WSU got one win on the field on Saturday and another in recruiting with safety Darren Gardenhire verbally committing to the Cougars, according to Braulio Perez.
A consensus three-star prospect, Gardenhire was one of six players on official visits. He was previously committed to San Jose State and holds offers from Utah, Boise State, Colorado, Purdue and others. His addition could be significant for WSU. Not only did the Cougars win a recruiting battle against a couple of Pac-12 schools, but Gardenhire fills a huge need.
WSU has had a hard time finding a true free safety in recent years and Gardenhire appears to have the skillset to be just that. ESPN and Scout list Gardenhire at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, but he also has some speed to go with that size. Gardenhire runs well and appears to be a natural athlete in highlights. Here is what ESPN had to say about his coverage ability:
Shows above average fluidity to open and run with receivers. Has the ability to change directions and close separation while the ball is in the air. Will work to maintain leverage and not allow receiver to take inside path when aligned on slot.
If that proves to be true, I wouldn't be suprised to see Gardenhire in the mix right away. WSU will have to replace Deone Bucannon next year and there isn't an obvious replacement currently on the depth chart. Instead, the safety position figures to be an open competition next fall with Gardenhire now included.
Here are Gardenhire's junior season highlights. He flashes a lot of versatility, making plays in coverage, against the run on coverage units and he even returns kicks. There is a lot to like.
With Gardenhire in the fold, the Cougars now have 13 players verbally committed to the 2014 class. Marcellus Pippins, Markell Sanders, Olito Thompson and Dylan Hanser remain grayshirt candidates, possibly bringing the current allotment to 17 depending on who enrolls and how the scholarships are allotted.