Oral commitments continued to trickle in on the eve of national signing day, but it appears Washington State will not immediately sign the full complement of 24 football recruits coach Mike Price expected.
Today is the first day high school and junior college prospects who are eligible to enroll next fall can sign national letters of intent with Division I schools. And by late Tuesday night, only nine had announced decisions to attend WSU.
Among those who have recently said they will accept football scholarships from the Cougars are in-state standouts Malcom Stewart, a 6-foot4, 270-pound linebacker from Yakima Eisenhower; and Jesse Ratcliff, a 6-3, 230-pound linebacker from North Thurston in Lacey.
In addition, the Cougars have received oral commitments from Takari Blash, a 6-4, 215-pound linebacker out of Las Vegas High School; Steve Birnbaum, a 6-4, 180-pound quarterback from Ayala High School in Chino, Calif.; and Earl Riley, a 6-2, 200-pound linebacker with 4.6-second speed in the 40-meter dash out of Dos Palos, Calif.
Other prospects who made earlier oral commitments to WSU include Gonzaga Prep linebacker Steve Gleason; Everett Cascade defensive back Torry Hollimon; running back Nephtlain Drummer, from Washington High in San Francisco; and running back LeJuan Gibbons, from Jordan High in Long Beach, Calif.
Six others, including four transfers and a pair of signees from last year who decided to sit out the fall semester, have enrolled and will be eligible for spring drills, which are scheduled to start next month.
Stewart, a three-year starter who helped Eisenhower to a 7-2 finish this fall, chose WSU over several national powers.
Cadets coach Greg Gavin said Stewart was contacted early by Wisconsin, Nebraska, California and Oregon.
“But because of his grade situation, they all kind of backed off,” Gavin said.
Stewart, who runs a 4.8 40 and is the leading scorer and rebounder on the Cadets basketball team, is rated by Gavin as the best all-around athlete he has coached. But he has yet to meet NCAA minimums on his college boards.
Birnbaum is considered a quarterback “project” by his coach, Mark Pasquella.
“He’s still just a baby,” Pasquella said of his lean QB, who threw for 1,778 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Bulldogs this fall. “He’s going to end up being 6-6 and about 220. His best football is still ahead of him.”
Riley was a rare three-year starter for Dos Palos and was the linebacker of the year in the Northern Sequoia League as a junior. He had 130 tackles, including six for losses, this fall and made two interceptions.
As a fullback with 4.6 speed, he rushed for 882 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 133 carries.
“He was a three-way player for us,” said Dos Palos coach Mike Sparks. “Offense, defense, special teams — he never came off the field.”
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