Analysis: WSU's '15 recruiting needs, numbers

THIS JUST IN: Mike Leach is most associated with offense ...but five of the seven known commitments in his 2015 class will line up on the defensive side of the ball. Indeed, Leach in our view is looking at taking more linebackers, defensive backs and d-linemen, than he is at the wide receiver position in this class.

July is the slowest time of the year in recruiting (and in football in general, the calm before the fall camp storm). Last year, WSU went from June 25 to Aug. 23 without a verbal commitment. The year before saw similar results.

But Leach is also exactly where he was last year at this time, with seven verbal commits in the fold. The star ratings are different, however.

The seven verbal pledges in the 2015 class average a 3.42 rating. The year before saw seven recruits with a 2.85 average.

Here’s our projection for the 2015 class, with a couple caveats. The final number, and the numbers at each position, remain in flux over the course of a recruiting year. And if the Cougs are faced with a stud prospect who wants to come to WSU, at a position they've already filled their needs at, they'll find room.

QB
Projected to sign: 1
Verbal Commits: Tyler Hilinski, 3-stars.

Hilinski is accurate, poised and has performed well in offseason 7-on-7 tournaments and competitions. He made significant strides last season but still has a high ceiling. Room for improvement, according to Scout.com’s Greg Biggins, resides in his learning to put more zip on the ball in long outs and post routes. That said, Biggins calls him a great fit for the WSU offense and a heady decision maker. He was offered by Cal not long after he verballed to WSU and turned the Bears down, saying he was “as committed as it gets” to WSU. In 2015, Tyler Bruggman will be the old man of the Cougar CB stable as a third-year sophomore, Peyton Bender will be a second-year freshman and Hilinski a true freshman. Plus, the Cougs also have rising walk on Luke Falk, a second-year freshman who has often come in for praise from Mike Leach.


RB
Projected to sign: 1
Verbal Commits: James Williams, 3-stars
Washington State is flush at the RB position for 2014 – they’re five-deep with all of them Pac-12 quality starters. But Theron West and Marcus Mason are seniors and Teondray Caldwell will be a senior in 2015. Williams figures to be a nice addition next season, he’s slippery and athletic. And like all good all-purpose threats who can run, catch and return the ball, he's a good skater, and that gets him to the second level. Williams ran for 1,469 in 2013 and 1,443 yards in 2012 at Burbank High, just missing the single-season school record of 1,504 yards. His 2,912 career rushing yards over two seasons are a school record, coming on 297 touches (9.81 yards per carry) and his all-purpose yardage last year, 2,307 hashes, was also a program best.

WR
Projected to sign: 3
Verbal Commits: None
Washington State has enjoyed considerable success in recruiting wideouts since Mike Leach's arrival, for obvious reasons. Some of those to keep an eye out for include Deontay Burnett our Gardena, Calif. who is expected to take an unofficial visit to Washington State this summer, Ryan Davis out of Saint Petersburg, Florida; Federal Way's Chico McClatcher and Tony Brown out of La Mirada, Calif.

OL
Projected to sign: 5-6
Verbal Commits: None
Leach has more offers out to o-linemen than to any other group. And much like the 2014 o-linemen on the roster, they’re athletic and large. Among those to watch for include Portland’s Blake Brandel, who checks in at 6-foot-7 and Noah Myers (6-5, 315) from Walnut Creek, Calif. Other to keep an eye on are Sacramento's Darin Paulo (Darryl's brother) who is already 6-6, 320-pounds, 6-foot-5 Kevin Estes from San Marcos, Calif.; Dru Samia (6-5, 295) out of Danville, Calif.; Branden Bowen (6-7, 320) from Draper, Utah; and Folsom's Cody Creason (6-4, 270).

DL
Projected to sign: 4
Verbal Commits: Thomas Toki, 4-stars
Toki verballed very early to WSU, but then began to look around a few months later. This spring he went on an unofficial visit to Pullman with his mom - they both loved everything about the trip and WSU. It's a long recruiting year but at the end of the day, mom looks to be solidly in WSU's corner and it would seemingly be hard, very hard, for Toki to say no to Joe Salave'a. Others to watch for include Lakewood’s Benning Potoae (pictured above) and Joshua Little out of Oklahoma City. Some fellow Californians who could join Toki in crimson next year include Norwalk's Dillon Faamatau; Murrieta's Tevita Mounga; Encino’s Vaimoe Sekona and Salt Lake City's Mufi Hunt.

LB
Projected to sign: 4
Verbal Commits: Aaron Porter
Porter is highly versatile, capable of playing all four of WSU’s linebacker positions. The former 4-star prospect and UCLA Bruin will have 2-to-play-2 at Washington State once he arrives from junior college. He is expected to be able to enroll early and arrive on the Palouse in January. Others that could join Porter at Wazzu in the coming weeks and months include Bellevue's Mustafa Branch; D.J. Beavers out of Encino, Calif., Porter Gustin out of Salem, Utah; Santa Monica's Terrance Jackson; Upland's Josh Woods; Etiwanda's Khaylan Thomas and Puyallup's Mason Tobeck.

DBs
Projected to sign: 4-5
Verbal Commits: Austin Joyner, 4-stars; Kameron Powell, 4-stars; Darrien Molton, 3-stars
Washington State is off to a tremendous start here. The Cougs have already scored a pair of high-value defensive back prospects in Joyner, a corner, and Powell, a safety. They also have Molton in the fold, considered one of the top cover corners in all of California. Others in the WSU defensive back orbit: Encino safety Marvell Tell. He would be a huge recruiting win for Leach. But there are a good-sized number of other highly regarded DBs out there, including Cameron Haney out of L.A.; Waco's Kahlil Haughton; Philip Afia from Chino Hills, Calif., Quinn Fabrizio from Sandy, Utah; Stephen Johnson from San Leandro, Shawn Wilson from Pomona and more.

K/P
Projected to sign: 1
Verbal Commits:
If WSU can find a quality kicker and/or punter in the 2015 crop, they may spend a scholie here. A lot could depend on how fall camp plays out and the first few games of the season. The two most intriguing from the state are: K Spencer Pettit out of Glacier Peak, who made field goals of 52 and 53 yards this past season with 80 percent of his kickoffs going for touchbacks, and P Jake Talbot out of Redmond (6-2 185): He was a first team KingCo 4A Crest Division pick who averaged 43.5 yards per punt in 2013.


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