Alright, here we go again, another year, another, HUGE depending on who you listen to, loss in recruiting. Admittedly I'm a little late to the Sankey pity party, in fact while cougfan's forums have been imploding I've been sitting at home calmly enjoying a trip through another National Title run in my NCAA online Dynasty. Here's the thing, the loss of one recruit in the grand cycle of recruiting is as meaningless as having to settle for the Rose Bowl in my fake dynasty every once in awhile. I will also acknowledge that yes indeed we lost Nembot too, but I think there's some pretty solid reasoning for why we should still the pitchforks in the mob looking for justice (or someone to blame) that's on the way to Coach Wulff's or maybe even Bill Moos' house. As usual I'll keep it short before the jump, but if you want to have a compelling argument to use when talking your fellow Cougs down from the ledge feel free to keep reading.
Lets start with the biggest thing I've seen spouted time and again in reference to any recruit from Spokane "We need to lock down the kids in our backyard or we'll never be successful." Would it be nice to be able to say we own any kid from East of the Cascades that shows even a hint of dominance in their league? Sure it would, but guess what? Washington and Washington State both get free run of this state and the rest of the other 49 to go after whoever they want. That does not mean that we should not keep a close eye on the local guys, but it also means that it is not the be all end all to own the Spokane area or the Tri-Cities or anywhere else East of the Cascades. Did we miss out on a nice recruit, sure we did, but when it all comes down to OH JESUS WE DIDN'T GET SANKEY THE RECRUITOCALYPSE IS NIGH, we need to get a grip.
More important than getting every good kid from Spokane or wherever is getting great recruits that WANT TO BE IN PULLMAN. Those are the kids that have done well for us and those are the kids we need to focus on. I mean lets really look at this class and the last couple of classes because if you want to talk about getting recruits that should be on "lock down" by other schools WSU has done pretty damn well. Last year if I'm not mistaken we landed more kids from the Bay Area than Stanford and Cal put together, in what is quite literally their back yard. This year we went after and have thus far secured Logan Mayes IN EUGENE. I know that the Ducks and Stanford are both increasingly finding a presence in National recruiting, but if you're going to tell me the Ducks didn't take a second look at a guy that was in their lap with Oregon 5A Defensive Player of the Year honors I'll be happy to sell you some ocean front property in Ellensburg. I know he's a legacy, but when has that ever really mattered? Ryan Leaf's little brother was a Duck, Marcus Trufant's brothers have been an Eastern Eagle and a Husky respectively, frankly when you boil it down, Mayes is a steal outright and assuming he inks his letter a week from today we should be proud of it.
The biggest recruiting essential is finding the kids that share a vision of where the program can be provided they work to make it so. Those are the kids Wulff has brought in since day one and is continuing to bring in. We eviscerated Bill Doba's recruiting failures because that is exactly what he failed to do. Now we have a guy doing exactly what we need and we're bitching that the offer sheets aren't good enough, or looking across the mountains and being jealous of what our rivals have done, who the hell cares? Today it was announced that we have 7 early enrollees in the program that will get to spring ball. Two of them are from Florida if I'm reading things correctly. That's amazing! This staff in the last two years has successfully opened a miniature pipeline into Florida of all places. That means that we are pulling kids out of a hotbed which now includes Florida, FSU, Miami, UCF, USF, and generally getting in on talent that would have once been exclusive to those in the SEC or in the panhandle. Unlike the failed Texas experiment that Doba has taken a beating for, rightfully so, this one is getting us guys that we can see will be contributors that have been overlooked due to the dearth of talent that surrounds them. Furthermore we have engaged at least one Alumni in the area to help us as Devard Darling was the one that pointed our staff towards Mizell and has been helping out in the preliminary evaluations of the guys we have offered from the area.
I guess what I'm getting at here is that I simply cannot understand the hate and backbiting that has taken place in the last 24 or so hours since the Sankey announcement came down. Brian was right when he said that this isn't that big of a deal, and I'm glad that in general the cougcenter community has conducted itself in a more sane manner than those that frequent cougfan's forums. I like to contribute there, but I know this would fall on deaf ears. It has, in my eyes, been downright shameful how some posters, and some fans around Pullman today have acted in regards to the news. Nembot and Sankey would have both helped, but they do not make an entire class and this staff has shown a penchant for finding talent no one else sees. Look at the young core of talent we enjoyed watching grow this year.
Jeff Tuel- Played QB as a starter for 1 year and sat behind Beau Sweeney who still doesn't see the field at Cal. Meanwhile he has taken the field for a season and a half and is the clear leader of our next two teams as we get back to bowling.
Marquess Wilson- One guy yesterday said he was still waiting for "The Wow moment (in a good way) with this staff" If you can't agree that this kid is a revelation, especially given his ridiculous youth and having not come anywhere near his peak yet, you must be waiting on Paul Wulff to announce we've recruited Jesus himself after a quick jaunt into the fertile recruiting territory in the clouds.
CJ Mizell- The kid is raw and prone to mistakes, guess what so is the rest of the team. It doesn't change the fact that he's fast, mean as hell, and looking to make someone else hurt for even touching the ball. Raw skill can be honed and the future is bright.
John Fullington- Raise your hand if you knew who the hell this kid was before last year. Unless you saw him in High School there was no reason to believe that this kid would be able to come in and perform at such a high level as he did. Did he make mistakes? Yeah, but he also had some wow moments, especially in holding up against a Great Stanford D, only allowing for 2 sacks as an undersized true freshman.
Deone Buchannon- Holy dear sweet lord is this kid awesome. He didn't start part of the season and led the team in tackles. He hits and wraps up well and while he has to learn just look at his pick of Locker in the endzone during the Apple Cup, that was raw talent and instincts recovering like he did.
Sekope Kaufusi- He and Mizell chased down LaMichael James and prevented a TD and forced a turnover. The D never used to have the speed to catch up to a kid that fast, much less the awareness to cause a fumble when he wasn't protecting the ball. Kaufusi like Mizell is big and mean and fast.
Travis Long- He hasn't really had the opportunity to shine in full yet. Still though, he is all effort every down he's on the field and he's made some plays to make you say wow. If I'm not mistaken go look at the game against UCLA when he jumps over the O-line to get a sack. With some help on the line he'll only get better.
That's just a short list of guys that have seen the field so far. We also have guys that have gotten injured and haven't been able to show off their talents thus far. Galvin broke his arm on the first carry of the year last season. Having seen him practice in full pads I can say he's fast and can break some ankles as needed. We also have Aaron Dunn who similarly couldn't play last year after being highly touted. The point is there's talent we have seen and some we have yet to see and that barring a catastrophe all of these guys will be a year older, bigger, faster, and well versed in their respective responsibilities on the field. People looking for "wow moments" need no further than to look at the field because this staff has done one hell of a job getting guys otherwise overlooked to come to WSU and perform early despite lacking experience.
Just like I can't and won't break down the full roster I'm not going to break down the full recruiting class. What I will do is point out a few things. We scored a legacy in Logan Mayes that can play with a resume that reads very well. We also scored a semi-legacy in Tana Pritchard who hits so damn hard that he wasn't allowed to participate in full-contact drills with his team. Both have good speed and what seems to be genuine enthusiasm to be in Pullman and represent the Cougs. If last year was the year of the wide receiver this year has been the year of the linebacker as both Mayes and Pritchard are being joined by Sua and Monroe. Furthermore this staff has gone after defensive line recruits both of the HS and JC variety and landed some guys that can help immediately while they continue to build depth over the next year or two. People who are crowing about the lack of HS talent coming in as of late need to take a step back and realize WSU is in line with the national average of HS/JC talent for a given recruiting class. It's in line with what they've done before, it's not a desperation ploy to try to save Wulff's job, it's intelligent recruiting to meet a need.
For those that are still holding their pitchforks and maybe thinking of still mobbing Wulff or Moos just take a step back and think for a second. The one area we have seen consistent improvement in since Wulff got here has been increasingly prolific, if raw, talent on the field. Competition in practices has increased and this team has an attitude that doesn't allow for the let-downs of yesteryear. They fight, they scrap, they care. They are tired of losing as much or more than we are and the recruits are showing up in early May, not early August, now. There is an expectation of a strong work ethic in the newest and rawest of recruits and more and more early arrivals are becoming a regular part of our classes, not the exception we hear about every 2 or 3 years. What's more is we need to can the talk of Bill Moos, failure of the program, and great gasbag of hype. Moos has put his plan into motion, he's busting his hump to have tangible facilities improvements underway ASAP and he has clearly put a goal of going bowling on the table this year. He's not sitting on his hands, and he's not selling out the program because he wanted to be cheap and give the coach that's an Alum one more pity shot before sending him packing. He is passionate, he cares, and most importantly he's doing all he can to aid recruiting both by trying to improve facilities that would open as this program could logically hit its next high point, but also by talking to recruits to help them and their parents make the decision to come here. If Wulff and Moos talking to Sankey could not close the deal on him, then it wasn't going to happen, because they are likely the two most passionate guys in the room when you start talking Cougar football.
If you were thinking of walking off the cliff or know someone who is, please feel free to send them this way. If they or you disagree with me let me know. I write to encourage discussion and this is a subject at the core of what we need to be talking about right now. I am a firm believer in our future success and a believer in the team of men we have assembled to get us there. This class may not be coming in as hot as we had hoped it would, but Wulff seems to pull guys out of a hat in the 11th hour and I hope he does this year as well. Overall we'll be fine, this isn't a cut-rate big sky class like the hand wringers I've dealt with seem to think it is, but I'll admit it may not be the shiniest and prettiest one we've hooked. Just remember it takes a few years to know the true measure of a class anyway so jumping ship now is tantamount to forfeiting before you ever play. Just like I said the other day about body bag games not being that if you don't get killed, a class can't be full of losers until they go lose.