How best to characterize WSU's new class?

THERE IS speed in Mike Leach's 2015 class of Cougars, but that's not the big takeaway in our estimation. There's a lot of athleticism and "good feet" as well. That's not the headline either. The one thing that jumps off the page most in the 2015 Washington State recruiting class is ...

We project more first-year Cougar rookies are going to play earlier than is customary from a Mike Leach class. Keep in mind we said rookies, not necessarily true freshmen. Last year's class featured no JUCOs, and seven true freshmen played. If seven or more true freshmen play this upcoming season, considering there are also five JUCOs, that would likely mean roughly half the class will play - and that seems unlikely. But we do expect more than seven first-year Cougars will play by the time the season comes to a close. Here are four reasons why:

1. WSU was 3-9 in Leach's third year in 2014 -- a year Bill Moos had long pointed to for when the Cougs would turn the corner and begin winning with regularity. Cougar fans and alumni have gone through three seasons of building the foundation since Leach's hire, it's going to be awfully hard to sell them on a fourth. But if WSU notches seven or more wins, everyone feels a whole lot better about the direction the Cougs are headed under Leach.

2. Of the five junior college commits - four play on defense, and all of whom Leach and football chief of staff Dave Emerick say they expect to compete for starting jobs or significant turns immediately.

3. You expect junior college players to be more physically mature and capable of playing early. But there are also a number of prep signees who, based on their tapes in our estimation, look more physically ready to play than in previous classes.

4. The defense in 2014 was a statistical nightmare. The need for marked improvement is going to trump all else in 2015. The Cougs have six defensive backs among their 24 and the DB returners are mostly unproven.

2015 Cougar Recruiting
BY THE NUMBERS


THE POSITIONS

Offensive linemen: 5 (avg. weight 286)

Defensive linemen: 4 (avg. weight 273)

Defensive backs: 6

Linebackers: 2

Receivers: 3

Running backs: 1

Quartbacks: 1

Kickers: 1

Athletes: 1

THE BREAK DOWN

High schoolers: 17

JC transfers: 5

College transfers: 1

Holdovers from ’14 class: 1


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Now consider the frames on the guys in the trenches. Defensive lineman Hunter Mattox (pictured above) is one CF.C has pegged as a likely head-turner two or three years down the road. But with 272 pounds on his 6-4 frame right now, he's also more physically ready to play in 2015 than were the d-ends (Hercules Mata'afa, 225-pounds, and Kingston Fernandez, 245-pounds) from the 2014 class in their true freshman seasons. (Mattox is listed by WSU at 260 but he told CF.C a few days before Signing Day he was actually up to 272).

DT Thomas Toki is 6-1, 307 pounds. That's actually a five-spot more than starting fifth-year senior nose tackle Toni Pole was last season (6-1 1/2, 302-pounds.)

Meanwhile, two of the new prep o-linemen, Noah Myers and Cedric Bigge-Duren, already check in at 6-5, 300 pounds and 6-6, 310 pounds.

Safety Kameron Powell is listed at 5-11, 195-pounds. Physically, he doesn't appear to have as far to go to compete in the Pac-12 as, for example, David Bucannon did when he came out of high school an inch taller but eight pounds lighter (6-0, 187).

A closer look at some of the JC commits -- LB Aaron Porter is really put together and is listed by WSU at 6-3, 230 pounds. And despite those 230 pounds, he gets from Point A to Point B very fast. DE Jeremiah Mitchell is a stout 6-4, 265-pounds. Shalom Luani is a 6-1, 200-pound safety who hits like he's a good 25-pounds heavier. Wideout C.J. Dimry is thin, yes, but he's also 6-6.

Certainty won't come until fall camp and possibly beyond, but right now this class looks more able to compete, sooner, against Pac-12 level competition -- the transition time to bona fide Pac-12 player is likely to be shorter than most classes.



As for speed, when it comes to the "skill players," we'd peg it at about the same level as the 2014 class in looking at the tape.

But we'd also posit, again in looking at the video, there is better speed among the bigger bodies in the class in comparison to previous signing classes.

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