WSU recruiting: Actions louder than words

EVERY COLLEGE COACH out there, Mike Leach included, will tell you they didn’t give a rip about how many stars a kid has next to their name. Washington State has and will continue to offer prospects with no offers or buzz, or lots of full rides and hype, purely based on evaluation alone. But the star ratings matter.

And we’re seeing a pronounced difference between the earlier Leach classes and the current one. One of the biggest reasons why they do matter: perception.

On Letter of Intent Day, every newspaper in the country will cite Scout.com and other recruiting services and proceed to tell their readers, definitively, just how well every school did. Of course, no one can know for at least a few years how any of these schools' classes will turn out. But that won’t stop the recruiting services, traditional media, nor the fans and alumni, from making the preemptive call on Feb. 4.

And perception, and the hype that comes with it, matters. It's not the end-all be-all, that’s winning. But it is one of the tipping-point pieces that so often enables teams to win.

Two mid-year junior college transfers have already officially signed in the 2015 Washington State recruiting class. No one can go out and steal them away. And with those two new Cougs, there is a more aggressive tone to this recruiting class from my chair.

Both safety Shalom Luani (pictured above) and defensive end Jeremiah Mitchell have four stars next to their names on Scout.com. And this isn’t like 10 years ago, when JUCO players seemed to get three stars from all the recruiting services simply for having a pulse. If a JUCO prospect gets 4-stars, they've earned 'em and then some.

Maybe it’s the past week that’s convinced me, but Leach has been building this thing for a while now and he’s now clearly delivering the necessary talent. It still needs to show on the field, but I’m feeling pretty amped up about 2015 right now. And It’s not going to be lost on even the most casual of recruiting observers that the Cougs are dead serious about winning enough recruiting battles to bring in sought defensive talent in order to compete immediately next year. If the star ratings don’t convince you, look at the other Pac-12 offers this class has.

By the way, if there were any lingering fears about WSU not having named a defensive coordinator, they were extinguished this past week. Even just a semi-close look at this defensive class, while noting the two early JUCO standout signings Wednesday, illustrates just how articulately and effectively Leach and his staff have been selling their crimson vision out on the recruiting trail.

Look, we knew from Day One that Leach would be able to build the offense (there is still obvious work to do on that side of the ball, but the margin of error on O is going to remain far too small until the D takes a big ol’ hack at that 38.6 ppg in the NCAA scoring defense statistical category.

The offenses of today are going to score more, that’s the new reality. But as we saw all too clearly this season, the old adage, “defense wins championships” still rings true and isn’t just old school wordplay.

So it’s nice to see all the stars on the WSU commit list -- and all the schools they chose Washington State over. It does make a difference to us CougFans who religiously follow recruiting (and an even bigger difference to the casual followers of the recruiting wars).

And there’s plenty of intrigue to come. The January defections and flips have been increasing it seems in recent years, or maybe it just feels that way. But WSU has to put the finishing touches on this class AND they have to hold onto the ones they’ve got. That last part sometimes makes the biggest difference of all.

And hey, speaking of those finishing touches and based on the way things are going -- maybe Leach even reels in one, two or more additional big-timers by the end of this thing.

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