With football letter-of-intent day coming up Wednesday, we had some time this week to look at Washington State’s recruiting. I talked with WSU coach Paul Wulff as he was riding down the highway in California, where he’s spent a lot of time this past offseason. It’s seemingly paid off, what with 14 players from the state having already given WSU a commitment. The Cougar coach didn’t talk specifics – he can’t until the players sign – but he did talk about the process and how he felt it went. Read on for the unedited version of the story that will appear in Sunday’s paper.
• Here’s the story …
PULLMAN – Paul Wulff can’t wait for Wednesday.
Think a kid the week before Christmas. Think vacationer en route to Hawaii. Think fly fisherman headed to St. Joe’s mayfly hatch.
Washington State University’s football coach can’t wait for letter-of-intent day to arrive. And he has his reasons. Somewhere around 25 of them.
“I said this a number of years ago at (Eastern Washington) when we brought in a couple special classes back-to-back,” Wulff said last week. “This is the type of class that can bring you a conference championship.
“These type of classes that we are bringing in, the last one in addition to the one we’re bringing in this year, it would really surprise me if they don’t have the potential to bring a championship to Washington State.”
Pretty bold words from a coach of a team coming off a 1-11 season. But Wulff is that enamored with the group he and his assistant coaches have attracted.
“There is enough talent and enough kids with the right character from the neck up, they just have that ability,” Wulff said, riding through California’s Sacramento Valley en route to talking with more recruits. “It’s not a prediction, but I do feel very strongly this is the type of group that can do that.”
Though Wulff cannot talk about individual players until they sign, he can talk about the process.
Some of the headliners of the class expected to sign Wednesday include local products like tight end Aaron Dunn of Mead, the only WSU recruit to earn a four-star (out of five) rating from Scout.com. Two other local players, Shadle Park tight end Jake Rodgers and quarterback Connor Halliday of Ferris, will send in their letters of intent on signing day.
WSU’s list of recruits includes two junior college offensive linemen, Wade Jacobson and David Gonzalez, who are already in school. Of the 20 other committed players, 14 are from California, five from Washington and one, linebacker Eric Oertel, from Wisconsin.
Only three Cougar commitments came from the West Side and one, Woodinville High defensive end Maxx Forde, is a legacy. His father Brian played linebacker at WSU in the mid-1980s. The other two: offensive lineman John Fullington from North Mason High, who committed about a year ago, and speedster Blair Bomber from Lynden High.
“We got some really good players from the state of Washington,” Wulff said.
But two rankings of Washington seniors – Rivals.com and Scout.com – have no more than two WSU recruits in their top 10 (Rivals has Halliday at No. 9 while Scout has Dunn at No. 3 and Rodgers at No. 10). UW has attracted six of the Scout group and five of Rivals’.
“They got good players in their backyard, players we liked,” Wulff said of WSU’s cross-state rival, “but we got good players in our backyard as well, players they also recruited.”
The overall rankings of the classes varies as well, with Scout listing WSU’s group of commits 35th nationally (it ranks 120 schools). Rivals has the Cougars 84th out of the 137 schools it ranked. Such numbers draw disdain from some.
ESPN’s Tom Luginbill, who oversees the sports network’s recruiting coverage, thinks such lists are worthless.
“In my opinion, going outside of say a top 10 or 15 is nothing more than a crapshoot,” Luginbill told Buster Sports’ Nick Daschel last week. “Especially when you are getting into the 30s, 50s or even 80s. Personally I think it is ludicrous that anyone would have actual published rankings in the 80s. All it does is make you look less credible.”
Wulff feels the same way.
“It’s really obvious kids rankings jump tremendously when they commit to a certain school,” he said. “And some kids don’t change when they commit to other schools. It’s kind of funny.
“It’s so false and unreliable. Unfortunately, people look at these rankings and put credence into them.”
What do coaches put credence in? The players’ build, athletic ability, academic record, character and numerous other criteria. What Wulff is looking for are players who fit his program.
“I want kids who are coming for a purpose, a mission and goal they are striving for,” he said.
When asked which areas Wulff felt were the strongest in the class, he pointed to offensive line – Jacobson, Gonzales, Fullington, Rodgers and Asante Cleveland, who like Rodgers was recruited as a tight end but may end up at tackle, are all 6-foot-5 or taller with frames that can carry 300 pounds or more – and wide receiver.
“We improved in the athleticism and frame of body on our offensive line,” Wulff said, “and the same thing at our receiver position. Those two positions in this class are very, very good.”
Though schools can only bring in 25 new recruits each year, they often sign more than that, as some players may not qualify academically and others may delay enrollment until next spring, a process called grayshirting. One player who did that last year, junior college defensive end Bernard Rankin, is on campus and is expected to contribute this fall.
“He’s a lot bigger than we thought,” Wulff said. “He’s 280 pounds now – he played at Butte (College) at probably 245 pounds – so he’s gotten bigger. Some of that is he’s a little out of shape, because he missed a year playing, but he also got stronger.”
Though there are only a few days left, Wulff’s staff isn’t done – as his phone call’s location indicates. WSU hopes to attract a couple more defensive linemen and possibly another defensive back.
“We’ve already picked up some size at the cornerback position, some physical presence,” Wulff said. “Same at the safety spot as well.”
Erick Dargan, a highly touted safety from Pittsburgh, Calif., has told Scout.com he’s down to two schools: Oregon and WSU. Two of his high school teammates, Robert Jiles and Tracy Clark, have already committed to WSU and, if Dargan joins them, the Cougars class jumps a notch.
Whatever happens, Wulff is already pleased. So much so, he will tour the state touting the class. The first stop is Wednesday night at 6 at the Northern Quest Casino.
“We’re still trying to fill a couple spots we have open,” Wulff said. “At the same time, the core of this class is done and committed and will sign on Wednesday. It’s very exciting.”
Sort of like Christmas.
As reported by Scout.com and Rivals.com; height and weight from various sources.
Blair Bomber, WR, 5-9, 165, Lynden, Wash.
Deone Bucannon, DB, 6-2, 185, Fairfield, Calif.
Tracy Clark, DB, 5-10, 175, Pittsburg, Calif.
Asante Cleveland, TE, 6-5, 235, Sacramento
Tyrone Duckett, DB, 6-foot, 205, Alameda, Calif.
Aaron Dunn, TE, 6-6, 235, Mead High
Maxx Forde, DE, 6-4, 245, Woodinville, Wash.,
John Fullington, OL, 6-6, 270, Belfair, Wash.,
Rickey Galvin, RB, 5-8, 172, Berkeley
Brandon Golden, DB, 6-foot, 192, Covina, Calif.
David Gonzales, OL, 6-6, 295, Fresno*
Connor Halliday, QB, 6-5, 185, Ferris High
Damante Horton, DB, 5-10, 175, Oakland
Wade Jacobson, OL, 6-6, 310, Gilroy, Calif.*
Robert Jiles, WR, 6-foot, 190, Pittsburg, Calif.
Eric Oertel, LB, 6-2, 195, Racine, Wisc.
Kalafitoni Pole, DL, 6-2, 275, Union City, Calif.
Bobby Ratliff, WR, 6-2, 180, Etiwanda, Calif.
Jake Rodgers, TE, 6-7, 245, Shadle Park High
Matt Simmons, DB, 6-foot, 185, Torrance, Calif.
Kristoff Williams, WR, 6-3, 205, Antioch, Calif.
Marquess Wilson, WR, 6-3, 180, Tulare, Calif.
*Junior college transfer already enrolled in school
• That’s all for now. We’ll be back after the basketball game with our usual posts. Until then …