With Signing Day roughly three weeks away, Washington State head coach Mike Leach and staff are gearing up for one final hurrah. While the current class sits at 19 players, Leach is hosting a total of 11 prospective recruits this weekend (five of which have already verbally committed).
It's hard to make hyperbolic proclamations like, "most important recruiting weekend ever!", but I'd by lying if I didn't stress how important this weekend actually is. Out of the six players who have yet to verbally commit, I'd say anything less than two players committing is worrisome. To be honest, I expect at least two to commit before they leave, and another one or two to commit shortly thereafter. The way things have been going lately, I actually wouldn't be surprised if every player committed.
Break downs of each player visiting after the jump.
(Players already committed)
Brett Bartolone, WR, La Habra, CA (2 stars)
David Bucannon, S, Fairfield, CA (3 stars)
Keith Ewing, LB, Bellaire, TX (2 stars)
Alex Jackson, WR, Culver City, CA (3 stars)
Theron West, RB/RS, Wilmington, CA (2 stars)
(Players who haven't committed)
Jeremiah Allison, OLB, Los Angeles, CA (3 stars)
Allison is a pass rusher extraordinaire, and racked up 20 sacks as a junior. He's too small to play DE (6'1, 210) but can add 15 or so more pounds and be a pretty good situational pass rushing OLB/DE hybrid. I don't expect him to play with his hand in the dirt much, but I could envision some Sekope Kaufusi type stuff where he is basically brought in strictly to blitz. He is limited in terms of dropping back into coverage, but he's been working on a lot of things. If he fully embraces the transition to LB, he could be very good. I think at worst, he's a part time player and LB depth until his senior year, and contributes on special teams. Allison is a player I really want to sign. Also of note is he's been offered by both Duke and Yale, so academics won't be a problem. Video highlights.
Jake Eldrenkamp, OG, Bellevue, WA (3 stars)
Eldrenkamp is one of the state's best offensive linemen. After not being heavily recruited much of the season, business started to pick up once Mike Leach was hired. Shortly after Leach officially offered the Bellevue offensive lineman, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian stepped in and offered as well. Eldrenkamp also holds offers from Oregon State, Purdue, and Utah. The knock against Eldrenkamp around the internet message board community was that he was "soft". After watching tape, I can't understand why that's the rumor. Besides being ridiculously speculative and impossible to quantify, it seems rather petty to label a kid "soft". Do I think he's the best offensive lineman in the state? No, not by any stretch. I do, however, believe he's a very good player who could develop into a very solid collegiate lineman. When Fernando Villanueva decommitted, we lost one of the best offensive linemen in this class. Eldrenkamp has played all over the line, and while probably best suited inside at guard, has the ability to step up anywhere you ask him. I'd be thrilled if we were able to get Eldrenkamp, and at this point, we're basically fighting UW to see who gets him. He carries an excellent GPA to boot, with offers from Brown and Yale. Academics won't be a problem with him, either. Video highlights.
Robert Lewis, WR, South Gate, CA (3 stars)
For those of you who were super upset last year at the moral injustices of other coaches continuing to recruit kids who had already committed to WSU, Lewis is currently verbally committed to Southern Methodist University. He also fits the Leach WR mold (5'10, 160, fast, shifty, slot guys, Snoop Dog braids), so that's a big plus. Lewis is good at creating separation between himself and the defender. One thing you'll notice is that even when there's not much room, he finds a way to get a little separation, and boom. He's gone. My favorite part of his highlight tape was when he Devin Hester'd the other team during a punt return. He waives everyone off, lets the ball hit the turf, and as everyone is sort of jogging or stopping without actually downing the punt, he just picks it up and runs with it. I laughed for a solid five minutes. As a coach, it's one of those "NO NO NO N... oh. YES YES YES YES" type plays where you let him have his moment of glory before sitting down with him and saying, "Yeah, let's not do that again. But I love you." Video highlights.
Gabe Marks, WR, Los Angeles, CA (4 stars)
Marks is the most sought after player of the bunch, and for good reason. While he can play either CB or WR, Mike Leach loves receivers as much as I love pot stickers (and boy oh boy do I love potstickers). While I'd love the prospect of him on defense -- especially after watching our secondary get destroyed almost every week -- I think he's best suited for offense. Marks is the small (5'11, 175) and shifty WR that Leach covets on the inside. Marks was at one point committed to SMU. He now lists WSU as his favorite. At this point, I'd be surprised if he went anywhere else. If he does indeed commit, and can convince Kache Palacio and Robert Lewis to commit as well, they'll become the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th former SMU commits to jump ship to Wazzu, joining Khalil Pettway. Sorry Mustangs! It's payback for Craig James. ALL YOUR RECRUITS ARE BELONG TO US! Video highlights.
Kache Palacio, OLB, Gardena, CA (3 stars)
Palacio is a recent SMU de-commit, and his top two schools at this juncture are WSU and UCLA (where former SMU recruiting coordinator Adrian Klemm now works). From what I can gather reading the tea leaves, he probably has UCLA ranked ahead of us. Even if he goes crimson this weekend, he's still visiting Westwood next weekend. A bigger kid than Allison (6'2, 225), Palacio is another high school DE with great pass rushing skills who will need to transition to OLB in college. I think he's the more well rounded LB of the two, but that Allison is the better pure pass rusher. I hope we get him, Lewis, and Marks so we can just be all LOL U MAD SMU? Video highlights.
Niu Sale, OG, Wilmington, CA (2 stars)
Sale is the JC teammate of Theron West. Until recently, Sale was an Arizona State commit. Including ASU, Sale has offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, Kansas State, Oregon State, SDSU, Utah, and Wazzu. He'll have three years to play two, and would be brought in to help bridge the gap while the influx of high school linemen matures. He's big (6'3, 300), and probably better suited to play inside. Coming out of high school, Sale almost signed with UW. Grades forced him to go the JC route, as well as Softy claiming "we didn't want him anyway". Video highlights.
So there you have it, folks. A comprehensive look at all eleven kids visiting the Palouse this weekend. It's a pretty significant recruiting trip, and I'd expect to look back on this weekend as the make it or break it moment. As of right now, this class isn't great. While it isn't as bad as last year (and that's sad considering the sheer numbers difference), this class could sure use a shot in the arm. Guys like Gabe Marks, Robert Lewis, Jake Eldrenkamp, and Jeremiah Allison could do just that.
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