Cougar 2015 class roundtable with 5 experts

ON THE EVE of Signing Day, we present a roundtable discussion featuring Brandon Huffman and Greg Biggins of, and Braulio Perez, Chris Shaw and Barry Bolton of CF.C, offering up their picks for sleepers, immediate contributors and more for the 2015 Wazzu crop.

1. Who do you think is the biggest sleeper in the class and why?

Biggins: WR Kyle Sweet. Sweet was extremely under-recruited but has the skill set and athleticism to be an impact guy.

Perez: It’s got to be Kyle Sweet. He’s ranked three stars but his only offers came from WSU, Hawaii, Montana State, New Hampshire and Northern Arizona? This kid hauled in over 1,300 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this season. He’s quick, shows great route-running abilities and has sure hands. Hate to compare the two, especially since they're both Santa Margarita products, but he really does remind me of River Cracraft.

Huffman: OL Noah Myers. He was overshadowed by a slew of talented NorCal offensive lineman who were more heavily recruited, but make no mistake, he can flat out play. He's nasty, plays with a controlled edge and has tremendous strength.

Shaw: Running back James Williams has the potential to make an impact right away both on the ground and through the air. Coming back from knee surgery as a running back can be hard but Williams has said his rehab is progressing better than expected. So he could sooner rather than later return to his junior season form (164 carries, 1469 rushing yards, 22 rushing TD's, 5 receiving TD's). Running backs are underrated in the Air Raid offense by casual observers but we all saw how explosive Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks were in their first season in 2015.

Bolton: The popular answer is Kyle Sweet but I'm going unconventional: DE/DT Hunter Mattox. His feet, athleticism and quickness for his size at 6-4, 272-pounds is impressive -- he's going to be a monstrous after time spent in the WSU weight room and training table. Although new DC Alex Grinch has said the Cougs will stay with their 3-4 base, something tells me they're going to run a bevy of fronts and a good deal of 4-3. The probability is that Mattox redshirts but if he comes in and does what I think he's going to in August, CougFans may not have to wait as long to see him making an impact.

2. Who makes an impact on Day One in fall camp - who isn't going to redshirt?

Huffman: I think Jeremiah Mitchell has the best chance to come in and play instantly. Being a JC transfer, he won't need time to develop or need a redshirt year- he's college ready and with his size and skillset, should help with the defense and their transformation.

Perez: This isn’t the sexiest of picks but as his shirt read during a recent in-home visit with the WSU staff, “Kickers are people too.” I believe Matt Abramo will come in and be an instant impact guy. The Cougs’ special teams unit last year was downright atrocious and that includes the kicking game. Abramo has a strong right boot on him and will have the chance to come in right away and compete for the starting job. I think he lands it.

Biggins: CB Treshon Broughton. When you recruit JUCO players, you expect them to play early and Broughton is a talented cover corner who could compete for a starting spot.

Shaw: WR Taeon Mason. The Cougars are looking to replace Vince Mayle and Isiah Myers on the outside and while there are talented Cougar players waiting in the wings including Gabe Marks, the best 4-5 will play and that opens up an opportunity for Mason to make a splash. Looking at his tape, this guy looks like the real deal and it's only a matter of time before all of Pullman knows it.

Bolton: S Shalom Luani. The 6-1, 200-pounder covers a lot of ground and is an explosive tackler. He'll need some transition time in coming from the JUCO ranks to the Pac-12 but his instincts and raw ability lead me to believe that transition time will be shorter than normal for the average junior college defensive back. Washington State needs the most help on defense in the secondary but Luani would have been firmly in the mix even had the Cougars been returning a proven, veteran defensive backfield in 2015.

3. Who is the guy that 4-5 years from now, Cougar fans are going to be talking about most?

Biggins: S Kameron Powell. I think Powell will be a fan favorite for how he plays the game. He's a physical safety, a head hunter and he plays with an edge to him. He'll come downhill and take your head off and plays with a very high compete level.

Perez: DT Thomas Toki. People are going to talk about his four-star ranking but I just like how physical he is on the defensive line. To be able to work one-on-one day in and day out with assistant Joe Salave'a, that's a lethal combination. Some might be worried about his height but I think for being 6-1, 292-pounds, he moves quickly plus he has a natural pad level advantage to go along with his strength.

Huffman: OL Joseph Price comes in relatively lightly regarded but I think with a few years of physical development and more understanding of the game, Price has a chance to be a bigtime contributor down the line for Washington State. Since lineman are often a crapshoot, Price could be that guy who blossoms late and really emerges at the college level in Mike Leach's Air Raid.

Shaw: DT Thomas Toki looks like he could be a monster on the Cougar defensive line for four years. He's got that natural size and strength already and a great nose for the football playing on the interior -- now he just needs to match it with his work ethic at WSU. If he develops his technique under Salave'a, we could see him becoming a household name by the time it's all said and done.

Bolton: S Kameron Powell. Safety is a tough position to come in and play right away but he may surprise early because WSU is in such need of better safety play in '15. Throughout the West this recruiting cycle, Powell was arguably the most physical safety and sure-tackler, two things that don't always go hand-in-hand. He's excellent against the run and if he improves his coverage skills to match, he's got a great chance for a fan-favorite type of career at Washington State.

4. Apart from simply comparing stars and ratings, how does the WSU class stack up with the rest of the Pac-12?

Huffman: I would put it in the top 6-7 of the conference. As a whole, the Pac-12 is recruiting well, but I like the positional balance that WSU is recruiting with in mind and they have key guys at just about every positional group.

Perez: This is a very strong class for WSU but some of the luster has been lost with late decommitments. Until the Cougs start winning more games, they won’t be able to consistently compete for some of the guys at the top of their board.

Biggins: I think this WSU class stacks up very well in the Pac 12. It won't be up there with USC or UCLA but is comparable to just about everyone else. They should finish with a top 35 class nationally and in the 5-7 range in the Pac 12. Again, I can't remember the last time they finished that high but it's a credit to how much work the staff put in this year.

Shaw: In terms of valuable recruits, the Cougars acquired the pieces they needed to continue the rebuilding process, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Washington State was able to spread their reach to multiple areas of the country but most importantly, the Cougars took home several recruits from California, winning the battles over other Pac-12 schools.

Bolton: Favorably. The Cougs will probably finish somewhere in the 30s nationally and the difference between WSU's class and, for example, USC's or UCLA's is not as large a gulf as it used to be back in the day. One caveat: no one can accurately grade any class for a few years, though that clearly doesn't stop every media outlet in the country from trying.

5. How does this class stack up against other recent Cougar classes?

Biggins: I think this is the best class Wazzu has had in some time. The key will be holding on to everyone, but I think there's more impact guys and high end talent in this class than I can remember in the last few years.

v Perez: This is easily one of the best classes WSU has had in the last 10 years. From a needs standpoint, WSU received commits from key players on the defensive side of the ball, including some JC studs who can come in an contribute right away. The staff did a great job on the recruiting trail.

Huffman: On paper, this class will likely end up being Washington State's best ever on Scout. And with some top-tier JC prospects, the Cougs could see the fruits of that sooner rather than later.

Shaw: This class is by far the best in the last three years. The desire to bounce back quickly from a down year has shown up in the amount of junior college recruits -- and they have more highly-rated high school players coming in than in years past.

Bolton: It continues an upward trend -- every year at Washington State Mike Leach has produced a better class (on paper) than the year before. The junior college additions should help in the short-term while some high-potential high schoolers should give the class staying power.

6. What should CougFans take away overall from this class - what's the big picture?

Huffman: The success that WSU has had in California can't be taken lightly. And if you look at the key spots they're filling with talent from the JC ranks, they're getting guys that have talent and the ability to come in and play right away, which they need. I think the California success and JC success shows the improvement under Leach and his staff.

Braulio: The big picture is that the Cougars are getting close to where their fans want them to be. Although they weren't able to snag all their guys that ultimately went elsewhere, they competed with Power-5 schools from all over the country to land their guys. WSU fans should be enjoying seeing a verbal commit who chose WSU over 20 other offers. From a stars standpoint, Cougar fans love what they’re seeing, especially with the high amount of four-star verbals. The Cougs are continuing to build the program up and the success of the class is another example of the work that staff is putting in out on the Palouse.

Biggins: I think Cougar fans should be excited about the direction the program is going in based on this class. They went after top end talent and didn't settle for low hanging fruit. They made some great early evaluations based on how many players other schools targeted late in the process. They filled a lot of needs with quality players and the staff showed they're hard working and grinders on the trail.

Shaw: This class is loaded with defensive talent. There are junior college players who are capable enough to produce immediately. This is exactly what the Cougars need at this point, with a new defensive coordinator who wants to implement his ways quickly and effectively. Combine this class with the one from 2013 and there are plenty of bright spots all across the defensive side.

Bolton: Washington State will bring in a very solid class. Their evaluations were excellent (based on WSU's extension of offers that were then followed by other schools putting scholies on the table plus making late charges at Cougar commits). The late decommits can't be ignored, nor can some of the recruiting battles lost along the way and down the homestretch. WSU was winning a good majority of those battles for much of the recruiting year but the final weeks have seen a shift. Every school -- every school -- experiences flips and misses out on targets, that's the new reality. But a progress-showing, winning season on the field in 2015 for Washington State is a must to help limit those in 2016. That aside, Cougar fans should be very pleased with this class when they look at it from an overall sense, and not just by the turmoil of the last three weeks.

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