The 2021 recruiting cycle has come with unprecedented obstacles for college football programs all over the country. For most, the weight of those obstacles will be lifted on Wednesday – at least to some extent – when high school and junior college prospects are allowed to sign letters of intent as part of the early signing period.
Washington State expects to add at least a dozen, and as many as 18 new players, between Wednesday and Friday as it opens the first full cycle under coach Nick Rolovich.
“The reality is, a lot of these guys have been with us for a long time,” Rolovich said. “I thought the assistant coaches in the recruiting department have done a wonderful job in evaluation and everyone that’s going to join us tomorrow I’m very happy about.
“At this point, I’ll be honest and I’ve never said this before, but I can have some buyer’s remorse. Could we have waited? Could we have got something different? But I don’t feel that this year.”
Follow below for live updates on each of WSU’s signees, with bios, tweets, photos and Hudl highlight videos. Click on the player’s name to access his Twitter profile.
Last school/hometown: ProKick Australia/Melbourne, Australia
Height/weight: 6-5, 202
Other FBS offers: N/A
On Haberer: The NCAA’s ruling to allow players an additional year of eligibility all but guarantees third-year punter Oscar Draguicevich III another season in Pullman. A redshirt season should be beneficial for Haberer, who’s never played an American football game and began training at the popular Prokick Australia academy that produced Ray Guy winners Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah) and Michael Dickson (Texas). Haberer grew up in the Bundaberg Region of Melbourne and grew up playing Aussie rules football – a variation of the game that relies more on the use of feet.
Position: Wide receiver
Last school/hometown: Iowa Central C.C./Tulsa, Oklahoma
Height/weight: 6-5, 175
Other FBS offers: Indiana, Massachusetts.
On Moore: Even with the quartet of Renard Bell, Travell Harris, Jamire Calvin and Calvin Jackson Jr. presumably returning in 2021, Moore, once a four-star high school recruit with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State, Texas and Oregon, may be too talented to keep out of the rotation. Coming out of Union High School, he was rated the fifth-best recruit in the state of Oklahoma and the nation’s No. 26 wide receiver, leading Union to the 2016 state title and hauling in three touchdown passes during the championship game. The talent didn’t translate to significant playing time in Stillwater, which prompted Moore to leave for Iowa Central. He hasn’t played there, either, due to the COVID-19 pandemic pushing ICC’s season to the spring, but Moore should bring a rare blend of size and speed to an offense that often relies on smaller wideouts.
Last school/hometown: McKinney/McKinney, Texas
Height/weight: 5-10, 180
Other FBS offers: Louisiana.
On Shepherd: WSU was the only Power Five offer for Shepherd, who seemed to shut his recruitment down once he committed to the Cougars on June 17 and hasn’t picked up another offer since. Colorado apparently showed interest in Shepherd, but the Buffaloes never pulled the trigger on an official offer. One of two Texans in the class of 2021, Shepherd played a key role in the secondary for McKinney High, of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, and proved to be a strong tackler, registering 94 takedowns and four tackles-for-loss as a junior. Additionally, he was responsible for three interceptions and one fumble recovery.
Last school/hometown: Alta/Sandy, Utah
Height/weight: 6-4, 207
Other FBS offers: San Diego State, Utah State.
On Falatea: Last Friday, Falatea received 5A All-State Second Team defense honors as an outside linebacker, and he’s coming off a season that saw him record 35 tackles for Alta High while turning in a team-high 4½ sacks, 12 quarterback hurries and 6½ tackles-for-loss. Falatea was also credited with five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. While it appears Falatea played exclusively on the defensive side of the ball as a senior, the No. 12 overall prospect in Utah also played wide receiver, tight end and running back for Alta, according to his Hudl highlight tape.
Last school/hometown: Sandia/Albuquerque, N.M.
Height/weight: 6-4, 254
Other FBS offers: Baylor, New Mexico.
On Carrell: The third flip of the 2021 class – and the first non-Fresno State flip – came from the Carrell, the No. 2 overall prospect in New Mexico. Carrell committed to Baylor in mid-April and remained loyal to the Big-12 Bears until last week when he reopened his recruitment. Less than 24 hours before the signing period, the Sandia High defensive end and tight end received an offer from WSU, where he’s projected to play the edge rusher position. At 6-4, 254 pounds, Carrell already posses a good frame for the position and would be the heaviest edge on WSU’s current roster. A two-way player for the football team at Sandia, Carrell is also an ace pitcher for the baseball team and carries a 3.2 grade point average.
Position: Offensive guard
Last school/hometown: Casteel/Queen Creek, Ariz.
Height/weight: 6-2, 290
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Arizona State, Army, Boise State, New Mexico, Oregon, San Jose State, Utah State.
On Dieu: There should be plenty of familiarity for Dieu when he arrives on the Palouse. The three-star prospect will be one of three Arizona natives on the offensive line, joining Hunter and Dylan Mayginnes, and he’ll have a chance to reunite with former Casteel High teammate Gunner Cruz, WSU’s redshirt freshman quarterback. Dieu and Cruz won the 2017 state championship together and the former helped lead Casteel to a 5-4 record, and 3-1 mark in league games, during the 2020 season. Anchoring the interior of Casteel’s offensive line, Dieu, a two-time First Team All-State selection, was recently named all-region and was one of 14 high school players in Arizona to earn Ed Doherty medallions the final week of the season.
Position: Offensive tackle
Last school/hometown: Highland/Salt Lake City
Height/weight: 6-5, 280
Other FBS offers: N/A.
On Hilborn: For the second straight year, the Cougars managed to secure a signature from Highland offensive lineman. Hilborn, the No. 26 overall prospect in the state of Utah, will follow former teammate and position mate Rodrick Tialavea – a class of 2020 signee – and play for the coaching staff that signed his older brother, Caden, at the University of Hawaii. Hilborn told Cougfan.com he received early interest from Air Force and Weber State, WSU was his first offer and remains his only offer, according to 247Sports. Though Hilborn’s Highland team won just two games this fall, he was still “one of the most dominant players in the trenches on both sides of the ball in 2020,” according to MaxPreps.com, which recently named him Second Team All-State as an offensive lineman.
Last school/hometown: Lake Gibson/Lakeland, Fla.
Height/weight: 6-2, 205
Other FBS offers: Georgia Tech, Appalachian State, Boston College, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut, East Carolina, FIU, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kent State, Liberty, Louisville, Marshall, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Temple, Toledo, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Western Kentucky.
On Barthiel: Before the early signing period opened, casual WSU fans probably wouldn’t have known about Barthiel. It was still 4 a.m. in his home state of Florida when the three-star linebacker committed to the Cougars this morning, giving them their 19th pledge in the class of 2021. A few hours later, he’d signed on a dotted line and made the partnership official. Though he’s listed as an outside linebacker on 247Sports.com, it appears Barthiel will play a more traditional inside linebacker role for the Cougars. The Lake Gibson High product originally committed to Georgia Tech, on June 17, before reopening his recruitment earlier this month. He chooses WSU over 27 other FBS schools and more than a dozen at the Power Five level.
Position: Defensive line
Last school/hometown: Mount Si/Snoqualmie, Wash.
Height/weight: 6-3, 240
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Army, Nevada, San Jose State, Wyoming.
On Edson: Hitting Washington was a priority for Rolovich and in-state recruiter Michael Ghobrial, and Edson was the first example of that in the class of 2021, committing to the Cougars one day before fellow Washingtonian Ryan Kershaw. While it’s unlikely Edson sees playing time off the bat, he’ll come to Pullman with a frame that’s already comparable to that of starting edge rushers Ron Stone (6-3, 234) and Brennan Jackson (6-4, 249), along with Willie Taylor III (6-4, 232). The pandemic eliminated a fall season at Mount Si, but Edson, who earned all-league honors on offense and defense as a junior, told The Spokesman-Review he hopes to play his senior football season in the spring before closing out his career with the Wildcats’ baseball team.
Last school/hometown: La Salle High School/Yakima, Wash.
Height/weight: 6-2, 220
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Army.
On Kershaw: A small-school standout from Yakima, Kershaw was one of the most productive two-way players at the 1A level as a junior, rushing 140 times for 1,637 yards and 24 touchdowns while hauling in 29 receptions for 370 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 48 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks, while forcing three fumbles and recovering one. Two service academies, Air Force and Army, made a strong push for Kershaw, along with many of the region’s Big Sky schools, including Idaho, Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State.
Position: Wide receiver
Last school/hometown: Inglewood/Inglewood, Calif.
Height/weight: 5-10, 170
Other FBS offers: Arizona State, Central Michigan, Colorado State, Florida Atlantic, Fresno State, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, UNLV, Virginia Tech.
On Peters: As others have decommitted from WSU, Rolovich’s very first pledge in the 2021 class has remained loyal. Peters, an intriguing slot receiver from Southern California, committed to the Cougars on May 1 and hasn’t budged despite three other Power Five offers and nine more from the mid-major level. During the 2019 season – Peters’ most recent at Inglewood High – the wide receiver caught 50 passes for a whopping 1,478 yards and 10 touchdowns. Peters, demonstrating an ability to make plays after the catch, averaged 29.6 yards per reception and his longest touchdown was a 95-yarder – traits that should make him an ideal fit as an inside receiver in an offense that stretches the field the way Rolovich’s does.
Last school/hometown: Bishop Gorman/Las Vegas
Other FBS offers: Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Penn State, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah State.
On Hicks: Of the nine defensive players committed to the Cougars in the 2021 class, Hicks received the highest grade from 247Sports.com and is considered the sixth-best player in the state of Nevada. Hicks, who plays for one of the state’s most storied programs, didn’t get a fall season in 2020, but seemingly did enough in 2019 to garner interest from four schools from the Pac-12, Penn State and a half-dozen more in the Mountain West. As a junior, Hicks was credited with seven interceptions in 12 games according to MaxPreps.com, and returned three of those for touchdowns. He was credited with 22 tackles from his safety position and caused one fumble for Bishop Gorman.
Position: Defensive tackle
Last school/hometown: Cajon/San Bernardino, Calif.
Height/weight: 6-4, 260
Other FBS offers: Fresno State, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State.
On Gusta: The Cougars have been pursuing Gusta for well over a year, with the Southern California defensive lineman picking up his very first college offer from Mike Leach’s staff on May 8, 2019. Nearly 14 months later, Gusta committed to the new regime in Pullman, becoming the first of two Fresno State commits to flip to WSU. Gusta is one of four defensive linemen to sign with WSU in the 2021 class, but he’s the only defensive tackle unless the Cougars intend to flip one of their edge rusher signees to an interior position. As a junior at Grand Terrace High School, Gusta was a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks averaging better than 1½ sacks per game. He recorded 14 sacks in nine games to go with 62 total tackles, 20½ tackles-for-loss, seven QB hurries, one pass breakup, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Position: Wide receiver
Last school/hometown: Mater Dei/Chula Vista, Calif.
Height/weight: 6-0, 170
Other FBS offers: Fresno State, New Mexico State, UNLV.
On Meredith: It may not have been a coincidence that Texas receiver Joseph Manjack decommitted from the Cougars in November and Meredith picked up an offer less than a month later. Before landing his first Power Five offer, Meredith was heading to Fresno State, but flipped to WSU within two weeks of the early signing period. Like the other Californians in the 2021 class, he didn’t have an opportunity to play a senior season in the fall, but 247Sports.com analyst Greg Biggins considers him a Pac-12 talent who would’ve gathered more interest on the recruiting trail with a normal spring evaluation period and “should be a very tough cover for opposing corners because of his quickness and ability to get in and out of his breaks.” Meredith played at Valhalla High as a junior, but is currently attending Mater Dei Catholic in San Diego.
Last school/hometown: Mansfield Timberview/Arlington, Texas
Height/weight: 6-3, 200
Other FBS offers: Air Force, Arizona State, Army, Baylor, Boise State, Colorado State, Kansas, Kansas State, North Texas, SMU, UNLV, Utah.
On Stevenson Jr.: The Cougars lost one edge rusher from the state of Texas when Jayhvion Gipson decommitted two days ago, but managed to retain the one that was more coveted throughout the recruiting process. Of the edges committed to WSU in the 2021 class, Stevenson Jr. has the highest recruiting grade according to 247Sports.com. While MaxPreps.com hasn’t posted full statistics from Stevenson Jr’s senior season, his numbers as a sophomore and junior are suggestive of the caliber of player he is coming off the edge. As a junior, he recorded eight sacks with 12 tackles-for-loss and as a sophomore he was good for nine sacks and 13 TFL. Stevenson Jr. is also a track athlete at Mansfield Timberwiew, competing in the hurdles and high jump.
Last school: Roosevelt/Corona, California
Height/weight: 6-2, 195
Other FBS offers: Oregon State.
On Ward: In a roundabout way, it’s possible the Cougars benefitted from the lack of a fall season in California, at least when it came to their newest quarterback. Ward, who had two Pac-12 offers before the month of July, was poised for a standout senior season before the CIF announced the fall season would be moved to the spring. A fall season, of course, could’ve meant more exposure and therefore more offers for someone who received All-CIF First Team honors in 2019. Ward may not have picked up a WSU offer from the last regime, but his skills are built for Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense. With Jayden de Laura’s clock restarting next season, both he and Ward will have five years of eligibility beginning in 2021, so it’s hard to know when and if the Californian will see the field at WSU. Nevertheless, it’ll be important to have depth under center, especially if Cammon Cooper and/or Gunner Cruz decide to transfer when the current season ends.
Position: Wide receiver
Previous school/hometown: Kapolei/Kapolei, Hawaii
Height/weight: 6-2, 195
Other FBS offers: Hawaii, San Diego, Wake Forest.
On Stribling: Another recruit who wasn’t previously committed to Rolovich’s program signed his financial aid agreement with the Cougars on Wednesday. According to 247Sports.com, Stribling was leaning toward signing with Rolovich’s former program, Hawaii, until making a decision on signing day. At 6-2, 195, he’ll be one of the bigger, taller players in WSU’s receivers room, and was productive as a senior at Kapolei. An all-state second team performer this fall, Stribling caught 64 passes for 872 yards and nine touchdowns.
Last school/hometown: Tafuna/Pago Pago, American Samoa
Height/weight: 6-3, 215
Other FBS offers: Army, Hawaii, San Jose State, Utah State.
On Mauigoa: Less than a year after Fred Mauigoa started his 39th and final game at center for WSU, younger brother Francis pledged to the Cougars. A three-star prospect who projects as a middle linebacker at the next level, Mauigoa moved to California, where he played his junior season at Aquinas High School with brother Francis – a top-10 recruit in the class of 2023 – before returning to American Samoa when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. Francisco displayed his versatility during the 2019 season, throwing for 1,113 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 475 yards and four touchdowns, as Aquinas’ starting quarterback. Because of his heavy usage on offense, Mauigoa was only a part-time starter on defense, playing primarily at outside linebacker. Tafuna is the alma mater of Fred Mauigoa but also ex-WSU “Rush” linebacker Frankie Luvu, who’s now with the New York Jets.
Last school/hometown: Godby/Miami, Fla.
Height/weight: 6-4, 240
Other FBS offers: Coastal Carolina, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Southern Miss.
On Young: Young held offers from five FBS schools, but primary recruiters AJ Cooper and John Richardson convinced the Floridian to chose the only one west of the Mississippi River. When the Cougars landed four commits in a five-day span during the spring, Young began the domino effect when he committed to WSU on May 18, giving them their first edge rusher of the 2021 class. According to MaxPreps.com, Young played in just six of Godby High’s eight games, but he was still an impact player for the Cougars, recording 34 tackles with three sacks, four quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery.
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