WSU's outstanding 2015 was due to the culmination of Mike Leach's recruiting classes finally making up the majority of the roster. You can find outstanding performers in all classes, but what is really exciting is seeing the excellent contributions of the freshman class on a top-tier Pac-12 team. Athlon sports recognized a couple of players yesterday on it's freshman All-American team. Defensive end Hercules Mata'afa was named to the second team and cornerback Darrien Molton earned a spot on the third team. These are probably the two biggest impact freshman WSU has had since Deone Buccanon in 2010 and Marcus Trufant in 1999. We all know how those guys turned out.
Mata'afa had a huge impact as redshirt freshman recording 6 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He was also named to USA Today's freshman All-American team. WSU hasn't had a power pass rusher like this since the days of Rien Long. Molton graded out as the best freshman corner period by Pro Football Focus. This earned him first team freshman All-American and second team All Pac-12 by the website. Opponents seemed to flat out avoid Molton's side of the field this year. The Cougars haven't had this good of a pure cover corner since the days of the afore-mentioned Trufant.
Cougar fans should be really excited for the program's future with the return of so many key players next year, including these two terrific freshman. Neither one of these guys were highly ranked recruits, which goes to show you never know how these kids will pan out on signing day. This should also give us confidence in the talent evaluation skills of Mike Leach and his staff.
Looking into the crystal ball, my guess is that the freshmen that will surprise everyone next year will be running back James Williams and defensive lineman Lyric Bartley. Williams is like Mata'fa in that he is impressing everyone in Thursday NightFootball as a redshirt and will shine even in a talented position group. Bartley is an unsung recruit like Molton, who is stepping into a position of need on the defensive line and looks impressive on film. It's great to see this program have such outstanding young players on the rise to mix with all-conference upperclassman like Luke Falk and Gabe Marks. It's what building a great program is all about. I get pumped up just writing about it.
On to the links, including a piece I highly recommend on the really cool CougFam program.
Newly formed booster group helps WSU football families stay connected | The Seattle Times
CougFam was founded by Jill Osur-Myers, the mother of WSU offensive lineman Noah Osur-Myers, and is affiliated with the Cougar Athletic Fund.
How WSU linebacker Jeremiah Allison developed a bond with Elson Floyd | The Seattle Times
Jeremiah Allison was escorted onto the field on senior night by Carmento Floyd, the widow of Elson Floyd, the Washington State president who died of complications from colon cancer. Allison’s relationship with the Floyds deepened after his mother died in 2012.
Cardinals' Bucannon named NFC Defensive Player of the Week | FOX Sports
Cardinals' Bucannon named NFC Defensive Player of the Week
Morning links: Cougars get their swag on | The Spokesman-Review
Washington State held its first El Paso practice yesterday. Then the Cougars hit the gift suite.
WSU pitcher Ian Hamilton chosen to Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America second team | The Seattle Times
The Cougars’ reliever was a repeat member of the Pac-12 Conference team last season.