When you really think about it, every National Signing Day is the same. Sure, the names change, but everything else is basically Groundhogs Day. Teams sign roughly the same number of players each year. Barring an impressive rise or drastic fall, the recruits tend to be of similar quality for any given school. And the day always ends with coaches singing the praises of the new class and how it's the "best they've had since they've been at (insert school name)."
That was exactly the case at Washington State yesterday, but that doesn't mean it wasn't an eventful recruiting cycle. Let's go back and look through some of the biggest story lines from Wednesday and the last 12 months.
No signing day surprises
On a purely entertainment level, WSU's 2014 signing day was a lot like the show Joey. With all of the build up, memories and hype, excitement was high. "This is going to be just as good as Friends. Joey MADE that show." It's signing day, that means drama! Intrigue! Rumors! ... or not. WSU methodically went about its business. Nearly every letter intent was in before most people finished their morning coffee. There were no hat ceremonies. No last-second flips. No out of nowhere drama like Tyler Bruggman provided last year. The only question is what took so long for Sulaiman Hameed's LOI to come in. Even that wasn't much of a question with pictures of Hameed signing floating around Twitter long before WSU officially announced it.
If you enjoy signing day as an event to celebrate and welcome the newest crop of Cougs. Wednesday was awesome and stress free. If you like a little Siracha in your chicken noodle soup, you were probably better off watching Maury.
Why did so many players decommit?
WSU signed 17 players on Wednesday and took in a class of 24 if you count Sebastian LaRue and the early enrollees, but the Cougars received verbal commitments from more than 30 players during the cycle. Led by Marcus Griffin and Chandler Leniu, a total of eight players committed to WSU, only to decommit and eventually sign elsewhere. Griffin landed with Arizona, Leniu stayed home to play for Cal. Ronald Monroe signed with Vanderbilt. Braden Eggert flipped to Oregon. Tristan Vizcaino and Darren Gardenhire signed with Washington. WSU and Joseph Turner parted ways in December.
That's not to forget Miguel Machado. How, could we possibly forget Machado.
If you remember, Machado verbally committed to WSU in the middle of December, picking the Cougars over Michigan State. Woo, go us. He was a solid commit for roughly a month, before taking a visit to Purdue on Jan. 17. He visited the Spartans the next week and was obviously looking around. Describing the twists and turns from there would take too many words, so let's timeline it.
-- Jan. 26: Names Michigan State his leader, despite still being committed to WSU
-- Jan. 30: Decommits from WSU
-- Jan. 30: Commits to Purdue, despite naming Michigan State his leader four days prior
-- Feb. 5: Decommits from Purdue
-- Feb. 5: Signs with Michigan State
Eight decommits/partings obviously isn't ideal, but it's also the nature of the beast. Every program lost verbal commitments at some point. I didn't go through and track the number of decommits per school, but I'd guess that eight isn't all that high. And if you are a "look on the bright side type" at least WSU is finally attracting the type of player other schools -- major BCS programs at that -- want to poach. This isn't losing Maxx Forde to Idaho. Players go to different schools, it happens. The fact the Cougars were one of, or the first to offer a few of the decommits says a lot about the talent evaluation skills of the coaching staff. Even better, the coaching staff adjusted on the fly and filled the holes with other good players. They didn't "settle" as Mike Leach put it.
Theme of the 2014 class
Leach put it best; size and speed. Most of the players WSU signed have above average measurables for their positions. Four of the six defensive backs, including the early enrollees, are 6-foot or taller and the other two are 5-foot-11. The four offensive linemen are 6-foot-5, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7. Two are already at least 290 pounds. WSU signed a 6-foot-8, 270-pound defensive end and a 6-foot-5 linebacker. Everyone in the class runs well and those who don't have plus size make up for it with extra speed. Calvin Green appears to be one of the fastest recruits I can remember for some time and Keith Harrington isn't far behind.
For a few years, WSU appeared to be adolescents running in cement shoes, playing against grown men running on travelators. That's begun to change and the 2014 class should help narrow the gap even further.
Then why is the class ranked so low?
Two things dominate recruiting conversations. Stars and team rankings. Many, including myself, have sung the praises of this class as the best in recent WSU history. That should mean the Cougs moved up in the team rankings, right? No. WSU checked in with the 71st best class according to Rivals, 50th according to 247Sports and 58th according to Scout. That is actually worse than some of Paul Wulff's classes.
So, what gives?
There are two main factors. First, WSU only signed 19 players who count in many of the rankings. The grayshirts from last season don't count, Sebastian LaRue doesn't count. Some rankings award points per player, so WSU signing a class of 19 receives less points than if it would have signed 25 with the extra six being 2-star athletes. The Cougars fare better when you take a look at the average star rankings, but even that might not tell the full story.
Not all 3-star prospects are made the same. Some are just on the cusp of being a 4-star, others teetering on the edge of losing a star. From all appearances. WSU signed a lot of above-average 3-star types. 247Sports compiles composite rankings of the various recruiting services which includes rating in addition to stars on a 1-100 scale. In 2014, WSU had an average composite rating of 83.19, good for No. 53. Here is how that compares to recent seasons.
An improvement of 1.48 may not seem like much, but it is significant. Another 1.48 improvement next season would give the Cougars a composite rating of 84.67. That would be good for No. 36 this year. Add another 1.48 the following year and you're pushing for a top 25 rating.
The rating is a little more impressive when you consider it's done without a consensus 4-star recruit. There isn't much droppoff from No. 1 to No. 10. Quality is always better than quantity in recruiting and this class is certainly lacking an elite recruit or two (at least by rankings). That said, if you don't have a guy or two who can carry the class, you better come up with a bunch who can play and it appears that is exactly what WSU did.