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Seattle 5-star linebacker Sav’ell Smalls puts WSU in final six

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The Cougars find themselves in some very good company.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

During Mike Leach’s tenure — which is in the midst of a run of four consecutive bowl games, including 11 wins last season — the Washington State Cougars have made a living by targeting three-star recruits who fit what they want to do and then developing them.

So it’s a bit of a surprise to find out that WSU is still in the running for a Seattle-area recruit who isn’t just the top recruit in the state — Sav’ell Smalls is one of the top recruits in the country, and he just named the Cougars among his top six.

The other five still under consideration? The Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida State Seminoles, Tennessee Vols, Oregon Ducks, and Washington Huskies. That’s some heady company for lil’ ol’ Wazzu.

Smalls, from Kennedy Catholic, stands 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and is the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country and No. 9 overall recruit in the country. He took an unofficial visit to Pullman for the Crimson and Gray Game, and afterwards he told 247sports’ Brandon Huffman, “I actually loved my visit to Washington State, it was real cool.”

In another story, he said, “The trip to Wazzu definitely exceeded my expectations. Just seeing the other side of the state and the different culture and people was cool. ... Pullman was just welcoming. It was a good vibe. It’s different, but I enjoyed it. Everything is close and people are walking everywhere. There’s a real sense of community because it’s so small and everyone knows each other. The program is what the school is all about. I definitely liked that.”

One interesting item from his list of six: Smalls had previously said Washington wasn’t under consideration for his final six, and yet, there the Huskies are.

It’s presumed WSU is still an extreme longshot to land Smalls, but the mere fact that the Cougars are in consideration speaks volumes about the strides the program has made in seven-plus years under Leach. And it would seem there’s value in even just being in the conversation for a player such as Smalls.

If the Cougs were to land Smalls, he’d be the highest-rated recruit in WSU history ... by a long shot. Michael Bumpus currently holds that distinction with a .9693 composite rating on 247Sports; Smalls’ composite rating is .9958. Leach’s highest recruit came in his first class — Gabe Marks’ composite rating was .9358.