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Which recruit could have changed WSU’s fortunes?

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Time for our Question Of The Day!

UCLA Bruins v California Golden Bears

Let’s resurrect a series that seemed to go over pretty well a couple of years ago: The Question Of The Day.

The concept is pretty straight forward! I give you a question, I give you my answer with a couple hundred words of explanation, then you give me your answer in the comments, probably with somewhat fewer words of explanation.

Today’s question:

If you could go back and select just one recruit who was considering WSU and have him actually pick WSU, whom would you choose?

The key with this question comes down to the stipulation that it has to be a guy who was “considering WSU” — so, for example, you can’t go back and pick Jadeveon Clowney or Reggie Bush. I also understand there can be differing definitions of “considering WSU,” so let’s go with this one, just so we’re all on the same page: Guys who actually took a visit to Pullman.

Under that criteria, I’d have to pick Marshawn Lynch.

Now, I don’t think WSU was ever seriously in the running for Lynch, who played at Cal, near his beloved home of Oakland. But Lynch did take an official visit to WSU back in 2003, when the Cougs were at the program’s peak.

Had Lynch chosen to attend WSU instead, he would have been a freshman in 2004. You know who else was a first-year player in 2004? Jerome Harrison. He led the team in rushing with 900 yards on 174 attempts for a 5.2-yard average. But after him? Sorry Chris Bruhn, but I think I would rather have had Marshawn’s 628 yards on just 71 attempts — an 8.8-yard average — than your 291 yards on 76 attempts.

That 2004 team finished 5-6 with a pretty mediocre offense that saw Josh Swogger and Alex Brink split time. Could Marshawn have helped the Cougs to one more win? WSU lost an early season non-conference game to Colorado 20-12, and later lost consecutive home games to Oregon and Stanford by a combined nine points. His presence in any of those games very likely would have made a difference in at least one. Personally, I think they probably beat the Buffs.

Bill Doba never was able to pull the program back up to where it was, eventually “retiring” after posting a 20-26 record in the years after Lynch went to Cal.

But what if Lynch helps lead WSU to its fourth consecutive bowl game? What if the following year, instead of losing five games by four points or fewer, Lynch is able to pair with Harrison to form the most dynamic backfield in college football and help them turn around just two of those losses to get back to another bowl game? What if Lynch, now the feature back, can rampage to 1,500 yards and keep them from that infamous three-game losing streak in 2006?

What if Bill Doba ends up leading WSU to four consecutive bowl games to start his head coaching career, making it six straight overall? Beyond where just the health of the football program would potentially be today, what about the athletic program overall? Maybe donations increase, etc. etc.

Or, maybe nothing changes with Lynch in the backfield. But I sure would have loved to find out, especially if it meant we could have avoided the dark years of Paul Wulff.

I’m not a guy who follows recruiting all that closely, so I’m sure there are a bunch of names I’m not considering, but another high profile one you might choose would be Jonathan Stewart, who had the Cougs in his final two before choosing Oregon. More recently, WSU lost wide receiver Deontay Burnett to USC on signing day. I sure would love to have that guy right now.

Who would you pick?