Cougs train recruiting focus on SoCal

SEATTLE – Washington State coach Mike Leach said last season that he felt Southern California was "under-recruited" by the Cougs. With two new assistant coaches in the fold, Leach's chief of staff, Dave Emerick, tells CF.C they'll both be recruiting the talent-rich area for Washington State.

Outside wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons will continue to recruit Los Angeles and the surrounding area. He will be joined in Southern California by, among others, a pair of newcomers to Leach's staff, Emerick told CF.C during A Night With Cougar Football in Seattle.

Inside wide receivers coach David Yost, who in 2001 became Gary Pinkel's recruiting coordinator at Missouri, will recruit San Diego and Orange County, as well as the Phoenix area.

"He's a really diligent guy -- a hard worker," Emerick said. "I feel he'll do a great job there."

Meanwhile, inside linebackers coach Ken Wilson comes to WSU after 24 seasons on Nevada's coaching staff. Emerick said Wilson will focus on the Inland Empire, (an area directly east of L.A.).

Including holdover wide receiver Robert Lewis, the Cougars signed 11 players from California high schools and junior colleges last month. Behind Washington state, where WSU signed six players in its latest class, Emerick said Southern California, "probably is our second most [significant] recruiting area."

TEXAS WILL CONTINUE to be a key ancillary recruiting area for the Cougars. Leach, who led Texas Tech to an 84-43 record from 2000-09, has been recruiting the state since he came on board at WSU. And for good reason.

"He has such a big name there," Emerick said. "Those kids grew up watching those Texas Tech teams play. A lot of them want to be a part of it – the offense, the excitement, the winning games, the bowl games."

That does not mean Texas will be the primary recruiting area for the Cougars, though. WSU signed two players from the Lone Star State in February – defensive backs Darius Lemora and Charleston White – as well as offensive lineman Carlos Freeman from Oklahoma and defensive lineman Gerald Sterling out of Alabama.

"Texas never will be our first priority," Emerick said, "but at the same time, it would be foolish for us to ignore it."

AS FOR THE 2014 CLASS, Emerick said he expects the Cougars to sign 20 players, though that number could grow to 25. He said that likely will consist of a quarterback, running back, two wide receivers, five offensive linemen, and three players each at defensive line and linebacker and four at defensive back. Emerick also expects to sign one to two specialists.

"We always try to be balanced," Emerick said.

Because they are recruitable athletes, Emerick could not discuss how linebacker Dylan Hanser, cornerbacks Marcellus Pippins and Markell Sanders and running back Olito Thompson fit into that picture. Each committed to WSU during the last recruiting cycle, but with the new NCAA rule that caps schools at 25 LOIs, they did not sign letters of intent and are expected to grayshirt.

As for those who will enroll this summer, Emerick said he's excited about the half-dozen offensive linemen who signed – a number that could increase to seven if Kennedy Catholic's Cole Madison also ends up on the o-line rather than at d-end. Chatter about overlooked recruits, ranging from running back Rueben Mayes in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, to linebacker Will Derting in Okanogan, long has been a favorite crimson-and-gray discussion point. Emerick thinks this class will produce more fodder for fans.

"Cole Madison is kind of an overlooked guy," he said. "We kind of felt like the linemen in the state of Washington were undervalued last year and we look forward to having them."

While Riley Sorenson comes from Santa Margarita, Calif., many of his incoming linemen arrive from small Washington communities ranging from Lynden (Matt Meyer) to Wenatchee (Cody O'Connell). B.J. Salmonson, who grayshirted, is from Everson in Whatcom County.

Emerick said this class will help WSU replenish its offensive line depth. He said Leach wants 18 to 20 scholarship players at those positions on the roster.

The Cougars had made about 50 scholarship offers, Emerick said, toward the next class and he expects that to number about 250 by the time its all said and done.

WSU's upgraded facilities are impacting recruiting. Emerick said they showcased the new press box during the recent Junior Day and the football operations building, which is expected to be completed in summer 2014, will accomplish "more of the same." The 79,000-square-foot building is expected to include a weight room, training room, equipment room, meeting rooms, coaches' offices, an auditorium and a dining area, among other amenities.

"The facilities will help us tremendously," Emerick said. "Washington State has something unique to offer from most other schools. Once we get the facilities on par with everyone else, that's going to help us out so much."

  • America Samoa native and defensive line coach Joe Salave'a has given the Cougars a recruiting foothold into his homeland. The Cougars signed a pair of defensive linemen, Emmitt Su'a-Kalio and Daniel Ekuale, from America Samoa earlier this month. Along with the offensive linemen, Emerick specifically mentioned those signings. "We feel really good about the two kids from America Samoa as far as their potential and athletic ability," he said.

  • The ability for Leach and his staff to recruit players for an entire year was significant. Leach was hired Nov. 30, 2011, which gave him a little more than two months to sign his first recruiting class. "You start recruiting guys basically their junior year full go," Emerick said. "We expect our recruiting classes to improve every year."

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