The Washington State Cougars will secure the first portion of their 2021 recruiting class today as the early signing period opens for prospective players to send in their national letters of intent — a commitment that binds the player and the school together for at least the next year.
The day figured to be light on unexpected news, but WSU has usually been good for signing at least one player that flew under everyone’s radar, and that proved to be true once again today — the Cougars picked up a signing from Florida linebacker Gavin Barthiel early in the day. He had been committed to Georgia Tech until a couple of weeks ago, and is rated as a strong three-star prospect by 247 Sports who slots in as the third-ranked prospect in the Cougs’ 2021 class.
That brings the Cougs’ class up to 19. Fans had been a little concerned about the size of the class, given a quartet of decommitments from the class over the past month. However, WSU entered the early signing period last year with 18 commits and ended up taking the maximum 25 players after the “normal” signing day in February.
The current top consensus player in the class is junior college transfer CJ Moore, a former four-star receiver with the Oklahoma State Cowboys who should be expected to step in immediately on the outside — he’s got a silky-smooth glide when he runs that will remind fans of former WSU receiver Tavares Martin Jr.
Here’s what he looked like in high school:
Behind him is quarterback Xavier Ward, whose stock has been on the rise among evaluators since his commitment to WSU. Ward, from southern California, committed on the heels of a strong performance at a scouting camp. He’s young (just 16 heading into his senior season) and has raw tools for days that he’s still growing into.
Track all of today’s signings below. We’ll update these lists as the letters roll in.
* Links on the name direct you to their CougCenter profile, which includes video.
* Star rating reflects 247 Sports’ composite ranking, unless otherwise noted, and links back to their 247 Sports recruiting profile.
Letter of Intent Received
A smooth, long strider, Moore will come to the Palouse as a very polished outside receiver. Very soft hands and plays with a low center of gravity despite his height. Moore is at his best on the vertical stem routes, where he simply runs away from defenders while the ball is in the air.
Ward has great pocket presence, with the ability to manipulate space to find a throwing angle. Has a bit of a three-quarters release, reminiscent of Rich Gannon, but the ball comes out with pace. Very accurate on mid-range throws and shows good anticipation on routes and the ability to throw his receivers open.
Barthiel has prototypical size for an outside linebacker, and couples that with athleticism that allows him to play well in space against smaller, quicker players. Shows good coverage ability in the flats, and closes very quickly on ball carriers and finishes well. Plays strong through contact on blockers.
Hicks lined up at cornerback during his high school career, but will likely transition to safety at the next level due to his physical tools. Strong and aggressive tackler, and is a ball hawk when the ball is in the air. Breaks to the point of attack quickly and smoothly.
Stevenson is a long, lanky pass rusher off the edge. His game is speed, and he is at his best with a wide alignment and a straight line to the quarterback. Will need to spend some time in the dining hall to match up with Pac-12 tackles.
Young plays through blocks very well, with solid upper body strength through extended arms and hand-fighting. Able to dictate point of attack to the offensive lineman in front of him. With those skills, may end up playing on the interior if he can put on some weight.
Gusta is very quick at the point of attack, getting off the line and into or past blockers with a burst. Very athletic in the interior, could potentially play as a 3-technique or on the outside. Pad level tends to get high in space, but his strong upper body allows him to play through contact.
Another long, slender edge rusher, Falatea shows good quickness off the line at the snap and an ability to sift through clutter to find the ball carrier. Finishes tackles well. Undersized for the Power 5 level, but has the frame to gain some muscle mass.
Peters looks exactly like the quartet of receivers currently roaming the Palouse, and has a similar play style. Very smooth, effortless runner who gets to top speed in a hurry. Exceptionally good in the screen game out of the slot.
Edson comes ready-made as an edge pass rusher with a variety of tools at his disposal. Good hand-fighting to keep offensive lineman off him, and strong enough in the upper body to bull rush and dispose of blockers. High motor player, and quick enough to chase down running backs on the edge.
The middle Mauigoa brother is a strong, physical outside linebacker. A punishing tackler, he plays behind his pads with a low center of gravity. Good burst to the edge to chase down ball carriers, and does well in space on his zone drops.
Carrell’s size is the first thing that is apparent on his film. Likely to end up on the interior based on that size and his strength. Was also athletic enough to line up at outside receiver for his high school team. Will need to improve lateral quickness against Power 5 competition.
Dieu’s physicality jumps off the tape. Virtually every highlight has him demolishing a poor defender, most of them several yards in the defensive backfield. Great lateral quickness as well, often pulling across formation from the tackle position. Given his relatively smaller size, projects to the interior. Given his Ivy League offers, a candidate to play center.
Hillborn played in a double wing, triple option style of offense in SLC, so he’ll need to learn to pass set one he comes to campus. Drive blocks well, and is good at locating smaller defenders on the second level. Has a little bit of nasty to his game.
Not as fast in a straight line as other receivers in this recruiting class, Stribling makes up for it with his physicality and strength. Tacklers seem to just fall off him. Will need to improve quickness off the line, and runs a little far over his toes, but a solid receiver in traffic.
Meredith plays the ball well in the air, and is comfortable catching the ball in traffic. A physical receiver that plays bigger than his listed size and finishes runs through contact. Primarily played in the slot in high school, but may project to the outside in the Run and Shoot.
Kershaw spent most of his time on the defensive side of the ball with his hand on the ground, so the transition to playing in space will be important. Physically looks the part of a Power 5 linebacker, with good closing speed to the ball carrier.
Shepherd is a linebacker in a defensive back’s body; once he reads run, he comes flying downhill and is very good at filling gaps and laying the lumber on running backs. Shows decent range in pass coverage, but will need to smooth out his zone drops.
Another long, tall receiver that projects to the outside for the Run and Shoot. Nunnally runs the deep vertical routes and the inside screens equally well, and runs away from defenders with the ball in his hands. Good instincts on the line to get off and away from a press defender. It appears Nunnally is planning to sign on the regular signing day in February.