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Despite limping to the finish line, WSU's 2015 recruiting class is still pretty good

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However, WSU had a class on the fringes of the top 25, and then it all fell apart. And it's likely due in part to the ... outside receivers coach?

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When Tae'on Mason officially flipped from WSU to USC about two weeks ago, it appeared Mike Leach and the Cougars were headed for their highest rated class in some time. The impressive haul of verbal commits pushed WSU up into territory not seen recently -- Scout.com even had the Cougs in their top 25.

But every verbal commit comes with the caveat that its non-binding, and WSU fans got a harsh reminder of that today: Flips by Deontay Burnett and Tae'on Mason capped what has been a terrible week for the Cougars, whose 2015 class ranking is now likely to settle in over the next couple of days between 45th and 50th, depending on which recruiting service you like.

That said, this still is the best class Mike Leach has put together at WSU; each of his previous three classes were rated in the 50s by 247sports.com's composite ranking, but this one sits at 46 (for now).

There are some guys who figure to fill some immediate holes, particularly on defense (safety Shalom Luani, cornerback Treshon Broughton, linebacker Aaron Porter, kicker Matt Abramo), some highly rated guys (defensive tackle Thomas Toki, quarterback Tyler Hilinski and safety Kameron Powell all are rated four stars by one or more services), and lots of solid three-star depth, particularly on the offensive line with guys who have room to grow and develop.

Mike Leach said in his signing day news conference, "This is the best class, in my opinion, that we've had here."

Still, it's hard for fans not to wonder about what might have been.

Some of the drop is due to the vagaries of recruiting, in which a school of WSU's stature has its recruits poached by bigger schools as other dominoes start to fall (hello, Austin Joyner). But a big part of what happened to WSU is likely due to what is the impending departure of outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons -- a move that Leach confirmed in his signing day news conference.

Simmons is one of the best recruiters on the staff and one of the guys (along with Ken Wilson) responsible for the Southern California region that WSU had emphasized in this recruiting cycle. The Cougars had great success securing commitments from players down there, but then word leaked that Simmons had interviewed for a job at Oklahoma ... and, well, see for yourself what effect that presumably had, as what follows is a list of all the players for which Simmons was the primary recruiter:

Name 247 Rating Commit Simmons Report Decommit
Deontay Burnett *** 7/14/2014 1/29/2015 2/4/2015
Dillon Faamatu *** 12/15/2014 1/29/2015 1/26/2015
Dahu Green *** 1/7/2015 1/29/2015 2/2/2015
Willie Sykes *** 1/18/2015 1/29/2015 1/27/2015
Kyahva Tezino **** 12/16/2014 1/29/2015 2/2/2015

Leach said "it's tough to tell" how much of an impact Simmons' departure had on WSU's class, but the fact that the Cougs signed exactly zero players for which Simmons was the primary recruiter seems to tell a different story.

That wasn't the only damage. In addition to those guys, four-star WR/CB Tae'on Mason flipped to San Jose State (really - perhaps signifying some qualification issues) on signing day, and three-star JUCO LB Jonah Moi flipped to Oregon last night.

Here's what that did to WSU in the 247sports.com composite ranking:

247 ranking 2-4-15

That "-14" is today -- as in, WSU began signing day rated 32nd. Per 247's class calculator, had WSU been able to just hang onto the guys it lost in the last 48 hours, the Cougs would have finished 34th, as Tezino, Mason, Green, Burnett and Moi made up five of the 12 highest rated players in the class.

Scout rates WSU's class 43rd, while Rivals rates it 51st (although Rivals' rating is based on 22 players, which seems to mean that Eddie Rudinski is not being included as he has not yet sent in his letter, which is expected tonight).

For fans who follow recruiting closely, there's no doubt that this is a big letdown after it seemed WSU was on its way to putting together the school's highest rated class in more than a decade. But the honest truth is if you try to forget about the ups and the downs of the past few weeks, this is (at worst) a fairly typical WSU class under Leach -- and perhaps even much better.

WSU Cougars 2015 Class

** = already enrolled

Signed Player Position Height Weight Hometown Scouting Report
Tyler Hilinski** QB 6-foot-4 190 Upland, Calif LINK
Jeremiah Mitchell** DE 6-foot-5 260 Lake Elsinore, Calif. LINK
Shalom Luani S 6-foot-1 200 San Francisco, Calif. LINK
Kyrin Priester** WR 6-foot-1 185 Lilburn, Ga. LINK
Deion Singleton** DB 6-foot-1 175 Pasco, WA LINK
Noah Myers OL 6-foot-5 300 Walnut Creek, Calif LINK
Thomas Toki DT 6-foot-1 307 Mountain View, Calif LINK
Cedric Bigge-Duren OL 6-foot-6 310 Oceanside, Calif. LINK
Nnamdi Oguayo OLB 6-foot-4 215 Beltsville, Maryland LINK
Aaron Porter LB 6-foot-3 230 Norwalk, Calif. LINK
Darrien Molton CB 5-foot-10 165 Temecula, Calif. LINK
Treshon Broughton CB 6-foot-1 175 Murrieta, Calif. LINK
James Williams RB 5-foot-11 185 Burbank, Calif. LINK
Matt Abramo K 6-foot-2 170 Petaluma, Calif. LINK
Joseph Price OL 6-foot-6 270 Redlands, Calif LINK
Hunter Mattox DE 6-foot-4 260 Chatsworth, Calif. LINK
Davis Perrott OL 6-foot-5 270 Phoenix, Ariz. LINK
C.J. Dimry WR 6-foot-6 210 Mission Viejo, Calif. LINK
Kyle Sweet WR 6-foot 183 Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. LINK
Kameron Powell S 5-foot-11 192 Upland, Calif. LINK
T.J. Fehoko DE 6-foot-1 245 Salt Lake City, Utah LINK
Logan Tago LB 6-foot-3 230 Pago Pago, AS LINK
Amosa Sakaria OL 6-foot-3 280 Pago Pago, AS LINK