The Year of the Hoss in Cougar recruiting

PAUL WULLF IS gone but his legacy carries serious weight. Washington State's 2012 recruiting class, which will be officially unveiled tomorrow, is expected to feature an unprecedented haul of offensive linemen – nearly one full ton – and the former Cougar coach is responsible for two-thirds of the total.

While new head man Mike Leach took a pass on close to half of the 19 verbal commitments lined up before he came on board, he kept five of the six offensive linemen that Wulff had recruited (jettisoning only Fernando Villanueva, who is now headed to San Jose State).

Leach also added Niu Sale (6-3, 300), a two-time all-conference guard from Los Angeles Harbor College, and there's a chance one more could be coming in Carlos Lozano (6-7, 375), a JC player from East Los Angeles College.

Sale is no ho-hum talent. He also had offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Kansas State, Utah and both Arizona schools.

Barring an unexpected Signing Day pick up, Sale will be joined in the Cougars' class by five other hosses. They are:

  • Pierson Vallarrubia (6-4 ½, 275), an all-metro tackle from the New Orleans area.

  • Eduardo Middleton (6-5, 280), an all-area pick from San Diego who also had offers from Utah, Oregon State and Boise State.

  • Denzell Dotson (6-2 ½, 315), a MaxPreps All-American from Glendale, Ariz., who graduated early and already is enrolled at WSU.

  • Sam Flor (6-4, 285), an all-class All-State performer from Seattle's O'Dea High.

  • B.J. Salmonson (6-5, 265), a two-way AP All-Stater from Nooksack Valley High northeast of Bellingham.

    WHILE MUCH ATTENTION IN recent weeks has, rightfully, been focused on the wide receivers Leach has reeled in, the bigger story (literally and figuratively) in the Cougars' 2012 recruiting cycle is found the in the trenches.

    For WSU, this truly is The Year of the Hoss.

    Roughly one-quarter of the incoming new Cougars are offensive linemen.

    The reason for this massive haul is pretty clear: WSU's O-line recruits in the previous four classes, while pretty impressive all-in-all, included several misses that must be backfilled and the 2012 team will lose three seniors at campaign's end. Here's how those crops of O-linemen shape up:

  • 2011: Of the six OLs in the class, transfers Matt Goetz and Taylor Meighen played this past season, Moritz Christ and Rico Forbes redshirted, and Wendell Taise and Alex Mitchell ran into academic hurdles. Taise is at a JC and Mitchell is expected to be in the fold this season. Big things are expected from Forbes this year.

  • 2010: This class of four was a home run in every way, with John Fullington and JC transfers Wade Jacobson and David Gonzales each becoming starters quickly, and Jake Rodgers by all accounts developing nicely.

  • 2009: The mirror opposite of 2010, this class had three players who never saw a down at WSU in Seabastian Valenzuela, William Prescott and Quayshawne Buckley.

  • 2008: JC transfer Zack Williams was a steady force for the Cougs and now is with the Carolina Panthers. Tom Hodgdon never played and washed out of the program year ago, and the jury is still out on Alex Reitnour, who was pressed into starting service as a woefully undersized freshman in 2008 and hampered by injuries since then.

    The Cougars will have three senior offensive linemen in 2012 – Dan Spitz, Taylor Meighen and, presuming he receives a medical redshirt, Wade Jacobson. That will give the incoming class – sans perhaps the JC transfer Sale, who could play right away -- a year to develop before getting the opportunity for prime time. Looking at how the depth chart currently stacks up, there figures to be loads of opportunity for all of them starting in 2013.

    If the Cougs' 2012 season opener with BYU were tomorrow, here's who we'd project as the starters on the offensive line: Goetz at center; Fullington at left tackle; Sale at left guard; Jacobson right guard; Forbes right tackle.
    Yes, we did some shuffling. Steve Morton always said he liked his linemen to be able to play multiple positions, so moving Fullington back to tackle, where he originally started, from his normal spot at guard, seemed less than daring. As for Rodgers and Spitz, expect them to be in the middle of the fray as well.

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