Leach loves his new kicker & haul of hosses

SEATTLE – If there is still a sore point for Washington State football fans three months after a 3-9 season, it was revealed Friday evening when coach Mike Leach began reviewing his 2015 recruiting class at the “Night With Cougar Football” banquet at the Sheraton.

Matt Abramo is a kicker. He’s six-foot-two…” Leach began.

That’s all it took. Perhaps the social hour that preceded the dinner and program helped fuel the response, but the The Pirate hardly had time to finish his sentence before the crowd of WSU boosters erupted into boisterous whistles and applause.

Yes, WSU’s kicking game was a major issue in 2014. There was the missed 19-yarder that would have beaten Cal at Martin Stadium, the multiple misses in the road loss to Nevada, the midseason dismissal of special teams coach Eric Russell, et. al.

Based on Leach’s analysis, Abramo will likely have a chance to come in and start right away.

The Petaluma, Calif., native made 10 of 12 field goals and 23 of 24 extra points during his senior year at Casa Grande High. Touchbacks on kickoffs were no stranger either during a season in which he was named All-North Bay League Specialist of the Year.

“What I like about him is the ball flies off his foot … he kicks it through the end zones so I’m excited about that,” Leach said. “He gets it high right away. (Anybody) tries to block it, he’s going to kick it over their head.”

By most estimates, Leach’s recruiting class, which is ranked 43rd in the country by Scout.com, provides reason for optimism because of the coaching staff’s focus on improving the secondary and defensive line with players capable of competing for playing time right away.

But Leach said he ultimately judges a class by the caliber of offensive and defensive linemen. For 2015, that group includes three-star OL Cedric Bigge-Duren, three-star DE T.J. Fehoko, three-star DT Hunter Mattox, four-star DE Jeremiah Mitchell, three-star OL Noah Myers, three-star OL Davis Perrott, three-star OL Joseph Price, and two-star OL Amosa Sakaria. (Stars are based on Scout.com’s rankings).

When Leach showed a clip of four-star DT Thomas Toki -- perhaps the jewel of this year’s group -- mauling a ballcarrier, the crowd erupted again.

“What I like best about this recruiting class is, really to be honest with you, how I gauge every recruiting class is how we do with offensive linemen and defensive linemen,” Leach said. “The reason that they have football is to watch big people beat up on other big people. Kind of the whole physical human monster truck thing. And then after you watch that for a little bit you say, OK, let’s see, that guy was pretty darn big. What would it look like for him to mash that little guy?

“I thought we did really well with offensive linemen and defensive line.”

The same is true in the secondary, where WSU struggled mightily last season. By adding highly touted junior college corner Treshon Broughton and safety Shalom Luani, WSU could potentially shore up a backline that loses cornerbacks Daquawn Brown (dismissed for a violation of team rules) and Kevin Griffin (transferred to Cal Poly). There’s also the bonus addition of Pasco, Wash., safety Deion Singleton, who didn’t qualify last year but is now academically eligible. He counts toward this year’s group and will be in action this spring.

“It was important for us to do a good job on defensive backs,” Leach said. “I thought we did a good job. We deliberately held some scholarships. This was a wild year. It was very volatile year.”

As of now, WSU’s class officially has 23 signees after a handful of verbals backed out of their commitment when outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons left for Oklahoma.

Leach, though, expects to add more players in the coming months.

“We actually signed three guys that were at an All-Star game during signing day,” he said. “We held back a little because we feel like we’re going to get some great guys. You’ll hear in the future some guys that we’ll sign that are definitely going to be great additions.”

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