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Sports >  WSU football

Live updates: Washington State football up to 17 signees as NCAA’s early period begins

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 20, 2019

PULLMAN – Nine days from now, the Washington State Cougars will be underneath the roof of the Alamodome in San Antonio, gunning for a program-record 11th win against Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl.

But for much of the month, the program’s fourth consecutive bowl game has been a distant thought for WSU coaches who’ve been busy finalizing the program’s 2019 recruiting class. The Cougars hope to sign the bulk of their class today – and if not today by the end of Friday before the NCAA’s early signing period ends. Whoever doesn’t ink with WSU this week will have to wait until Feb. 6 to make it official.

Follow along with our live thread as the letters of intent continue to roll in. Below, you’ll find short bios of each player to sign with the Cougars and accompanying Hudl highlight videos. Click on the player’s name to access their Twitter profile.

Jamir Thomas

Position: Running back

High school: Washington (Massillon, Ohio)

Height/weight: 6-1, 215

Other Power Five offers: Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia, Ohio State, Penn State

The two-way star from the Akron, Ohio, suburbs piled up a dozen Power Five offers from schools who sought him out as a linebacker. But the Cougars lured Thomas to Pullman by offering him a chance to play running back – and maybe it’s surprising the other schools didn’t. In his four years at Washington High, also known as Massillon High, Thomas amassed 4,025 yards, scored 56 rushing touchdowns, had 773 rushing attempts and scored 344 total points – all of which were school records.

Gunner Cruz

Position: Quarterback

High school: Casteel (Queen Creek, Ariz.)

Height/weight: 6-4, 215

Other Power Five offers: Arizona State, Baylor, Cincinnati, Syracuse

Cruz didn’t get the same buzz on the recruiting trail as Washington State’s last quarterback signee, but it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where he and Cammon Cooper are competing for the same starting job – if not this season, then possibly the next. Depending on the recruiting service you ask, Cruz is either 6-4 or 6-5 and has good mobility for somebody carrying 215 pounds. As a senior at Casteel, he completed 73 percent of his passes and fired 30 touchdown passes, compared to five interceptions. Cruz added another 14 touchdowns and 277 rushing yards on the ground. Georgia reportedly tried to flip the Casteel signal-caller after losing Justin Fields, but Cruz didn’t waver and gave the Cougars their first and only signal-caller of the 2019 class.

Billy Pospisil

Position: Wide receiver

High school: Pomona (Arvada, Colo.)

Height/weight: 5-11, 190

Other offers: Eastern Washington, North Dakota, Northern Colorado

Pospisil gave an early verbal pledge to the Cougars committing in mid-February, which might be one way to explain why Max Borghi’s old high school teammate didn’t attract a few more FBS offers. Recruited by both Eric Mele and Dave Nichol, Pospisil projects as a “Y” or “H” receiver at WSU. He’s a strong route-runner with good hands who earned all-state honors in Colorado’s highest classification after catching 39 passes for 551 yards and five touchdowns, despite only playing in eight games as a senior because of an injury.

Rocky Katoanga

Position: Outside linebacker

High school: El Camino (Oceanside, Calif.)

Height/weight: 6-2, 205

Other offers: Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State, New Mexico, UNLV, Navy

The three-star linebacker committed to the Cougars awhile back – in February, actually – and used a medical grayshirt after undergoing a medical procedure on his knee. Katoanga was a stud linebacker for El Camino during his senior year of high school (2017), posting 48 total tackles in nine game with two sacks anf one fumble recovery.

Inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson on Katoanga: “He’s a beast, he was a running back, he was a linebacker down there. He played from really most of his junior year and most of his senior year with what he thought was a strained MCL. After the season they checked it, actually it was a torn ACL. I’ve never heard of that before, a guy being able to play at that level with that kind of injury. … We’re excited to see what he’s going to look like with two healthy knees.”

Gatlin Grisso

Position: Safety

High school: Aubrey (Aubrey, Texas)

Height/weight: 6-1, 185

Other offers: Harvard, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss, Texas State, Yale, Southern Miss, Houston Tulsa

Grisso, a safety that was highly coveted by a number of Ivy League schools, was recruited by former WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and orally committed to the Cougars way back when – on June 23, 2017. Like Katoagna, he also used an opportunity to grayshirt and is expected to join the Cougars for the spring semester. A two-way player who also served as a running back for his high school program, Grisso had 90 tackles, eight pass breakups and picked off three passes in his final season at Aubrey, also returning a punt for a TD.

Bryce Beekman

Position: Safety

Previous school: Arizona Western (Yuma, Ariz.)

Height/weight: 6-2, 190

Other Power Five offers: Kansas, Kansas State, Rutgers, Syracuse

Washington State’s success with junior college safeties – namely Shalom Luani and Robert Taylor – has given the Cougars reason to keep going back. Beekman, at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, brings wide receiver size to the safety position, where the Cougars currently have just one other player taller than 6-feet. A non-qualifier out of high school, Beekman, who’d been committed to Southern University, made tremendous strides in the classroom during his JC stint and brings a 3.2 GPA to WSU.

Daniel Isom

Position: Cornerback

Previous school: Iowa Western (Council Bluffs, Iowa)

Height/weight: 5-10, 180

Other Power Five offers: N/A

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys used his Midwest ties to pick up Isom, a junior college transfer who has previous FBS playing experience. A one-time starter at MAC school Northern Illinois, Isom could make an immediate impact for the Cougars, who lose two starting cornerbacks in Darrien Molton and Sean Harper Jr. and don’t have much experience behind Marcus Strong. Isom had tackles at Iowa Western this season, led the team in pass breakups with seven, had two interceptions and posted 2½ tackles-for-loss.

Patrick Utschinski

Position: Offensive tackle

High school: Walla Walla (Walla Walla)

Height/weight: 6-7, 280

Other Power Five offers: Oregon State

Utschinski didn’t start out as a top-flight offensive line recruit, but eventually became one, recently earning a four-star rating from The Cougars held off Pac-12 rival Oregon State and a handful of Big Sky suitors for the Walla Walla offensive lineman, a multi-sport athlete who also throws the discus for the Blue Devils’ track and field program. Utschinski should feel right at home when he gets to Pullman – he’ll be one of four offensive lineman listed at 6-7 and one of 12 at 6-5 or taller.

Offensive line coach Mason Miller On Utschinski: “Once we saw him move, we were like, we’ve got to go on this kid. he’s under the radar, he had some other offers but kind of under the radar. And boy we went and watched him play – (outside linebackers) coach (Matt Brock) and I drove over to Walla Walla to watch him play and about two seconds in he pulled and I was like, ‘I hope no one else sees that.’ Boy, he just exploded out of his stance, wrapped around, drove the guy.”

Donovan Ollie

Position: Wide receiver

High school: Wylie (Wylie, Texas)

Height/weight: 6-3, 205

Other Power Five offers: Boston College, Iowa State, Kansas, Northwestern, Utah

For the third time in two years, the Cougars have been able to extract a wide receiver from the Longhorn State – thanks in large part to inside receivers coach Dave Nichol, a native Texan and former Texas Tech assistant. Ollie had a bevy of Power Five options, but will take his talents to Pullman, where he projects as either an “X” or “Z” receiver in Leach’s Air Raid offense. His Wylie High team went just 6-6-6 this season, but Ollie was easily the Pirates’ top wideout with 65 receptions for 904 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Ma’ake Fifita

Position: Offensive line

Previous school: Glacier Peak (Snohomish, Wash.)

Height/weight: 6-5, 260

Other Power Five offers: N/A

The Cougars’ most recent oral pledge played both ways for Glacier Peak High on the west side of the state, starring as an offensive lineman/defensive end. Fifita doesn’t have a Twitter account and therefore didn’t make his commitment public when he decided on the Cougars three weeks ago. Though he doesn’t have the prototypical size of an offensive lineman at 260 pounds, the Cougars prefer their O-linemen taller and trimmer these days and WSU’s strength coaches know how to add weight when necessary. (See: Abraham Lucas)

Offensive line coach Mason Miller on Fifita: “Ma’aka kind of reminds me of another guy we have playing left tackle right now (Dillard). … Athletically, out of the gym. Can power clean 325 pounds, fanny touches the ground when he gets up underneath it, explodes out of it.”

Simon Samarzich

Position: Long snapper

High school: Upland High (Upland, Calif.)

Height/weight: 6-0, 200

Other Power Five offers: N/A

The Cougars haven’t traditionally offered long snapper, but it’s become a position of need for WSU. Samarzich was rated the No. 1 long snapper in Southern California by long snapping guru Chris Rubio and is considered a five-star prospect. Rubio calls him “one of the best long snappers to ever go through” his long snapping program and notes that he has “incredible accuracy, consistency and handles pressure as well as anyone in the country.” Samarzich will also play in the upcoming Polynesian Bowl.

Cosmas Kwete

Position: Outside linebacker

High school: Central (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Height/weight: 6-3, 220

Other Power Five offers: Kansas

Anyone unfamiliar with Kwete’s story ought to type his name into a search engine. In brief, the Central High defensive standout began his athletic career on a rugby field and spent time living at a refugee camp in Zimbabwe before he and his brother Eloi, a UMass football commit, moved to the United States. Kwete posted 54 tackles, eight sacks and forced three fumbles during his senior season and will likely slide into the Rush linebacker position once he arrives at WSU.

Travion Brown

Position: Outside linebacker

High school: Linfield Christian (Temecula, Calif.)

Height/weight: 6-3, 215

Other Power Five offers: Arizona, Boston College, Colorado, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Syracuse, Utah, Washington

Five other Pac-12 schools and 10 Power Five schools were in pursuit of the highly-coveted linebacker from California, but few of them offered before WSU and the persistence of inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson paid off in the long run. Brown finished the year as Linfield’s top wide receiver, with 45 catches for 1,142 yards and 22 touchdowns, but his defensive numbers were just as mind-blowing. Brown turned in 122 tackles, 37 tackles-for-loss , 11 sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for the Lions.

Tyler Garay-Harris

Position: Defensive end

High school: Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)

Height/weight: 6-3, 205

Other Power Five offers: Arizona State, Utah

A three-star defensive end prospect, Garay-Harris is coming to WSU from an esteemed high school program in Bishop O’Dowd and is fresh off winning the North Coast Section Playoff championship with the Dragons, who finished the season at 12-2. Garay-Harris’ senior stats are pinned to the top of his Twitter profile – and downright impressive. From his D-end position, Garay-Harris totaled 89 tackles, 11 sacks and recovered two fumbles for touchdowns. He also blocked a field goal for the Dragons.

Konner Gomness

Position: Offensive tackle

High school: San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno, Calif.)

Height/weight: 6-4, 270

Other Power Five offers: Louisville

WSU, Louisville and six Mountain West Schools – including Gomness’ hometown Fresno State Bulldogs – showed interest in the San Joaquin offensive lineman, who led the Panthers to a near-perfect 2018 season. Gomness and San Joaquin took a 14-0 record into the CIF Division 2-A state title game against Lawndale, where the Panthers lost 20-12. Before that, San Joaquin’s offense had been scoring 49 points per game. Gomness blocked for San Jose State-bound quarterback Alec Trujillo, who threw for more than 4,200 yards and 50 touchdowns at San Joaquin this season.

Offensive line coach Mason Miller on Gomness: “He’s a little bit shorter than the rest of them and the reason is, he’s going to move in to center. He’s athletic, tremendous feet. he also was a long snapper so he’s kind of got the understanding of snapping the football, he’s got the automatic mechanics.”

Peni Naulu

Position: Outside linebacker

High school: Kapolei (Kapolei, Hawaii)

Height/weight: 6-1, 210

Other Power Five offers: Cal, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington

Longtime WSU linebackers coach Ken Wilson went to the Hawaiian island of Oahu for Naulu, a three-star prospect who held a variety of Pac-12 offers, including one from WSU’s cross-state rival. Nebraska and Kansas State also showed interest in Naulu, a Polynesian Bowl invitee who could potentially play at either outside or inside linebacker for the Cougars. Naulu is a fundamental tackler who demonstrates good field vision and strong pass coverage skills.

Inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson on Naulu: “He played inside, outside. He played safety some. He’s going to be a big guy also, but really athletic, really fast and hits. He’s a big-time hitter. He was a highly recruited guy that we had a good relationship with. We clicked when we started communicating with each other.”

Jouvensly Bazile

Position: Running back

High school: Golden Gate (Naples, Fla.)

Height/weight: 5-10, 180

Other Power Five offers: Cincinnati, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

Bazile’s Twiter name, “BlackCheetah,” should be indicative of the type of athlete the Cougars are getting – as should the fact that the Floridian is not only coming to Pullman to play football, but also to run for Wayne Phipps’ track and field team. A 1,300-yard rusher, Bazile scored 14 times on the ground as a senior at Golden Gate, caught one touchdown pass and returned a kick for another. Bazile comes to WSU as a running back, but could be used in a few different roles, similar to fellow Floridian Travell Harris.

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