some notes. …
PULLMAN – Washington State University announced the signing of 22 players to football letters of intent Wednesday, a number that was neither remarkable nor unexpected.
But coach Paul Wulff’s third recruiting class – second with a full year or more to cultivate prospects – is remarkable in one area and unexpected in another.
The remarkable part is the number of signees from Spokane’s Greater Spokane League. The unexpected came in the form of a highly rated linebacker from Florida and the late loss of two committed players.
Three GSL performers, Mead’s Aaron Dunn, Ferris’ Connor Halliday and Shadle Park’s Jake Rodgers, followed through on their long-standing commitments and faxed in their letters of intent in the morning.
“I guess I was just really excited to finally have it done, because it’s been a really long time,” said Dunn, a highly rated tight end who committed following his sophomore year. “It seems like years, years, years ago when I committed. This day has been coming for a long time.”
And it’s been a long time since this large of a GSL group has signed with WSU. According to the school’s records, it’s been since 1984, when four players accepted scholarships. One of those, former Lewis and Clark coach Tom Yearout, has an inkling of why that is.
“It’s Pac-10 football, the highest level of football in the country,” said Yearout, who signed as a receiver from Shadle Park. “I think two from a league is great and this year is extraordinary.”
Wulff believes this is an extraordinary group, calling it “as good a class that has come here.”
The unit currently includes 20 high school seniors and two junior college offensive linemen who are already enrolled at WSU. Because NCAA Division I schools can award up to 25 first-year, or initial, scholarships a season, Wulff said he expects to add at least one more junior college receiver and possibly a defensive lineman.
The best player the Cougars enticed into signing might be the most unexpected.
C.J. Mizell, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker from Tallahassee, Florida, signed with Florida State last year but failed to qualify academically. While spending the past 12 months overcoming that problem, Mitzell dropped off most schools’ radar.
But Wulff said a friend of former WSU receiver Devard Darling, a transfer from Florida State himself, helped the Cougar coaches learn Mizell had qualified and was available.
“It just happened real late,” Wulff said. “He’s a kid who doesn’t like to answer his cell phone or deal with all that stuff. We actually had to coerce him to take the trip. … It really was just one of those things, it was quiet. We tried to keep it quiet, we just thought a lot of people would jump in.”
Part of Mizell’s reluctance might have stemmed from having never flown in an airplane until last weekend’s trip to Pullman. But once here, the former four-star recruit committed. He does come with some baggage, however.
“We did our background check with C.J., he had had a few incidents,” said Wulff of Mizell, who had run-ins with authorities in high school. “Once we found out in detail from all the people involved, they are not as serious as they may appear via media reports, probably, although there have been some things that have happened.
“He just wants to go some place, have fun, get his degree (and) play football.”
Mizell’s signing overshadowed the loss of two committed players, Sacramento tight end Asante Cleveland (to the University of Miami) and defensive end Maxx Forde (to Idaho), son of former WSU linebacker Brian. Both players told WSU coaches this week they were headed elsewhere.
“(Commitments) matter,” said Wulff, who stated later he was not singling out any particular school. “When you have people who don’t have the scruples and/or the integrity to come in and, regardless of a kid’s decision, they’re going to continue to recruit them, get these kids to change their mind or their commitment, I think it’s wrong.”
The Cougars did sign five defensive backs – all of whom Wulff feels have a shot to play next year – and five receivers, including two from California, Kristoff Williams and Marquess Wilson, Wulff feels could get on the field as freshmen.
Eleven of the signees hale from Northern California, an area Wulff has made a priority in recruiting.
“If you look at (WSU’s) history, there has been tremendous success with players who have come from (Northern California),” said Wulff, who grew up in the Sacramento area. “They’ve come to Pullman, adapted extremely well and had great careers.”
When asked what areas he had identified as needed improvement, Wulff talked about the speed and size of players.
“You look at our team,” said Wulff, who is 3-22 in his first two WSU seasons, “and we need bigger bodies, bigger frame and more speed. We kind of need all of it.”
Both Dunn (6-6, 235 pounds) and Rodgers (6-7, 245), tight ends in high school, have the frame part covered, along with another Washington product, offensive lineman John Fullington (6-6, 270).
Halliday, who led Ferris to the state 4A finals last fall, hopes to add to his 6-5, 186-pound frame.
“I’m going in there this year hoping I’ll have a full year to redshirt,” said Halliday, mentioning sophomore Jeff Tuel and junior Marshall Lobbestael as quarterbacks he knows he’ll be competing with. “That’s kind of the plan and that’s what I want to do.”
Wulff, while happy with the 2010 recruits, is ecstatic about attracting so many GSL players down U.S. 195 to play, including invited walk-ons Jacob Miller, a kicker punter from Central Valley, and Lewis and Clark receiver Austin Ehlo, who WSU didn’t name Wednesday because his application isn’t far enough along in the process.
“It’s a big deal for a lot of reasons,” Wulff said. “Just the fact there family can be part of their career is a special thing. And I think Spokane gets even more excited about teams that have local players.
“Of all the schools in the Pac-10, Washington State is the one school that if they have local players on their football team, it seems to mean more to their fans.”
• OK, a few more notes. As we said earlier, because there was a scholarship available, Wulff gave it to Casey Hamlett, a defensive end who worked as hard as anyone last year. If I can inject some opinion, and remember this comes from a walk-on who earned some scholarship money back when tuition cost less than a month’s rent today, he deserved it. … My guess is WSU may announce another signing this week, of a junior college wide receiver. … If the Cougars can run down another defensive lineman – Wulff said it was a down year on the coast for d-linemen – it won’t be until closer to the start of school and will be from the JC ranks. WSU offered a few JC d-linemen who ended up at other BCS schools. … When Wulff was talking about schools continuing to pressure kids who have committed, he didn’t mention Cal by name, but Dunn did, telling me he turned down an offered trip and a home visit from Jeff Tedford because a commitment was a commitment to him. Wulff got into that as well, saying parents are the first line of defense. If they made it clear a decision had been made and shut the door, the kids would have a better time of it. … Wulff went into great detail about the school’s investigation of Mizell’s background, mentioning “incidences,” plural. All I could find was one marijuana incident as a senior and even then I couldn’t confirm an arrest. Wulff said Mizell met with academic people and others while on his visit and they were impressed. Though Mizell is out of shape, Wulff feels if he can get to Pullman in either May or by summer school in June, he has a shot at starting this fall. … Looking at the list of signees, it’s obvious WSU was looking to improve its speed in the back line of the defense – and size there as well. There are only two 5-10 corners (Tracy Clark and Damante Horton), both of whom seem to have enough quickness that Wulff said they should be in the mix this fall. … Late addition Devontae Butler is a big running back (5-11, 180) that Wulff said is a partial qualifier and on track to become a full qualifier by the end of the semester. He’s also from Sacramento’s Grant High, a school WSU wants to mine more in the future. … Wisconsin’s Eric Oertel was the first player to have his LOI in. He’ll start off at WSU as a running back, but may end up at linebacker at some point. … Shadle’s Rodgers might end up being a great drive-blocking offensive tackle, an all-Pac-10 caliber one even, according to one high school coach I talked with. … The two JC offensive lineman and last year signee Brandon Rankin have made an impression on their teammates already. A defensive lineman went out of his way to tell me how hard Wade Jacobson was working in the weight room. … WSU announced three preferred walk-ons, including two kickers, Andrew Furney from Burlington, and Miller, who might be Reid Forrest’s replacement some day at punter. The Cougars also expect Ehlo and two brothers, Jacob and Lucas Sealby, from Wenatchee, to walk-on. … Wulff finished the day talking about new offensive line coach Steve Morton, who was his first position coach at WSU, saying the veteran line coach will improve the guys up front. He also mentioned James Montgomery is recovering nicely from microfracture surgery on his knee and from his lower-leg injury. I saw James this week and he was walking with a slight limp, but getting along fine. … Here are some capsules of the recruits from the Times.
• That’s all for now. We’ll back in the morning. Until then …