WASHINGTON STATE'S struggles this football season can be attributed to a variety of factors, but a look at the roster suggests a glaring one: Lack of production from the 2009 recruiting class. That group's shortcomings are especially notable, because as third- and fourth-year seniors they should be serving as the backbone of this year's team.
Instead, of the 22 high school seniors in the '09 class, only nine are still with the program. And of those nine, there are precious few starters, and only Travis Long
and Jeff Tuel
have ever earned any form of all-conference recognition.
That's not a typo. Of the 22 prep players who signed letters of intent with WSU in 2009
, only nine remain. The lone JC player in the class, Brandon Rankin
, graduated last spring after a solid-but-injury-marred stay in Pullman and is now with the Spokane Shock.
The heavy attrition in the class is no more noticeable than in the offensive line, which has caused so many headaches for Mike Leach this season. None of the three OL prospects Paul Wulff signed in 2009 ever took a game-day snap in a crimson uniform ....
Sebastian Valenzuela left the team in the spring of 2011 because of a series of concussions.
William Prescott, mired down the depth chart, departed in the fall of 2010 to chase a boxing career; and
Quayshawne Buckley, now a starter at Idaho, never made it to Pullman due to academic hurdles.
In addition to Buckley, there were four other members of the '09 class who never made it to Pullman -- three due to academics and one due to a Mormom mission ...
LB Terrell Thompson (now at Utah State)
TE Peter Tuitupou (Mormon mission, now at San Jose State)
DB Asi Hosea, and
DE Chris Mastin.
Another three members of the class cut their careers short before graduation and three more were kicked off the team ...
LBs Andre Barrington and Jamal Atofau were dismissed by Wulff in December 2010 after they were charged by the Whitman County Superior Court for alleged involvement with manufacture of a controlled substance. Both are now playing for Virginia-Lynchburg.
LB Sekope Kaufusi became a regular in the starting line up, but was dismissed from the team last spring by Leach after he was cited for marijuana use and possession in his apartment.
DL Jordan Pu'u-Robinson, dogged by injuries, left the program this past spring and returned home, where he now plays for the Hawaii Warriors. He started two games for WSU in 2011 and recorded nine tackles.
WR Johnny Forzani played one season for the Cougs and then ran into academic hurdles in the spring of 2010 and headed home to Canada to play in the CFL. He is listed on the Calgary Stampeders' roster this season. Of the nine passes he caught in 2009, one covered a record 99 yards.
RB/LB Arthur Burns redshirted in 2009, played mostly on special teams in 2010 and then ran into classroom issues and failed to meet NCAA academic qualifications for 2011 and transferred to Moorpark JC in California.
The 2009 class wasn't a total loss ...
BUCK linebacker Travis Long is a fourth-year starter who figures to contend for first-team All-Pac-12 honors this season after earning second team plaudits last season and honorable mention recognition in 2009 and 2010. The hybrid end/linebacker is among the national leaders in sacks this season.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel stepped into the starting line up midway through his true freshman season, earned honorable mention all-Pac-10 honors after his sophomore campaign, and then battled injuries that ruined most of his 2011 season and a portion of this one. He will start at Utah this weekend and could eclipse the 5,500 career passing yards mark in that game.
Running back Carl Winston has been a steady and energetic presence since his true freshman season and is closing in on 1,000 career rushing yards.
Receiver Gino Simone started out like a house-a-fire as a true freshman with 36 receptions but then ran into injury woes and greater competition as a sophomore and junior before rebounding this season with 17 receptions so far.
CB Anthony Carpenter has made three starts this season at corner after two years as a special teams fixture and spot duty defender at safety.
SS Casey Locker is the Cougars' fifth-leading tackler this season with 38 stops and six starts. He redshirted in 2009 and then emerged in special teams in 2010 and saw spot duty plus two starts in the secondary last season.
CB Nolan Washington started all 12 games as a true freshman, seven more last season and three this year.
LB Darren Markle, sidelined this season with injury, redshirted in 2009 and then played in 10 games in 2010 and five in 2011, mostly on special teams.
DT Justin Clayton redshirted in 2009 and played in 24 games, three as a starter, over the 2010 and '11 seasons. He has however spent the majority running with scout team, seemingly unable to break into the two-deeps.
Those players aside, looking at the class across the board adds up to a load of disappointment. Besides the depth lost by the 13 players from the 2009 crop of high school signees who aren't with the program, there's a void in leadership when that many players from one class don't progress through the system.
A few weeks ago, Leach made his infamous "empty corpse" comment regarding the veteran leadership on the roster. Some might blame Leach for not inspiring his players, but when you look at the attrition from the 2009 class, it's clear the coach's frustration has some grist behind it. Bottom line, the class that should be the backbone of the 2012 Cougars just didn't pan out.