Why so much Florida? Chris Ball maps it out

BROKEN DOWN by state, Washington State's recruiting class of 2011 is led by the usual suspects, Washington and California. But the third-most prominent state from this year's class? Florida. Florida? Land of Disney World, LeBron James and 3,000 miles from Pullman?

It's not a typo. The Cougars' signing class includes four players who prepped in Florida: defensive back Spencer Waseem, wide receivers Henry Eaddy and Isiah Myers and linebacker Darryl Monroe.

Eaddy, Myers and Monroe graduated early from high school and already are in Pullman taking classes.

To put this class into perspective, Washington State signed more Floridians in 2011 than a quick look of the records shows it did in the previous 10 years combined. Since 2001, the Cougars' only state-of-Florida signees are C.J. Mizell, Devin Giles and Devard Darling.

The coach responsible for mining Florida is defensive coordinator Chris Ball.

It's well known Florida is one of the country's hot beds for college football prospects. But that doesn't mean it's a no-brainer for the Cougars to construct a recruiting pipeline into Florida. Despite signing four high schoolers Wednesday, Ball said there are no immediate plans to make Florida a regular destination.

"We'll see," Ball said. "It was really hard to have Spokane, Oakland and Orlando. But there is a lot of interest (in Florida)."

It made sense to hit Florida hard this past year, however. It started with a phone call from a good friend of Mark Rypien's who knows Florida well and wondering why the Cougars didn't recruit there. Ball knew the reason was distance, but as someone with ties to the state as a former assistant coach at Alabama and Pittsburgh, it was worth a discussion.

"There weren't a whole lot of kids in the Bay Area this year, and I told Paul (Wulff) that I still had contacts in Florida," Ball said. "Paul said go ahead. I went down there and threw out the name "Washington State" and "Pac-10 and Pac-12.' I was amazed at the interest we got.

"We probably could have signed 10 guys from Florida."

Wulff, in an interview today with Ian Furness of KJR Radio in Seattle, said two factors helped make the crimson foray into Florida a success. First, Mizell's success at WSU as a freshman this past season "opened eyes." And second, WSU focused its energies away from the state's huge population centers, in places where kids and their families are already comfortable with a lot of open land around them.

Ball said he went to Florida looking for a linebacker and some skill players, needs they fulfilled by signing Waseem, Eaddy, Myers and Monroe.

"When they came up here in the summer, there was no hesitation to commit. All I had to do was maintain and keep schools off of them," Ball said. "We got what we wanted."

Ball said he is "very" connected in Florida, but that only allows a recruiter a foot inside the door.

"You can be connected all you want, but you still have to go to work. These kids are recruited by a lot of players," he said.

What Ball likes most about recruiting Florida is that high schools are allowed 21 days of padded spring practice. He was able to watch all four Cougar signees in practice, rather than see their abilities on a highlight video.

"They're all extremely physical," Ball said. "I know Monroe is a very physical player, and very knowledgeable about football, and very tough. Henry Eaddy has one of the highest vertical jumps in the country. Isiah Myers was touted as the best receiver in central Florida. He's got great hands and runs great routes. Wassem comes from a program that puts out some of the toughest players I've ever seen."

Ball said they would have to see how this current Florida class fits at Washington State before making long-term plans to routinely recruit that state.

"We'll probably spot-recruit it, for sure," Ball said.

In regards to this year's class on the defensive side, Ball said in general, "they're all physical, and they're all tough. We needed some linemen and got them, and the defensive ends we have coming in, I feel good about. We needed to shore up the linebacking, and we did that."

Ball said it was far too early to determine the players from this class that might see the field in 2011.

The next order of business for Ball is spring practice and strengthening a defense that ranked near the bottom of the Pac-10 in just about every category.

"We've got to get the run stopped. That's priority No. 1," Ball said. "I don't see us making any big changes on defense. Just fine tune and tweak some things. Our kids feel comfortable in what we're doing. It wouldn't be smart to change what we're doing."

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