Washington State’s Rose Bowl season has vaulted the Cougars into more pristine recruiting territory, marking a departure from the days when they could not compete with Washington in the quest to attract high-profile talent.
WSU has received oral commitments from 19 recruits, led by Kevin Brown, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound All-America tailback from City College of San Francisco.
Of the 19, 15 are high school seniors. Of the four JC recruits, only Brown has been identified. The others include a receiver, defensive end and defensive back.
Three more transfers have already signed and enrolled this month; punter Kareem Anderson, quarterback Bryan Paul and receiver Alexe Rodopolos signed last month and started attending classes this month. They count toward last season’s scholarship limit.
In addition to the 19 new commitments, the Cougars hope to fill four remaining scholarships by Feb. 4, the first day recruits can sign national letters-of-intent. (Until a player signs, he is free to change his mind and commit elsewhere.)
Of WSU’s prep recruits, there are six linemen, five receivers/defensive backs, two running backs, a quarterback and a linebacker.
Brown, the tailback from San Francisco, appears ready to make the most immediate impact.
He rushed for 2,112 yards in 12 games last season, leading his team to a berth in the NJCAA national championship. He carried 27 times for 328 yards during a regular-season game against Foothill, breaking O.J. Simpson’s single-game school record.
Brown, who redshirted as a freshman and has three years of eligibility left, played in a one-back offense similar to WSU’s one reason he gave his word to the Cougars.
“He visited Nebraska first, and they were probably in a little bit of shock that he wouldn’t commit right away,” said CCSF offensive coordinator Dan Hayes. “Nebraska and Washington were really hot on him.”
Winning the Pacific-10 Conference championship and playing in the Rose Bowl helped WSU’s chances.
“It solidifies their credibility, that they literally can play with anybody,” Hayes added. Brown led CCSF to an 11-1 record and No. 2 national ranking.
Signing a top tailback became a priority with the departure of senior Michael Black, a 1,000-yard rusher. DeJuan Gilmore, Jason Clayton and Miguel Meriwether return next season, but Brown might be tough to keep off the field.
Derek Dillon, a receiver from Rogers High in Puyallup, is another high-profile recruit who has given his word to WSU.
The 6-1, 175-pounder was one of 16 Northwest Nuggets as selected by the Tacoma News Tribune newspaper. Like Brown, he was reportedly fairly high on Washington’s list. “I’m really excited about this class,” coach Mike Price said, getting about as specific as the NCAA allows. “We did want to get a junior-college offensive lineman, and that’s one area that we didn’t get. But that’s OK. We had one, but we didn’t take him.”
WSU’s recruiting philosophy has been altered somewhat by the Pac-10’s ruling that severely limits opportunities for Prop 48 athletes.
Before the rule change, ineligible players could enroll at their own expense, sit out one season, become eligible and then play four years. The redshirt season was forfeited.
Frank Madu, Brandon Moore and Nian Taylor are recent examples of Prop 48 recruits who became eligible and emerged as key players at Washington State.
The revised strategy goes something like this: A high school player commits, but he doesn’t enroll until January of the following year. When he finally enrolls, he has four years of eligibility, plus a redshirt season.
“It’s the Mike Price new way of doing things,” Price said. “Now they’ll probably put in a rule somehow to stop this.”
Linebacker Raonall Smith and tight ends Ivan Mercer and Jason Littleton have taken the newer route in recent years, although Mercer ended up getting kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons.
Gerald Cook is the most recent example.
A 6-8, 245-pound defensive end from Honolulu’s Campbell High School, Cook committed last year and didn’t enroll until this month. He now stands to benefit from more than seven months of conditioning before using any eligibility, and he has already had an additional year to bulk up.
“He has winter conditioning, spring ball and then next year he’ll be a freshman and he has a redshirt year,” Price said.
If WSU’s Rose Bowl appearance has helped in recruiting, so has the recently completed weight room, Price said. The 14,000-square-foot facility is among the best in the country.
“I ask kids about the best thing they liked about their visits,” Price said, “and just about nine times out of 10, that’s what the kids say - it’s the weight room.
“The next thing we need to do is take care of the locker room for the players,” he added.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: COMMITTING TO COUGARS WSU has received 19 oral commitments - 16 high school players and three JC transfers. Three additional JC transfers enrolled this month and will count toward last season’s scholarship limit. Among the players who have given oral commitments: 1. RB Kevin Brown, 6-2, 220; City College of San Francisco; first-team JC All-America. 2. WR Derek Dillon, 6-1, 175; Rogers High, Puyallup, Wash.; PrepStar All-America. 3. WR Tim Lemon, 6-1, 175; La Mirada, Calif.; PrepStar All-America. 4. WR David Baker, 5-10, 160; Curtis High, Tacoma; SuperPrep preseason All-America. 5. QB Jason Gesser, 6-3, 190; St. Louis High, Honolulu; passed for 5,491 yards, 61 touchdowns and eight INTs during prep career. 6. OL Joey Hollenback, 6-5, 285; Enumclaw, Wash.; consensus all-state selection. 7. DL Brian Hollenberg, 6-4, 240; Kamiakin High in Kennewick; consensus all-state selection. 8. OL Tyler Hunt, 6-3, 265; Wilson High in Tacoma; did not allow a sack during senior season. 9. RB Jelani Harrison, 6-2, 195; Sierra High in Gardena, Calif.; originally committed to Cal; ran 10.56 in 100 meters. 10. OL/DL Phil Locker, 6-6, 300; Chugiak High in Eagle River, Alaska; consensus all-state DL. 11. LB/DE Fred Shavies, 6-2, 240; Fremont High in Oakland, Calif.; outstanding student; had 112 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions as a senior. 12. WR Mike VanManen, 5-10, 180; Centennial High in Pueblo, Calif.; low-profile recruit with excellent speed. 13. DB/WR Virgil Williams, 6-2, 190; Curtis High in Tacoma; similar size as current WSU receiver Nian Taylor. 14. RB Ramin White, 6-0, 190; McClymonds High in Oakland, Calif; served as punter, kicker and quarterback for option-oriented offense. 15. DL/OL Derrick Roche, 6-6, 255; Kentridge High in Kent, Wash.; consensus all-state defensive lineman. NOTE: Punter Kareem Anderson and quarterback Bryan Paul are JC transfers who enrolled this month. Receiver Alexe Rodopolos, a transfer from Iowa, enrolled last season. Defensive lineman Gerald Cook, a 6-8, 245-pounder from Honolulu’s Campbell High, enrolled this month and has four years of eligibility.