Gauging WSU, Pac-10 talent though NFL draft

ASSESSING A new coach's talent is an inexact science, and for Cougar fans it's been a hotly debated subject. In the last decade, Washington State has hired two football coaches, Bill Doba and Paul Wulff, and three men's basketball coaches, Dick and Tony Bennett and Ken Bone. With the NFL Draft nearly here, CF.C presents this in-depth look from a conference perspective.

State-of-the-program debates between fans have featured a variety of metrics, including returning starters, all-conference selections and the number of stars next to a recruit's name.

But with the NFL Draft beginning Thursday and finishing up this weekend, it makes sense to look at an appraisal of football talent through the draft prism.

CF.C breaks down each Pac-10 school -- Colorado and Utah are not included in this discussion -- under the most recent coaches who had at least three consecutive draft classes.

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We chose three consecutive drafts because that provided the largest sample size where a new coach generally would not have players he recruited eligible for the NFL Draft. California quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who played one season at a community college, and WSU standout Jerome Harrison were the lone exceptions. Rodgers, who was recruited by coach Jeff Tedford, played just two years for the Golden Bears before he was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2005 draft. Harrison also was a junior-college transfer who was named consensus All-America in his second and final season for the Cougars before being chosen by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the '06 draft.

The average first-year Pac-10 coach inherited more than seven players who were selected after three NFL Drafts.

Former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell had the highest total in the conference (11), but that rarely translated to success on the gridiron. He was fired following the 2007 season with a 35-27 record over five years.

Jim Harbaugh (Stanford) and Tyrone Willingham (Washington) inherited the fewest number of NFL picks (three) during their first three years in this study**. Harbaugh improved the Cardinal by three wins his first season -- despite not having an NFL player drafted in each of his first two years -- and was hired by the San Francisco 49ers after guiding Stanford to the Orange Bowl in 2010.

Willingham's shortcomings are well documented. Similar to Harbaugh, he was hired after his program won just once the previous season. But Willingham never was able to rebuild his team and was fired after finishing 0-12 in 2008.

While Dorrell and Harbaugh seem to be the clear choices for doing the least and most with their respective NFL talents, other interesting trends appear to emerge. For example, Tedford was lauded for taking a downtrodden Cal program to a 7-6 finish in 2002, which was his first season. But he inherited a first-round quarterback (Kyle Boller) and a cornerback (Nnamdi Asomugha) that many have anointed as the NFL's top defensive back.

In addition, nine of the players he inherited were future NFL draft picks in his first three seasons. Not exactly the dearth of talent Harbaugh and Willingham had.

**Wulff does not qualify for this analysis yet as this will be his third NFL Draft. But assuming no Cougars are selected, as expected, only one player Wulff inherited -- wide receiver Brandon Gibson, a sixth-round selection in '08 -- will have been selected in his tenure. (Wulff nearly had another, cornerback Jimmy Smith, who is projected a consensus first-round pick, but he switched his commitment from Doba to Colorado late in the recruiting process.)

While Wulff's record in Pullman and merits will continue to be debated until and unless WSU starts winning in the fall, this is another metric that supports the notion he had precious little talent in the cupboard upon his hiring three years ago.

The Cougars have featured four teams that won 10 games in a season since 1997. Each had multiple players drafted the following April and all had at least one selection in the first three rounds.

WSU last met that benchmark back in 2007 when wide receiver Jason Hill (third round) and defensive back Eric Frampton (fifth) were drafted. The Cougars finished 6-6 in '06.

If no WSU players are selected Thursday, it will mark the first time in the Cougars have gone consecutive years without a player drafted in program history. OL Zack Williams, P Reid Forest and, based on his recent pro day at WSU, WR Daniel Blackledge, appear to be the best WSU bets to be drafted.

Arizona (Mike Stoops) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Five Record in first three seasons: 3-8, 3-8, 6-6 2005: None. 2006: Kili Lefotu, guard, seventh round. 2007: Chris Henry, running back, second round; Nick Folk, kicker, sixth round; Michael Johnson, safety, seventh round; Syndric Steptoe, wide receiver, seventh round.

Arizona State (Dennis Erickson) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: 10 Record in first three seasons: 10-3, 5-7, 4-8 2008: Mike Pollak, center, second round; Justin Tryon, cornerback, fourth round; Robert James, linebacker, fifth round; Ryan Torain, running back, fifth round; Joshua Barrett, defensive back, seventh round. 2009: Paul Fanaika, guard, seventh round; Troy Nolan, defensive back, seventh round. 2010: Shawn Lauvao, guard, third round; Travis Goethel, linebacker, sixth round; Kyle Williams, wide receiver, sixth round.

CALIFORNIA (Jeff Tedford) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Nine Record in first three seasons: 7-5, 8-6, 10-2 2003: Kyle Boller, quarterback, first round; Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback, first round; Scott Tercero, guard, sixth round. 2004: Mark Wilson, offensive tackle, fifth round; Adimchinobe Echemandu, running back, seventh round. 2005: Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, first round (junior-college recruit by Tedford); J.J. Arrington, running back, second round; Chase Lyman, wide receiver, fourth round; Matt Giordano, defensive back, fourth round; Ryan Riddle, linebacker, sixth round.

Oregon (Mike Bellotti) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Eight Record in first three seasons: 9-3, 6-5, 7-5 1996: Alex Molden, cornerback, first round; Ricky Whittle, running back, fourth round; Jeremy Asher, special teams, seventh round. 1997: Paul Wiggins, offensive tackle, third round; Kenny Wheaton, defensive back, third round; Tony Graziani, quarterback, seventh round. 1998: Pat Johnson, wide receiver, second round; Blake Spence, tight end, fifth round.

Oregon State (Mike Riley) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Nine Record in first three seasons: 8-5, 7-5, 5-6 2004: Steven Jackson, running back, first round; Dwan Edwards, defensive tackle, second round; Tim Euhus, tight end, fourth round; Richard Seigler, linebacker, fourth round. 2005: Bill Swancutt, defensive end, sixth round; Derek Anderson, quarterback, sixth round; Doug Nienhuis, guard, seventh round. 2006: Mike Hass, wide receiver, sixth round; Keith Ellison, outside linebacker, sixth round.

STANFORD (Jim Harbaugh) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Three Record in first three seasons: 4-8, 5-7, 8-5 2008: None. 2009: None. 2010: Toby Gerhart, running back, second round; Jay Dray, tight end, seventh round; Erik Lorig, defensive end, seventh round.

UCLA (Karl Dorrell) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: 11 Record in first three seasons: 6-7, 6-6, 10-2 2004: Matt Ware, defensive back, third round; Brandon Chillar, outside linebacker, fourth round; Dave Ball, defensive end, fifth round; Rodney Leisle, defensive tackle, fifth round. 2005: Manuel White, running back, fourth round; Ben Emanuel, safety, fifth round; Tab Perry, wide receiver, sixth round; Craig Bragg, wide receiver, sixth round. 2006: Marcedes Lewis, tight end, first round; Maurice Jones-Drew, running back, second round; Jarrad Page, defensive back, seventh round.

USC (Pete Carroll) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: 10 Record in first three seasons: 6-6, 11-2, 12-1 2002: Kris Richard, defensive back, third round; Chris Cash, cornerback, sixth round. 2003: Carson Palmer, quarterback, first round; Troy Polamalu, safety, first round; Justin Fargas, running back, third round; Kareem Kelly, wide receiver, sixth round; Malaefou MacKenzie, fullback, seventh round. 2004: Kenechi Udeze, defensive end, first round; Jacob Rogers, offensive tackle, second round; Keary Colbert, wide receiver, second round; Will Poole, cornerback, fourth round (transfer for Carroll).

WASHINGTON (Tyrone Willingham) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Three Record in first three seasons: 2-9, 5-7, 4-9 2006: Joe Toledo, offensive tackle, fourth round. 2007: Isaiah Stanback, wide receiver, fourth round; Dashon Goldson, safety, fourth round. 2008: None.

WASHINGTON STATE(Bill Doba) Three-year inherited NFL draft picks: Six Record in first three seasons: 10-3, 5-6, 4-7 2004: Devard Darling, wide receiver, third round; Jason David, cornerback, fourth round; Erik Coleman, safety, fifth round. 2005: Karl Paymah, cornerback, third round; Calvin Armstrong, offensive tackle, sixth round; Hamza Abdullah, safety, seventh round. 2006: Jerome Harrison, running back, fifth round (junior-college recruit by Doba).

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