LEACH: The best class we've had at WSU

AS MIKE LEACH spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon, he didn't shy away when asked his thought's on the WSU class of 2014. "It's the best class we've brought to Washington State," Leach said. And he said the work of his assistant coaches and current players were the main reason why.

Indeed, Leach didn't mix words when asked about his thoughts on the 24-member class at Washington State.

"I thought we did a good job of getting guys with a combination of size and speed," Leach said "We got big and we got fast. I would say this is a more polished group than we've had in the last two years."

It's not just that they're just polished, though. Leach went on to say everyone involved in the recruiting process did their job in identifying the best fits for the Cougar program.

"It's the best one (class) we've had here and I think our players on campus deserve some credit for that," Leach said. "They competed and made some of these guys feel at home. Occasionally we brought in some guys who didn't fit and didn't mix well with our team, so we didn't select them.

"Our players helped us evaluate that and again, I'd say this is the best class we've had at Washington State... A lot of that sells itself."

ONE OF THE BIGGER takeaways for Leach and his staff: the amount of new Cougs who enrolled in January. The Cougs had holdovers from the 2013 class in LB Dylan Hanser, CB Marcellus Pippins and S Markell Sanders. They also had a 2013 holdover who switched from ASU to Washington State in TE/OL Nick Begg. In addition, OL Sean Krepsz and WR Calvin Green graduated high school early and enrolled at WSU last month, while highly touted WR Sebastian LaRue transferred from Texas A&M.

Leach said he anticipates those mid-year additions to have the best chance of earning some early playing time.

"It depends on how they develop and adjust to being college students," Leach said. "I think some of our mid-year guys could. We have six (actually seven including LaRue) and that's the most I've ever had and they all get a head start."

WSU has been hard at work with their offseason workouts this winter and as CF.C has previously reported, also began Midnight Maneuvers this week. Leach added that the new midyears have impressed.

"I think everyone has done well," Leach said. "We've got Antonio Huffman (director of player relations) and Dave Emerick (recruiting coordinator), who are key to our recruiting efforts. They also do a good job keeping an eye on these guys and make them feel at home. They're all complete guys. They're getting in shape and they're also big and strong."

ON THE PREP SIGNEES, Leach had glowing things to say about each member of the class. Collectively, he said, the size and speed they all bring is what impressed him and the staff the most.

"I think we do have a real complete class position-wise," Leach said. "We have several defensive backs who can play safety or corner and we have several defensive end type guys who can develop and go inside too. I think it's pretty well rounded and bringing in guys with overall athleticism was our main focus."

Some of those players Leach alluded to above include DB Deion Singleton, whom Emerick said in an exclusive CF.C chat held earlier today will start out at cornerback first rather than safety, and Hawaiian prospect Kingston Fernandez, who was recruited as a defensive end, but will line up at the BUCK LB position in 2014.

The biggest thing for all of the new Cougs, Leach said, is to come into fall camp both physically and mentally prepared.

"Girls are prettier in college too," Leach quipped. "They're a lot prettier than they were in high school. I think once they focus on the task at hand and things in the classroom, they develop quicker."

One guy Coug fans hope to see develop early on is Singleton. The Pasco product signed with WSU this morning and could wind up as a big steal. He transferred to Chihawana High from Godby High in Tallahasse, Fla., and had early offers from LSU, Florida, Arkansas, Ole Miss, North Carolina, South Florida and several others. Hs recruitment changed though when it appeared he may not qualify and many schools bailed out.

"We're excited about our Washington recruits and that's where it all starts," Leach said. "Our effort starts in Washington and Deion is a real athletic guy. Like a lot of these young men he'll only get bigger and faster."

In addition to Singleton, Woodinville offensive tackle Andre Dillard also signed with the Cougs, as did the holdover Sanders, who went to Eastside Catholic.

IN THIS YEAR'S CLASS, a major trend was the flipping of commitments from one school to another around the conference. This included some WSU commits, but Leach was emphatic in saying both him and his staff were prepared for such occurrences.

"There's always a few guys who commit to a variety of schools," Leach said. "That's pretty much business as usual. There's always backup plans, but the important thing for us was that we didn't 'settle' on any of these guys. We didn't settle on anyone and a lot of our players had a lot of traffic on them (schools recruiting them)."

Leach added that some of the coaching changes in other Pac-12 schools really opened the eyes of other recruits and that had a positive affect for the Cougs' recruiting efforts.

"I don't think there's any question," Leach said on the impact of coaching changes. "Our coaches are excited to be here and it rubs off on the recruits. I think all of them did great together. Everyone has an area they're in charge of, but then everyone assists one another. It's a team effort and Dave Emerick organized the effort."

Leach said he's also glad to see this year's recruiting process come to a close.

"It's very exhausting," he said. "Some of you guys might think it's exhausting with the recruits running around and pushing buttons on a computer, but it's magnified when you throw airports into it and freeways. Our group of coaches enjoys working together, though, so it's enjoyable too.

"The thing that is most captivating is the background of stories with some of these players. That's what makes it all compelling. It (recruiting) is consuming, but it's also fulfilling."

It may not be all over for Leach and his staff, though. Since the Cougs only signed 24 they still have one spot left they can use -- there's still the potential for WSU to sign one more player in the coming weeks.

"Yeah, that's a possibility," Leach said.

LEACH'S EVALUATION ON INDIVIDUAL SIGNEES:
To open his press conference, Leach provided some words on each member of the class. Here's what he had to say.

• Zaire Andre: He's an explosive guy and a good special teams returner.

• Nick Begg: He's big, athletic and can do a lot of things. He's really athletic for a big man and a smart football player.

• Peyton Bender: A fine quarterback and as good as he is now, his best games are ahead of him. He steadily improves more than any quarterback I've recruited.

• Squally Canada: He's good on both sides of the ball, but he's a solid running back. He's good in all facets.

• Jalen Canty: He hasn't played a ton of football, but he ended the season on fire. He had 25 sacks.

• Andre Dillard: Tall, with huge hands, huge feet and he's very athletic.

• Brandon Evers: He's got big shoulders, he's good in the classroom and he's an athletic offensive lineman.

• Kingston Fernandez: Aggressive outside linebacker who has a nose for the ball and the QB.

• Calvin Green: He's probably a slot. He's really quick with a lot of skills.

• Kevin Griffin: Very disciplined player with quick feet and he comes from winning program.

• Dylan Hanser: He can do a lot of things. He was a track guy. He's got a big frame and he's going to get bigger.

• Keith Harrington: Harrington had all kinds off all-purpose yards. He's a great football player and he's very shifty. Great with the ball in his hands.

• Greg Hoyd: Incredible work ethic. He's a physical linebacker and is a really smart player.

• Sean Krepsz: He's big, physical and has a mean streak. He's working out with us now.

• Frank Luvu: Really athletic linebacker. He was an all-state soccer player and was a kicker too. His passion rubs off on others.

• Hercules Mata'afa: Comes from a very athletic family. His sisters and him are successful wrestlers. That's great training for a defensive end.

• Marcellus Pippins: Great feet and very quick. He's been impressive in drills against guys who have been here for a bit.

• Patrick Porter: Very athletic corner with great feet. He played both sides of the ball this year and he's an impressive athlete. He was a guy who was heavily contested until the end.

• Deion Singleton:Tall, rangy player who can do a lot of things. He's an incredible athlete and his brother plays arena football in the Tri-Cities.

• Markell Sanders: He's a safety and he had a fine high school career, but was hampered by injuries. A guy who is going to get bigger and is an instinctual player.

• Ngalu Tapa: He's a big guy and I can tell you he's taller than 6-3. Very physical, minimum voice type player. What's interesting about him is that he and younger brothers make up the entire defensive front at Burbank High.

• Barry Ware: He's a big target with great receiver skills. Physical and explosive.

Note: At the time of his presser, the Cougs had not yet received the National Letter of Intent of Alameda, Calif., CB Sulaiman Hameed. However, moments after his press conference, WSU announced they received Hameed's NLI. Leach also did not comment on WR Sebastian Larue, who would be the 24th member of the class.

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