WSU football recruiting: A monster recruiting weekend in store for the Cougs

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Pullman will be quiet this weekend, but not in the football building with nearly a dozen recruits coming to town.

Update: But wait ... there's more! Brett Rypien -- the 4-star nephew of Mark Rypien -- is taking an unofficial visit on Saturday to watch practice.

While the students are on their way home for winter break, the WSU football team will be busy at work this weekend. The coaches will be especially busy with nearly a dozen prospects coming to town. If Pullman isn't going to be full of students, you might as well fill it with recruits.

The Cougars aren't scratching at the bottom of the barrel either. The visitors include three of the top four prospects in Washington, a few current verbals and some other highly-rated players. To put it simply, this could be a program-changing type of weekend.

That may be a bit hyperbolic, but it's not far off. I can't remember the last time WSU hosted this many highly-rated prospects in a single weekend. Here's a look at who will be coming to town, with a major h/t to Britton Ransford who has been all over the news. You can follow him on Twitter for frequent updates or check out his work at WazzuWatch.com.

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 Pos. Ht/Wt Rivals Scout ESPN Commitment Highlights
Kalani Vakameilalo DT 6'4, 300 3-star (NR) 2-star (100) 3-star (53) Oregon State Link
Olajuwon Tucker DE/OLB 6'4, 225 4-star (16) 4-star (19) 3-star (115) USC Link
Ngalu Tapa DT 6'3, 275 3-star (NR) 3-star (50) 3-star (96) WSU Link
Sione Takitaki DE/LB 6'3, 240 3-star (44) 3-star (55) 3-star (24) BYU Link
Kaleb McGary OT 6'9, 270 4-star (30) 4-star (26) 3-star (80) Uncommitted Link
Frank Luvu LB 6'2, 215 NR 3-star (65) 3-star (95) WSU Link
Marcus Griffin DT 6'3, 285 4-star (22) 3-star (28) 3-star (99) Uncommitted Link
Kingston Fernandez DE 6'3, 235 NR 2-star (NR) NR Uncommitted Link
Devante Downs ATH 6'2, 230 3-star (23) 3-star (3FB) 4-star (26) California Link
Squally Canada RB 5'11, 180 2-star (NR) 3-star (56) 4-star (33) Uncommitted Link
Peyton Bender QB 6'1, 177 3-star (26) 3-star (78) 3-star (28) WSU Link

The coaching staff continues to show the ability to get talented players to visit WSU. Of the 11 visiting, five are rated as a 4-star prospect by at least one of the services. Based on the Rivals rankings, the Cougs are bringing in the No. 2 (McGary), No. 3 (Griffin) and No. 4 (Downs) prospects in Washington. WSU is going to continue to get most of its players from California and Texas, but landing some of the top players in the Northwest would be excellent.

One of the first thing that stands out about the group coming in is the sheer size. Only Canada is under 6-feet tall and only he and Bender weigh less than 200 pounds. A few of the players are absolutely huge for their positions and while they could all likely benefit from a redshirt year, a few have the size to play as a freshman and not be drastically undersized.

It's also a nice mix of committed and uncommitted players. Bringing in players who have already verbally committed helps to secure that commitment and can be huge in selling the program. The recruits spend a ton of time together during the course of the visit and having a few players who committed to WSU and can sell the virtues of becoming a Coug is a very nice bonus. I especially like Bender being on this trip. Quarterbacks tend to be team leaders and often play a role in recruiting other recruits.

Here are a few quick observations on each player after watching some highlights.

Kalani Vakameilalo -- Kapolei, Hawaii

Vakameilao is a beast. The No. 1 prospect in Hawaii according to Rivals. He looks like he could come in and play right away along the defensive line. Great size, but is quick off the ball and athletic. Reminds me a lot of Xavier Cooper. Committed to OSU in early November, also has offers from Kansas and Pittsburgh.

Kingston Fernandez -- Kapolei, Hawaii

Vakameilalo's teammate. There isn't a lot of information on him, which isn't a huge surprise playing in Hawaii. His Hudl page -- which lists him at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds -- says he runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash. It wouldn't surprise me either, he looks very quick off the line as a DE. Don't know how great the competition he's going against is, but he's obliterating people. Maybe a BUCK in WSU's scheme?

Olajuwon Tucker -- Gardena, Calif.

Committed to USC with offers from ASU, Colorado, Miami, Utah and others. Definitely a candidate to play the BUCK spot. Flashes skills across the board. Good burst off the line, power, motor. Makes some plays in coverage and against the run so not necessarily just a pass rusher. It wouldn't be fair to compare the two, but well-rounded in a similar way to Travis Long.

Ngalu Tapa -- Sacramento, Calif.

Tapa hasn't received a ton of recruiting attention -- likely due to an off-the-field incident last year. On the field, he appears to be a very good prospect. Strong, quick, great motor. He's on the light side at 275 pounds but plays with great pad level. Really like him.

Sione Takitaki -- Romoland, Calif.

He played all over the field in high school, spending time at fullback, defensive end and middle linebacker. My guess would be he winds up at middle linebacker, where he would have great size at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. He Plays up to that size too and appears to be very strong. Tackles like he's running downhill.

Kaleb McGary -- Tacoma, Wash.

Played tight end and defensive end in high school, but projects to play along the offensive line. Listed at 6-foot-9 and has a good-sized frame. I don't think he'll have any issue packing on weight. He looks agile playing tight end and has some quick feet. That, combined with his size, is why most project him as a future left tackle. Offers from OSU, Washington, Wisconsin, ASU, California, Colorado, Nebraska, USC and Utah. Massive upside.

Frank Luvu -- Pago Pago, American Samoa

Another prospect from the American Samoa, which WSU has recruited aggressively since Mike Leach and Joe Salave'a arrived. Played safety in high school, but will likely move to linebacker at WSU. Looks athletic and strong. Is probably going to come in raw, but projects well as a potential SAM linebacker.

Marcus Griffin -- Bellevue, Wash.

Committed to WSU in April before opening things up in early November. He's a very disruptive player and gets good push while playing with a great motor. Really good run defender and would appear to be an ideal candidate to play the nose in WSU's defense. Reminds me a lot of Ioane Gauta. Maybe not flashy, but consistently disruptive and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Devante Downs -- Lynnwood, Wash.

Currently committed to Cal. He tore his ACL during his senior season. Played running back, safety and linebacker in high school. He is a ridiculous athlete. There just aren't many players with his size who can run like he can. I would guess he'll land on defense, but I wouldn't rule out running back and maybe even wide receiver. On the defensive side, his combination of size and athletic ability could make him a beast playing the BUCK spot. He could probably play any of the four linebacker spots though, and maybe even strong safety. When he committed to Cal, Downs said he was going to graduate in December and enroll early. He and Griffin are friends and the two plan to take a trip to Cal soon.

Squally Canada -- Milpitas, Calif.

Originally committed to Boise State before opening things up. Runs incredibly hard and is really physical for his size. Very surprised to see Rivals list him as a 2-star prospect. Speed, power, vision. I'm not sure what he doesn't have. Probably my favorite thing about him is the balance he runs with. Keeps a great center of gravity which allows him to make a lot of quick, sudden moves. Similar to Marshawn Lynch in that capacity. Not many highlights as a receiver, which is obviously key in the Air Raid.

Peyton Bender, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The quarterback of the class. Is on the smaller side, but that hasn't been a problem in the Air Raid. Completed 64 percent of his passes as a senior. Love his release and quick delivery. He throws some absolute dimes in the highlights. Doesn't look like arm strength is an issue either, even with his smaller frame. While the ability to make the right reads and decisions will be the key to success, he has all the physical tools. More on him here.

*****

So there you have it. The key now is whether WSU can turn visits into verbals. With the four recent commitments, WSU is up to 16 in the 2014 class and 19 if you add in Marcellus Pippins, Markell Sanders and Dylan Hanser. With early enrollments and some space left in last year's class, I would expect WSU to add 24-27 prospects in this cycle, so there is plenty of action to come. Maybe some of it will follow this busy weekend.

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