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Washington State overcomes late chaos to sign impressive class

Washington State head coach Mike Leach, center, and special teams coach Eric Mele speak before an NCAA college football game against Idaho in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)
Washington State head coach Mike Leach, center, and special teams coach Eric Mele speak before an NCAA college football game against Idaho in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)

PULLMAN – In recent years college football recruits have committed to programs earlier, only to change their minds at least once before signing their letters of intent. That trend might have even reached its zenith with the 2017 signing class, that saw every Pac-12 school lose longtime commits and scramble to fill their spots.

Despite the chaos on confusion of January, Washington State emerged on Wednesday’s national signing day with a class full of talented players, many of whom were coveted by some of college football’s most prestigious programs.

In fact the chaos worked to WSU’s benefit. While WSU lost some of its longtime commits in the weeks leading up to signing day, it got a signing day surprise when coveted receiver Jamire Calvin sent his letter of intent to the Cougars just a week after committing to Nebraska.

Leach said he found out Calvin would be coming when his letter of intent arrived. While a pleasant surprise, that sort of uncertainty can make it difficult for coaches to fill out their class while not knowing for sure which positions still need to be filled.

“It’s a nuisance; every year is kind of chaotic,” coach Mike Leach said during a signing day press confernce. “The chaos manifests itself in different ways. In our case, this was really kind of a less chaotic year. I guess Jamire was one of the last ones we knew was going to be on board, but we knew there was a significan chance he would select Washington State.”

But WSU also lost some players. Tacoma offensive lineman Quazzel White signed with TCU after having formerly committed to WSU, and Arkansas defensive lineman BJ Thompson flipped from WSU to Baylor, for example.

Speedy running back Caleb Perry had no drama in his recruitment, committing to WSU well in advance of signing day and sending in his letter of intent on time, but offered some perspective on why his peers might.

“I think the recruiting process, a lot of guys get overwhelmed and a little bit too excited,” Perry explained. “Growing up, we have favorite schools we want to go to. But when you get in the recruiting process is when you get to really see the stuff behind the curtain: The coaches, chemistry, players, how they run the ball or how the school operates.”

Perry continued, “When it comes to the recruiting game, I made sure I kept an open mind. I didn’t look at the record of the school. I made sure I’d been on campus and asked as many questions as possible. A lot of kids get an offer from a big school and are so overjoyed they hop right on.”

The class has a distinctly southeastern imprint. The Cougars signed players from Georgia (defensive back Sean Harper and linebacker Willie Taylor III), Louisiana (receiver Davontavean Martin), and Florida (receivers Anthony White Jr. and Travell Harris, defensive back Zaire Webb).

“I think it’s random,” Leach said. “I think it’s a combination. I think some of it’s random, some of it’s relationships the coaches we’ve gotten to know over the years, as they’ve seen our program emerge they’ve reached out to us. From our standpoint it’s simply the best players we can possibly get that are interested in what we’re doing.”

WSU’s class is particularly strong in the defensive front seven, with eight defensive ends or linebackers signed. There does not appear to be a true nose tackle in the signing class, however, at least not yet.

During a signing day press conference, coach Mike Leach said that the Cougars emphasized speed on defense, playmaking on offense and height along the offensive line.

In those regards they succeeded. WSU signed four offensive linemen in the 2017 class, and 6-foot-5, 295-pound Alec Kuzmack is the shortest of hte bunch.

Preston Hendry should provide immediate help on WSU’s defensive line. The Orange Coast Junior College transfer was also coveted by Arizona State, Baylor, Kansas State and other schools.

The Cougars also reloaded strongly at wide receiver, where they lost Gabe Marks and River Cracraft – the only teammates in conference history to each have 200 receptions – to graduation.

Davontavean Martin, a 6-foot-4 receiver from Houma, Louisiana, chose the Cougars over scholarship offers from ACC schools, and will give the Cougars depth on the outside. WSU’s situation at outside receiver also improved this week when word came from the NCAA that C.J. Dimry will be granted a medical redshirt, giving him a sixth year of eligibility next season.

At inside receiver the Cougars signed Travell Martin, a 5-foot-8 speedster who chose WSU over Arizona, Purdue, Missouri and others. More likely to make an immediate impact inside is Easop Winston, a transfer from the City College of San Francisco.

Anthony White Jr., a 6-foot receiver out of Miami, could play either inside or outside receiver. With reported offers from LSU, Cincinnatti and South Carolina, he likely has the talent to excel anywhere.

WSU recruiting class

Name

POS

HT

HOMETOWN

PREV SCHOOL

Christian Mejia

DE

6-4

Kailua, Hawaii

Kailua

Preston Hendry

DE

6-5

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Tesoro

Josh Talbott

DB

5-11

Long Beach, Calif.

Long Beach Poly

Abraham Lucas

OL

6-7

Everett, Wash.

Archbishop Murphy

Cole Dubots

LB

6-1

Murrieta, Callif.

Vista Murrieta

Fa’avae Fa’avae

LB

6-1

Santa Ana, Calif.

Mater Dei

Connor Neville

QB

6-2

Wilsonville, Ore.

Wilsonville

George Hicks

CB

6-0

San Bernardo, Calilf.

Cajon

Dominick Silvels

LB

6-3

San Diego, Calif.

Patrick Henry

Will Rodgers III

DE

6-5

Saginaw, Mich.

Valor Christian (Colo.)

Jonathan Nathaniel

OL

6-5

Chandler, Ariz.

Basha

Alec Kuzmack

OL

6-5

Eagle, Idaho

Eagle

Willie Taylor

LB

6-3

Cochran, Ga.

Bleckley County

Travell Harris

WR

5-9

Tampa, Fla.

Jesuit

Davontavean Martin

WR

6-4

Houma, La.

Ellender Memorial

Dallas Hobbs

DE

6-6

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Washington

Sean Harper

DB

6-2

Hartwell, Ga.

Hartwell County

Isaiah Love

DB

6-0

West Covina, Calif.

West Covina

Robert Valencia

OL

6-6

Daly City, Calif.

Riordan

Zaire Webb

DB

5-10

Jacksonville, Fla.

Duncan U. Fletcher

Anthony White Jr.

WR

6-1

Miami, Fla.

Miami Central

Easop Winston

WR

5-11

San Francisco, Calilf.

Serra

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