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WSU quickly fills 25-man recruiting class on pleasantly uneventful signing day

With no last-minute defections, Mike Leach and staff have assembled a class that didn't lead to a high ranking, but it's a deep class that has a high floor.

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In what proved to be as uneventful a National Signing Day as WSU has had in years, everything went as planned for the Cougars as there were zero last-minute defections in the completely full 25-man class.

It also included a couple of pleasant developments -- one of which was a total surprise to fans.

To give you a sense of how neat and tidy this all was, and how excited these high schoolers were to become Cougs, recruits are allowed to send their respective letters of intent at 7 a.m. of their local time; by 8:10 a.m. in Pullman, WSU had received signed letters from every recruit who resided in the Mountain and Pacific time zones to bring the class up to 23.

Included in those early signees was a big stunner: Junior college linebacker Suli Tamaivena, previously a commit to San Jose State, flipped to WSU. Don't let the SJSU part fool you; Tamaivena is a three-star recruit who is now the Cougs' sixth-highest rated member of the class by 247 Sports' composite rating. He's fast and aggressive and could possibly slip right into Jeremiah Allison's vacated spot at linebacker.

"He has maybe the most impressive highlights in the class," Washington State chief of staff Dave Emerick said on WSU's signing day radio broadcast.

An hour later, Hawaii commit Nilsson Gaisoa sent in his letter of intent. And about an hour after that, WSU got its second boost of the day when sought after offensive lineman Frederick Mauigoa, from American Samoa, picked WSU over Oregon State. Mauigoa was the top prospect on The Rock, and one recruiting service considers him to be a four-star talent.

By 10:24 a.m. Pacific Time, WSU had 21 facsimiles of freshly signed letters to add to the four financial aid agreements signed by the early enrolees who are already in school. And everything was done.

"The most notable thing about this class is that it went almost entirely as expected," Mike Leach said in his news conference. "That would be the first time in history it happened, at least for me, and that is exactly what happened. And that is truly a first for me. ... I'm stunned to tell you that there was nothing stunning."

However, the Cougs didn't get everything they would have wanted; the class didn't end up having any interior defensive linemen or a quarterback, and a trio of three-star targets signed elsewhere. Defensive tackle Wayne Kirby of Pocatello, Idaho, picked Oregon; athlete Tayler Hawkins decided to stick close to home and sign with San Diego State; and explosive playmaker Zion Echols decided to sign with Cal after all.

But all three of those moves were expected, and shouldn't take any of the shine off what was a fantastically dull day -- exactly the kind of day a program like WSU wants.

In the end, Scout ranked WSU's class as the 50th best in the country and 10th in the Pac-12, ahead of both Oregon State and Colorado. 247 Sports ranked the Cougs at 55th and 11th. only ranks the top 40 classes, and WSU is not one of them; meanwhile, Rivals has ranked WSU 54th and 11th, although the class calculation appears to be missing Tamaivena and (oddly) Jalen Thompson.

While it might not be Leach's highest ranked class while at WSU, the coach is (naturally) excited about the group. His message was what was plain to see to anyone who had followed the process leading up to signing day: This is a group that lacks flashy top-end talent, but it's incredibly deep with guys who will ensure the floor is high.

"The size and speed and just the overall quality (is great in this class)," Leach said. "I think they’re all quality guys. We had less academic issues than we’ve had in the past. I would say this is the combination of the biggest and fastest class that we’ve recruited since we’ve been here."

Leach said he thought the team's winning record this year played into the strength of the class, but that it wasn't the only factor.

"Maybe a little. Maybe a little," he said. "Obviously doing some good things helps, and that’s a credit to our young guys having the season they did. We had a tremendous effort I thought as good an effort as anyone in the country. … I think the other thing that happened that I think played a factor was these new facilities. I think the facilities became a reality.

"I know that it sounds like a delayed thing, but I expected that to be the case. Our administration has been incredibly supportive, everybody wants to be a part of a place that’s committed, and sometimes illustrating that commitment takes a little time. When we first got the facilities and told everybody, ‘Hey we’re committed and we’ve got these facilities and they’re the best in the conference,’ I think people kind of walked to the internet, which doesn’t do it justice, and after we got a class worth of people who had actually seen it and been to it and touched it, I think word got out. I think it was a combination of a lot of things and certainly the season was a big factor."

I would say this is the combination of the biggest and fastest class that we’ve recruited since we’ve been here. -WSU coach Mike Leach

He also thought the change in strategy with official visitors this year -- in which WSU waited until after the season was over to host recruits -- was beneficial, and it sounds as if you can count on this practice continuing in the future.

"I think the biggest thing was, where I found that beneficial, was first of all we could really devote a lot of attention to the recruits," Leach said. "You know if you bring them on a game week, there’s the excitement of the game, they get to see the game, (but) players are coming and going, coaches are coming and going. I think (the late visits are) a concentrated effort on the recruit and his family.

"You don’t have the flash of the game, but we show them films of it and everything and we’ll talk extra loud when we’re showing the film, you know, to kind of generate as much energy and crowd noise as we possibly can. I thought that was good, and I thought that it worked out real well for us."

As for the quarterback situation -- in which three different quarterbacks were committed at various times before ultimately none of them signed -- Leach said adding a quarterback just wasn't a high priority in this class, referencing the youth at the position on the roster plus the presence of incoming freshman Justus Rogers, whom Leach described as a "great athlete" who ran Bellevue High School's Wing T who will get a chance to show what he can do as a passer.

"We just felt like we had other needs elsewhere," Leach said, "and pretty soon a wide receiver would pop up, a defensive end would pop up, and you just kind of balance it out. You want good distribution at your positions, which we have in the overall picture. We would have (taken a scholarship QB) if a really good one popped up, but there were other priorities that just kind of overrode it."

Leach seemed equally unconcerned about the state of the interior defensive line.

"Well, we've got D tackles running around campus, that's the biggest thing," Leach said. "Now, this would be a nitpicky time. The bigger priority was definitely D-ends, those type of guys, and we took care of that. And this will defiintely take care of itself -- there is perhaps a slight imbalance on our roster (with defensive tackles) -- a couple of guys as they get older will almost certainly evolve toward that position."

If you're thinking there might be guys who slip through the cracks added to the class in the coming days -- a la Tavares Martin Jr. a year ago -- that won't be happening: By accepting 25 letters of intent, WSU has exhausted all of its initial counting scholarships for next season, which is capped at 25 in any given year. As far as we know, there is no creative accounting that can take place with the early enrolees to count them back toward the 2015 class.

In fact, there actually were three players who previous declared commitments who did not sign today: CB Isaiah Love and WRs Josiah Westbrook and Stephen Houston. A source told CougCenter that Love will grayshirt in order to continue healing after suffering an injury in a car accident about seven months ago; that will allow him to count toward the 2017 class. No word on Westbrook or Houston.

This, for better or worse, is it.

We'll have more analysis of the class in the coming days, but for now, here's a table with all of the players who signed today, along with a link to the story of their signings which have highlights and brief scouting reports.

✓ = Letter received
* = Signed financial aid agreement, already enrolled
GS = Expected to grayshirt

Signed? Name Pos Location Ht Wt Composite Rating Story
Lyric Bartley DE Taylorsville, UT 6'3" 245 LINK
Renard Bell ATH Los Angeles, CA 5'10" 165 LINK
Danny Bender DE El Cajon, CA 6'4" 235 LINK
Nilsson Gaisoa OL Kailua, Hawaii 6'5" 275 LINK
Christian Haangana OL Milpitas, CA 6'6" 347 LINK
Romello Harris RB Tulare, CA 5'10" 173 LINK
✓* Isaiah Johnson WR West Palm Beach, FL 6'3" 190 LINK
D'jimon Jones DB Federal Way, WA 6'1" 170 LINK
Keenen King OL Las Vegas, NV 6'4" 297 LINK
✓* Garrett McBroom DE Miami, OK 6'3" 260 LINK
Derek Moore LB Los Angeles, CA 6'2" 211 LINK
Chima Onyeukwu LB San Pablo, CA 6'3" 215 LINK
Dezmon Patmon WR San Diego, CA 6'4" 202 LINK
Grant Porter WR Upland, CA 6'2" 184 LINK
✓* Justus Rogers QB Bellevue, WA 6'2" 215 LINK
Liam Ryan OL La Verne, CA 6'6" 270 LINK
Marcus Strong DB Rialto, CA 5'11" 170 LINK
Suli Tamaivena LB Kirkland, WA 6'2" 234 LINK
Robert Taylor DB San Francisco, CA 5'11" 180 LINK
Skyler Thomas DB Perris, CA 5'11" 174 LINK
✓* Jalen Thompson ATH Downey, CA 5'11" 169 LINK
Mason Vinyard TE La Mesa, CA 6'5" 200 LINK
Joshua Watson OL Everett, WA 6'5" 265 LINK
Jahad Woods LB La Mesa, CA 5'11" 215 LINK
Frederick Mauigoa OL Pago Pago, AS 6'5" 295 LINK