PULLMAN – The recruits who signed national letters of intent Wednesday to play football at Washington State came from as far away as Alabama and Florida, and were described by coach Mike Leach as members of “the best class we’ve had at Washington State.”
However, those players may not have signed with the Cougars if not for the efforts of the players who were recruited before them.
“It’s the best (class) we’ve had here and I think our players on campus deserve some credit for that,” Leach said. “They competed and made some of these guys feel at home. Occasionally we brought in some guys that didn’t mix well with our team, so we didn’t select them.
“Our players helped us evaluate that.”
In addition to recruits’ experiences with current players during their visits to the school, Leach doesn’t “think there is any question” that the Cougars benefitted from unparalleled continuity on the WSU coaching staff. With new head coaches or coordinators at Pac-12 schools such as Oregon, USC, Washington and others, the Cougars didn’t suffer assistant turnover at any position.
Leach maintains that there is no chaff among the recruits and said he would rather save a scholarship than offer it to someone the staff wasn’t keen on.
“We didn’t settle on any of them,” Leach said. “We believe they’re all great players and you can tell that how it was contested and all the scholarship offers this group had from a variety of places.”
While the WSU class was ranked No. 10 in the conference by Scout.com and No. 12 by Rivals.com, other college coaches thought highly of WSU’s incoming players.
Quarterback Peyton Bender rejected a scholarship offer from Penn State, and schools that annually recruit well such as Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Oregon reportedly offered players who signed with WSU.
Leach puts more stock in the opinions of fellow coaches than of Internet analysts.
“There’s been four- and five-star guys, historically, that I thought were awful,” he said.
Leach said that some players will be counted on to contribute immediately. Who those players are could be determined by their mental readiness as well as physical.
“Changes start setting in and there’s a different lifestyle with classes and all that,” Leach said about the challenges a first-year player faces. “It kind of clouds a guy’s mind. When he clears that, he gets better in his tasks both in the classroom and on the football field.”
Fans who follow WSU recruiting received a signing day surprise on Wednesday when Deion Singleton sent in his letter of intent. The cornerback moved to Pasco from Tallahassee, Fla., and had been offered by successful Southern programs such as Louisville, Mississippi, and others.
Billed by recruiting services as a hard-hitting safety, Singleton will play cornerback for the Cougars. Leach called the 6-foot-1 Singleton a “tall, rangy secondary player” and “just an incredible athlete.”