Can Cougs pull off TE recruiting coup?

IN TERMS OF a traditional tight end, the Air Raid offense isn't the first thing that comes to mind. So why did one of the nation's top tight ends cancel his planned verbal announcement and elevate WSU into his final five? In large part, it's because of a coach at Washington State. And there's also something else..

Josh McNeil (6-5, 240) out of Durham, North Carolina was set to decide between Alabama and Georgia before he scrubbed that plan and opened things up to a final five that includes those two schools plus Washington State, Florida and Miami.

Last December, before McNeil's stock went through the roof, the Hillside High product was a one-time commit to East Carolina. His recruiter?

Dennis Simmons.

"Coach Simmons was the coach I committed to at East Carolina and he is the coach I know the best. He now is coaching at Washington State, we have been in touch, and I want to give them a look now. They are far from home, but I really like Coach Simmons," McNeil told at The Opening.

Beyond the personal coaching bond and turning to on-field matters, WSU may offer more to an elite tight end prospect like McNeil than might appear on paper.

Tight ends do matter in Mike Leach's offense. They might not play a traditional tight end role. They might not pass protect as much as other tight ends. They might not even be called a tight end.

But all you have to do is look at what Andrei Lintz did this spring to know a tight end with the right skills set can be a huge producer, a prolific pass catcher in Leach's Air Raid.

McNeil is long, athletic and his potential is sky high. He is also very raw, having only played one year of football, and doesn't have the blocking technique or strength that some other elite tight end prospects do.

His greatest assets are his hands, natural athleticism, fluidity and length – things that will be easiest to realize out in the pattern. The bulk and blocking prowess will take the most time to develop, and there's no guarantee he will develop those skills and attributes to the same degree.

That gives Washington State something they can sell better than others can.

At the same time, WSU is playing catch-up here. McNeil had eliminated everyone save for Alabama and Georgia and though he says that everyone in his final five is equal now, it would seem probable that ‘Bama and Georgia remain in the driver's seat and Florida and Miami aren't pushovers either.

But WSU has a chip in the game now. A coach-recruit relationship that's the strongest and an offense that McNeil could flourish in early will do that. And WSU has already climbed past other offering schools such as LSU, Oregon, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

McNeil is rated four stars and the No. 4 tight end prospect in the nation by

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