With signing day fast approaching, college football coaches are scrambling to fill out their 2014 recruiting classes. While these last couple weeks can be a whirlwind of activity, Washington State has received verbal pledges from a number of recruits, and only have a few spots remaining. With that in mind, I invited a couple WSU recruiting experts to come fill us in on how the class is shaping up. Braulio Perez, a Senior Correspondent at Cougfan.com and Britton Ransford, the publisher of WazzuWatch.com, were kind enough to answer some questions about WSU recruiting and the upcoming class. Part 1 of that interview is after the jump.
Q: Washington State won six games and went to its first bowl game since 2003. Have the Cougars' winning ways paid off on the recruiting trail?
Absolutely. This is an above-average recruiting staff and actually being able to show that progress in the win-column and reach a bowl game was huge in the eyes of many recruits.
While they’re still an 8 or 9 win season away from landing some of those big four star recruits, they’re already getting them on campus for visits, which is a byproduct of their progress in the win department.
Without question. The win over USC early in the year was huge for the Cougs' recruiting efforts and the continued success they had late in the season showcased to recruits that the program is starting to turn the corner. The staff has been selling the fact that Washington State is a school on the rise and to reach a bowl game in Mike Leach's second year at the helm was the ultimate way to back that notion up.
It’s also worth noting recruiting classes are built on the previous year, not only on the current season, and Leach and WSU were making hay out on the recruiting trail before posting six wins and going to a bowl game. Around one-third of the class came on board before this season began.
Q: What positions have the Cougars emphasized this recruiting cycle?
The offensive and defensive lines will always be an emphasis for the Washington State staff. Recruiting Coordinator Dave Emerick recently told Cougfan.com's Barry Bolton that those two positions are the "foundation" of a recruiting class. Emerick went on to say that defensive backs have also been a focus this cycle, with five seniors graduating after this season.
As of Tuesday evening, WSU holds known verbals from four defensive backs, five defensive lineman and five offensive lineman. Of the hosses, early prep graduate Sean Krepsz and class of 2013 Nick Begg arrived to Washington State earlier this month to begin the spring semester and participate in offseason workouts. The Cougs had six early enrollees in January that are part of this class – Krepsz, Begg, S Markell Sanders, CB Marcellus Pippins, DE Dylan Hanser and WR Calvin Green.
Heading into the 2014 cycle there was an obvious need for secondary help with five players graduating. They’ve certainly helped themselves in that category with verbal commitments from four defensive back prospects and bringing in two grayshirt defensive backs earlier this month.
Where you’ll always see this staff place the most emphasis is on the offensive line and defensive line. A flurry of commits from offensive line prospects in early December helped quell some of the concerns in that department, and the class now boasts four offensive lineman, including Sean Krepsz who has already enrolled.
They have a couple solid commits on the defensive line, but that’s a position group they’ll continue to recruit hard in the coming weeks leading up to signing day.
Q: Where do you think WSU's 2014 class will rank nationally? Where will it rank among WSU classes over the past decade?
This class was really special prior to a couple high-profile de-commitments from four-star prospects Marcus Griffin and Chandler Leniu, but it’s still a very solid group. As it stands today, WSU has the No. 55 class in the country, according to Rivals, but those rankings are a bit tricky to gauge due to how they’re calculated based on numbers of commits. I think they’ll end up somewhere around the mid-to-upper 40’s as a group, which would be on par with the 2013 class.
Ranking-wise this class isn’t going to blow anyone away with the names, but looking back on it in a few years, it could be a “turning point” class. They’re bringing in a lot of speed and a ton of playmakers, but also some “beef-hoss” with encouraging potential. If they finish strong, like they very well could, there could be some stars to come out of 2014. It’s certainly one of the top two or three classes in the last decade.
Historically, WSU ranks nationally in the 40s to low 50s. Washington State's recruiting class is currently ranked 52nd in the nation according to Scout.com. When it's all said and done, though, I would expect Washington State to finish in the low 40s. The Cougars currently have 20 known verbal commits – they are expected to add several more bodies before National Signing Day on Feb. 5. The Cougs finished 38th last season, 50th in 2012, 57th in 2011, 40th in 2010 and 43rd in 2009. I don't think WSU will beat last year's No. 38 ranking, but I certainly believe they’ll finish higher than the average from the previous five years.
Thanks again to Britton and Braulio for joining us, make sure to check in tomorrow for Part 2 of their Recruiting Q&A. You can follow Britton on Twitter @bkransford and Braulio @BraulioEPerez for more WSU recruiting news.