Pondering no in-staters in WSU's new class

WASHINGTON STATE is on the verge of landing what appears to be its best recruiting class in years, but a glance of the names begs one question: No kids from in state? CF.C surveyed current and former prep coaches in the state, plus Scout.com analyst Brandon Huffman, for their thoughts on why there’s no home-grown flavor to the Cougars' class.

Granted, talent is talent, regardless of where it comes from — but no recruits from the Evergreen State, for what is believed to be the first time in the 118 seasons football has been played on the Palouse — is conspicuous.

“I think Mike Leach is doing the math,” said a current coach in Seattle. “The state produces maybe 12 to 15 Pac-12-type prospects a year — most of them in the Seattle area and predisposed toward the UW — but California has talent everywhere you turn ... and those schools (USC and UCLA) can only take so many.”

As CF.C’s Luxury Suites columnist Joshua Davis wrote the other day, “when you grow up a Husky fan (west side kids) it's tough to flip a switch and suddenly become a Coug ... most of those kids are UW from the time they are born ... recruiting them is mostly like banging your head on a wall and hoping to break through.”

That’s why California makes so much sense for the Cougars — especially talent-heavy southern California where the Cougars to struggled to recruit under Paul Wulff but have thrived under Mike Leach.

California typically produces about 230 to 250 FBS signees per year, making it the third-most fruitful football state in the nation behind Texas and Florida. California also is the No. 1 producer of NFL talent.

Still, one former high school coach from the Seattle suburbs characterized the lack of in-staters in this Cougar class as “just bizarre.”

“The west side of the state can be tough because of the deep Husky influence, but you’d think there’d at least be one or two kids from Eastern Washington,” he said.

Right now it looks like just three kids from the east side of the state will be going to FBS schools in this recruiting cycle: Spokane’s Brett Rypien (Boise State), Wenatchee’s Trey Adams (Washington) and Yakima’s Shane Lemieux (Oregon).

“While it seems like Washington State didn’t have a lot of success in state this year, it’s skewed by a couple of things,” says Huffman, the director of recruiting (and West Coast expert) for Scout.com. “First, Thomas Toki, their first verbal commitment, was originally from Washington (Juanita High) before he moved to the Bay Area for his senior season. And second, outside of Brett Rypien and Austin Joyner, they focused far more of their efforts on California, where they’ve had a good deal of success -- all of their four-stars, including Toki, are from the Golden State.

"What also didn’t help this year is that Central and Eastern Washington, two places in-state that the Cougs do typically recruit well, was significantly down and there weren’t many D-I caliber guys there to pursue.”

Right now, 18 of the Cougars known verbals are from California. The rest are from Arizona, American Samoa, Georgia and Maryland. WSU's last shot at taking an in-stater appeared to vanish when Fotu Leiato of Steilacoom verbaled to Oregon last week.

While this year’s dearth of in-state representation follows on last year’s Cougar class that featured but two in-staters (Pasco’s Deion Singleton and Woodinville’s Andre Dillard), Huffman believes it’s “more of an anomaly rather than a trend.”

Moreover, he says, the increasing success the Cougars are having in California is hard not to like.

Another coach applauded WSU’s upgrade in roster talent that’s being supplied by California and said continuing that pipeline will be critical to long-term success. At the same time, he cautioned that WSU won’t want to string together too many classes with little or no local talent because in-staters help fuel fan interest and they super-charge team intensity when preparing to play the arch rival.

“There’s a certain psychological element that comes with in-state kids that you don’t want to lose. They make sure all the kids from out of state know how important it is to beat the Huskies,” he said.

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