Why should coaches care where a player comes from? What is the virtue of stressing instate recruiting?
The folks at CougCenter had an interesting discussion on the topic yesterday, asking whether or not strengthening recruiting in Washington should be a priority when WSU hires its new coaches.
It's a good time to ask whether or not that matters since there aren't any Washington high school seniors that are publicly committed to playing at WSU next year. The most instate players Mike Leach has recruited in one years was six in 2013, a group that yielded two redshirt freshman starters this season in right tackle Cole Madison and middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer, as well as a player that likely would have contributed but for injuries in safety Isaac Dotson.
It's not like the Cougars have ignored instate recruiting this year – Rivals.com lists 13 Washington high school seniors that have or have had scholarship offers from WSU.
But as Brian Anderson posits in the CougCenter piece, perhaps the staff isn't expending extra energy on the local recruits when there are more players they like better elsewhere.
So, is it worth prioritizing recruiting in the Evergreen State?
My initial feeling was that it is important for teams to recruit well in their home state because that is where the built-in advantage lies. When a coach recruits an elite athlete from Florida or Texas to WSU, he has to introduce the player to the program and the school, and start recruiting them from scratch.
That player has likely grown up following other schools and hasn't spent a lot of time envisioning himself in a WSU jersey.
Conversely, a local player already has a lot of obvious reasons to attend the school. If they were just a normal student going off to college they are statistically more likely to choose the local school than any other particular school for all the same reasons: friends, family, familiarity, connections to local jobs, a desire to live in the area after graduation, growing up rooting for the school's teams, etc.
Therefore, the importance of recruiting well locally is to keep those ties strong – you want the seventh grader from Spokane who grows into a five-star recruit to spend his childhood rooting for the Cougars because the three-stars that were the childhood heroes of he and his friends played there.
There may be other intangible benefits to having local prep stars on the team in terms of fan engagement or whether or not players are less likely to get homesick and transfer, but I bet a winning program with out-of-state players does just fine in those respects compared to a losing one made up of local duds.
Still, I wanted to explore the idea that the best way to get impact players into a program is to lock up the home state.
First, I looked at members of the WSU athletics Hall of Fame that played football from since 1980. I did not include players from previous teams because that would skew the numbers vastly in favor of recruiting instate players since recruiting did not used to be the national enterprise it is today. Here is what I found:
Instate players: 6
Drew Bledsoe (1992) – Walla Walla; Dan Lynch (1984) – Spokane; Jason Hanson (1991) – Spokane; Mark Rypien (1985) – Spokane; Mike Utley (1988) – Seattle ; Steve Gleason (2000) – Spokane
Out of state players: 1
Reuben Mayes (1985) – North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada
Wow! What a blowout for the home team! Six instate Hall of Famers and just one that came from a different state, in fact a different country. Of course, many of the players from that era simply haven't been inducted yet, and a sample size of seven players over three and a half decades simply won't do.
So let's expand the search to WSU's first team all-conference players from the same era:
Instate players: 22
Brandon Gibson (2008) – Puyallup; Calvin Armstrong (2003) – Centralia; Chad Eaton (1994) – Rogers; Clarence Williams (1992) – Renton; Dan Grayson (1989) – Woodland; Dan Lynch (1984) – Spokane; Deron Pointer (1993) -- Tacoma; Derrick Roche (2002) – Kent; Drew Bledsoe (1992) – Walla Walla; Drew Dunning (2002) – Issaquah; Erik Coleman (2003) – Spokane; James Darlins (1996) – Kettle Falls; Jason Hanson (1991) – Spokane; John Husby (1990) – Bellevue; Josh Parrish (2002) – Chelewah; Marcus Trufant (2002) – Tacoma; Mark Rypien (1985) – Spokane; Mike Utley (1988) – Seattle ; Mkristo Bruce (2006) – Issaquah; Rien Long (2002) – Anacortes; Steve Gleason (2000) – Spokane; Will Derting (2005) – Okanogan
Out of state players: 22
Anthony McClanahan (1993) – Bakersfield, California; Deone Bucannon (2013) – Fairfield, California; DeWayne Patterson (1994) – Oakland, California; Don Sasa (1994) – Long Beach, California; Eric Frampton (2006) – San Jose, California; Eric Howard (1985) – San Jose, California; Eric Williams (1983) – Stockton, California; Jason David (2003) – Covina, California; Jason Gesser (2002) – Honolulu, Hawaii; Jerome Harrison (2005) – Kalamazoo, Michigan; Kerry Porter (1986) – Great Falls, Montana; Keith Millard (1983) – Pleasanton, California; Kitrick Taylor (1986) – Arvada, California; Lamont Thompson (2001) – Richland, California; Leon Bender (1997) – Santee, California; Mark Fields (1994) Cerritos, California; Matt Elisara (1981) – Pago Pago, American Samoa; Paul Sorensen (1981) – Walnut Creek, California; Reuben Mayes (1985) – North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada; Ryan Leaf (1987) – Great Falls, Montana; Scott Sanderson (1996) – Concord, California; Shawn Tims (1997) – Vallejo, California; Steve Broussard (1989) – Los Angeles, California
That's more like it. The out of state players caught up to the instate guys, and both groups have players spaced out fairly evenly over the years. It's obvious that the Cougars have always drawn some of their best players from outside the state, usually from California.
It's also worth pointing out that recruiting star players outside the state will only get easier the further we get into the internet era. The fact that Pac-12 football games are being televised at an unprecedented rate certainly doesn't hurt, either.
But considering the respective populations of this state vs. the field, the quality most likely to make a future all-conference player choose WSU is being from Washington.
Talent is talent and of course the coaches should always take the most talented players they can get. But the answer to the question of whether or not instate recruiting should continue to be a priority seems to be a resounding yes, in my opinion.
What do you think?
Here are some links:
-- Isiah Myers will play in a postseason All-Star game.
-- Deone Bucannon made the Pro Football Writers' All-Rookie team.
-- WSU checks in at No. 10 in some Pac-12 power rankings that are way too early.
-- Washington's coach has no idea who will start at quarterback next season.
-- Oregon's Arik Armstead will go pro. But should Marcus Mariota come back to school?
-- Only two basketball games today, but it's a pair of rivalries. UCLA and USC each could use a big win to lift their spirits while Cal and Stanford appear to be headed in opposite directions.
-- Utah quarterback Adam Schulz is transferring to Houston.