PULLMAN – Washington State’s wide receiving corps has been as good and deep as it looked on paper three months ago, when many figured the Cougars had the top-to-bottom talent to match any group in college football.
Only 27 players in the Pac-12 Conference have at least 400 receiving yards, and six of those play for the Cougars: Brandon Arconado (869), Easop Winston Jr. (826), Dezmon Patmon (614), Max Borghi (468), Travell Harris (461) and Tay Martin (437). UCLA and USC are well-represented, too, with three 400-yard receivers apiece, but nobody else in the league has more than two.
The Cougars are flush as it is, but this week, some fans might recall that another top-flight Pac-12 receiver was nearly headed their way before changing course and choosing the school WSU is hosting Saturday at Martin Stadium.
Who knows how Isaiah Hodgins would have fit in Mike Leach’s Air Raid, but it’s safe to assume the Cougars would’ve found some type of role for Oregon State’s dangerous junior, who leads the conference in touchdown catches (13), is second to Arconado in yards per game (102.1) and second to USC’s Michal Pittman in receptions (73).
“He’s kind of powerful, not just quick and fast,” Leach said. “But kind of powerful fast and comes out of his cuts really quickly. He’s really a good player.”
Hodgins is high on WSU’s scouting report this week, four years after the Walnut Creek, California, native was near the top of Cougars’ recruiting board as a highly coveted prep prospect.
The Berean Christian product visited Pullman in March 2016, and WSU seemed poised to impress the four-star receiver. Ex-Cougars wideout Gabe Marks wore Hodgins’ No. 7 during a spring practice the high school player observed.
Nearly a month later, Hodgins pledged to the Cougars, thanking his other suitors for their efforts – a list that included Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA, Utah, Colorado, Michigan and Nebraska.
By August, though, Hodgins was reconsidering. The receiver decommitted from the Cougars and visited Oregon State, Nebraska and Oregon. He also pulled in an offer from Wisconsin.
Hodgins pledged to the Beavers in November and made it official during the early signing period.
“I don’t remember much about it; I remember we liked him quite a lot and I can’t remember if he had a relationship with somebody there or what,” Leach said. “But anyway, he decided to go there.”
Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon, who also hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, was familiar with Hodgins in high school and recalls meeting the receiver.
Had Hodgins honored his commitment to the Cougars, Gordon might be throwing passes to the OSU receiver. Potentially a lot of them.
“I knew who he was; (former WSU safety) Robert Taylor actually knew him more than I did because he’s from a closer area,” Gordon said. “I met him. I can’t remember when I did, but I remember he was committed and stuff. Seeing him doing what he’s doing over there is pretty impressive now.”
If WSU’s receiving corps needed any motivation other than the opportunity to clinch a bowl berth, Hodgins was one of 12 receivers who made the semifinalist cut for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top pass-catcher in college football. The Cougars lead the country in passing offense but didn’t place anybody on the list, even with two conceivable options in Arconado and Winston.
Hodgins wound up at a school that was able to use him more than WSU, and he’s helped lead a resurgence in Corvallis. OSU (5-5, 4-3) would gain bowl eligibility with a win, same as WSU (5-5, 2-5).
The Cougars fared just fine in the 2017 recruiting class, signing Winston, Martin, Harris and Jamire Calvin.
Still, had WSU finished the job, it would’ve added another elite weapon to a well-armed receiving corps. The Cougars would’ve eliminated a threat who’ll be on their radar all game – just like he was as a top-end high school prospect three short years ago.
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