The ongoing trend toward non-homegrown hosses

THE ADAGE IN Cougar football recruiting used to be that most of your offensive linemen could be found close to home. WSU's recent scholarship offer to Max Rich of Portland, coupled with the verbal pledge already secured from Wenatchee's Cody O'Connell, reminded us of the old bromide. That got us to digging around. And what we found is that the old adage isn't even close to accurate anymore.

WSU has signed 22 offensive linemen to letters of intent over the last five years and 17 of them hailed from somewhere other than the Pacific Northwest. True fact. Only five regional prospects were part of the hoss haul in that time frame: Sam Flor and B.J. Salmonson in the 2012 class; Alex Mitchell in 2011; John Fullington in '10; and Dan Spitz (though a defensive lineman at the time) in '09.

Similar ratios are apparent when you look at WSU's recruiting of offensive lineman for the 2013 class. Of the 29 known offers Cougar coaches have made to tackles, guards and centers, 24 of them are to players outside the Pacific Northwest.

The five regional OL prospects with Cougar offers right now are Cody O'Connell, Rich, Mason Friedline of Seattle, Eli McCullough of Meridian, Idaho, and Evan Voeller of West Linn, Oregon. In addition, there's Cole Madison, a 6-6, 260-pound tight end from Kennedy High in Burien whom the Cougars offered over the weekend; he could project out as a defensive end or offensive lineman.

McCullough has verbally committed to Boise State and Voeller to Oregon. Besides WSU, Friedline is weighing offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado and UW. Rich's other offers besides WSU are Portland State, North Dakota and Eastern Washington. Madison has no other offers but could very well pick up one at Washington's camp this week.

At this early stage of the 2013 recruiting process, it looks like WSU will have room for a class size no larger than 21. With that number, the forecast here is that the Cougs will take five offensive linemen.

O'Connell is already in the fold and solid as a rock with his commitment. That leaves four spots to fill.

With Friedline and Rich the only two known Pacific Northwest offensive linemen left on the Cougars' offer board (unless you count the tight end Madison), the sheer numbers suggest that the trend line of most Cougar offensive lineman coming from outside the region will continue with the class of '13.

So why this transformation over the years from regional to Coastal and national?

Simple supply and demand, I believe, relative to how the game is now played. There's greater emphasis on athleticism in offensive linemen. Whereas size and bulldozing power may have been the main focus over the years, the modern passing game puts increased value on staying on your feet, moving laterally, forcing pass-rushers wide, and setting the feet quickly to pick up double moves, twists, etc. from ever-evolving and speedy defenses.

There just aren't enough big bodies that can do all that coming out of the Pacific Northwest -- at least not enough to stock four Pac-12 teams plus Boise State, Idaho and Eastern Washington. So one's attention naturally turns to the population centers. Of the 22 offensive linemen WSU has signed since 2008, 11 hailed from California and 3 from Texas. Of the 29 known offers WSU has made to offensive linemen in the 2013 recruiting cycle, 17 are from those same two states.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT SOME OF THE outstanding Cougar teams over the years, you understand why the original adage about homegrown hosses developed. Here's a sampling:

  • The 1997 Fat Five that helped put the Cougs in the Rose Bowl was fourth-fifths regionally produced: Cory Withrow and Jason McEndoo were from Washington, Lee Harrison from Oregon and Rob Rainville from Idaho. The lone outsider was Californian Ryan McShane.

  • Similarly, WSU's Pac-10 champion team of 2002 consisted of an offensive line that consisted of four Evergreen Staters (Calvin Armstrong, Josh Parrish, Tyler Hunt and Derrick Roche) and one Californian, Sam Lightbody.

  • The 1988 Cougars that won the Aloha Bowl and defeated No. 1-ranked UCLA featured a starting offensive line of Mike Utley, John Husby, Chris Dyko and Ken Kuiper -- all from Washington -- and one Californian, center Paul Wulff.

  • The 1984 starting line that propelled Rueben Mayes to record-setting heights and a top 10 Heisman Trophy finish was all locally grown: Dan Lynch, Curt Ladines and Kirk Samuelson were from Washington; Mike Dreyer and Jaimie White from Idaho.

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