A huge recruiting weekend on tap for WSU

WSU Athletic Communications

WSU will play its final home game of the season on Saturday and will attempt to take advantage with a big recruiting weekend.

There hasn't been a ton of recruiting talk on CougCenter in recent weeks and it isn't because we are ignoring news ... there just hasn't been much going on. WSU exploded out of the proverbial recruiting gate in May, June and July. It didn't last and things have become stagnant in recent months.

In fact, WSU has lost as many commits as it has gained since the start of the season. The latest departure came on Tuesday when three-star offensive lineman Braden Eggert flipped from WSU to Oregon. Defensive tackle prospect Marcus Griffin decommitted from WSU earlier this month, though he's still being recruited by the Cougars. Jordan Rose had his offer pulled following an off-the-field incident in October. Three players added since September, three players lost.

Despite the the early recruiting momentum, the Cougars have had very little action on the recruiting trail recently. That is somewhat troubling, especially with the coaching staff hitting the recruiting road hard during the two bye weeks. Momentum may not play a role on the field, but it certainly does in recruiting. Good players want to play with other good players and when one commits, it tends to have a snowball effect.

With National Signing Day roughly two-and-a-half months away, the Cougars have 12 players verbally committed. That means there is going to be a lot of action between now and Feb. 5, and it starts this week. Official visits are a huge selling point in recruiting. While WSU can continue to host players on official visits after the season, getting them in front of a Cougar Football Saturday atmosphere is a big plus.

WSU is scheduled to host seven players on visits this week, according to the latest list from WazzuWatch.com. I would expect that number to drop by one, with Eggert one of the players listed. That doesn't take away from what will be a massive recruiting weekend. Of the six other players, three are currently committed to Pac-12 schools. Game on.

KEY: Height and weight measurements come from Rivals.com. The rating includes the number of stars and the players' national ranking at their position.

Player Position Height/Weight Rivals Scout ESPN Commitment
Rahshead Johnson WR 5'11, 175 4-star (21) 4-star (23) 4-star (30) Washington
Glen Ihenacho S 5'11, 180 3-star (NR) 3-star (32) 3-star (63) Uncommitted
Naijiel Hale CB 5'11, 170 3-star (29) 4-star (21) 3-star (31) Arizona
Darren Gardenhire S 6'0, 170 3-star (NR) 3-star (92) 3-star (85) Uncommitted
Denzel Fisher CB 6'2, 175 3-star (60) 3-star (40) 3-star (85) UCLA
Patrick Porter CB 6'0, 170 2-star (NR) 2-star (168) 3-star (72) Uncommitted

EDIT: It appears Hale is no longer visiting. Britton confirmed the reports and has some insight as to why.

The Cougars have major needs in the secondary and could take a step towards filling them with a productive weekend. Five of the six visitors are defensive backs and the other is a consensus 4-star recruit who is currently committed to Washington. I can't think of a much better way to start Apple Cup week than flipping a significant recruit. All of the players visiting this weekend are well regarded. Porter may only be ranked as a two-star prospect by some, but he has an impressive offer sheet including offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Mike Leach and his staff have proven they can draw significant interest from upper-tier recruits. They've gotten them to visit Pullman and they've even made a few hat ceremonies. They haven't, however, closed the deal often enough. Being in the running has been a step in the right direction, now they need to start becoming the chosen hat. Any of the six visiting players would be a significant addition. A weekend with multiple commitments could start WSU on a strong close to the 2014 recruiting class.

The magnitude of this weekend for recruiting goes beyond just the players visiting. In fact, I would say it's the biggest recruiting weekend in the Leach era. While that may be a bit hyperbolic, the bottom line is this is a very important weekend for WSU football. The Cougars are on the cusp of taking a significant step as a program. A win over Utah would give the Cougars the six wins needed to become bowl eligible. It would also be a step in WSU climbing to the middle tier of the Pac-12.

In previous seasons, WSU was a finalist for a few top prospects. Kenny Lawler and Cedric Dozier chose Cal over WSU while Alphonso Marsh picked a Utah hat over its WSU counterpart. Lawler and Dozier have impressed as redshirt freshmen and would key parts of the core group at WSU. A cornerback duo of Daquawn Brown and Dozier would have been so much fun.

With it being Never Sonny in California at the moment, the Bears aren't having the same recruiting success they had in recent years. Cal is just beginning a rebuild and finally the Cougars appear on the fast track out of one. In terms of football, WSU can sell itself better than Cal can right now. Now, Saturday is a chance for the Cougars to move ahead of Utah as well. A better win/loss record in one season isn't going to dramatically change things in recruiting, but it certainly can't hurt.

If WSU wins on Saturday, it becomes bowl eligible while also preventing Utah from making a bowl. Both schools will sell a lot of the same things in recruiting. If the Cougars win they can say, "hey look how fast we're rising. Those guys didn't even make a bowl. Come be a part of something great, not a rebuild." Will that work for everyone? No, but it may be just enough to sway a recruit or two that might have become a Ute or a Bear otherwise. Those are the battles WSU has to start winning.

The Cougars have taken baby steps in recruiting since Leach was hired. Things have improved at a slow, but steady rate. Just like WSU's win against Arizona sped up the rebuilding process, the Cougars have an opportunity to put some nitrus to their recruiting efforts. Win this week and you're bowl eligible and can sell yourself over Utah. Win next week and you've taken a massive step forward in one year and might even begin to turn recruiting heads focused on Washington to the Eastern side of the state.

Although it has been a lackluster recruiting season for WSU thus far, the Cougars have a great crop of prospects coming to town and a huge opportunity at their fingertips. Now, it's time to take advantage.

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