New Coug Nilsson Gaisoa's family offers up a recruiting trail first for Mike Leach

SPOKANE — Washington State coach Mike Leach told a gathering of the crimson faithful Wednesday night at the Northern Quest Casino that his pursuit of new Cougar signee Nilsson Gaisoa produced a first in his many years on the recruiting trail.

“The only home visit I’ve ever been at where there were family members bigger than Joe Salave’a,” Leach said of his trip to the Gaisoa abode northeast of Honolulu in Kailua, Hawaii.

Gaisoa — whose cousin is Cougar linebacker Logan Tago — is a 6-5, 295-pound offensive lineman.

Salave’a checked in at 6-3, 317 pounds during his NFL playing days and remains a very large man in his current role as WSU’s assistant head coach and defensive line coach.

In addition to Gaisoa, Leach enthused about the other five offensive linemen he signed in the new class:

* Christian Haangana (6-5, 365) of Milpitas, Calif.

* Keenan King (6-4, 301) of Las Vegas

* Frederick Mauigoa (6-4, 295) of Pago Pago

* Liam Ryan (6-6, 275) of La Verne, Calif., and

* Joshua Watson (6-5, 265) of Everett. 

Each has a touch of a mean streak in him, Leach said.

Mauigoa, who continues the string of American Samoan players at Washington State, played for Okland Salave’a — Joe’s brother — at Tafuna High.

Leach hinted that Mauigoa and Gaisoa could windup as bookend tackles for the Cougars.

Leach didn’t contain his remarks to the offense trenches. On the defensive line, the Cougars added three ends with similar skill sets: quick and powerful off the ball and speed to chase down running backs and quarterbacks to make tackles for loss.

The three are:

* Lyric Bartley (6-3, 245) out of Taylorsville, Utah (pictured above)

* Danny Bender (6-4, 240) of El Cajon, Calif.; and

* JC transfer Garrett McBroom (6-3, 268) of Stillwater, Okla.

“The thing about this guy is that he’s just barely shaving and he’s going to get better and better,” Leach said of Bartley, who posted 13.5 sacks this past season and totaled 43 tackles for loss over three varsity seasons.

All three of the DEs have a chance to play this season, Salave’a said. “That’s why they come to Washington State,” he said. “They come here to play.”

McBroom, who tallied 10 sacks and 18 TFLs this past fall at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, is already enrolled at WSU and will partake in spring practices.

Salave’a said one of the biggest factors in the Cougars' ability to recruit the trio of big and fast ends came down to one thing: winning.

“Winning is the thing everyone cares about. We’re winning football games and they want to be part of that,” Salave’a said.

WSU’s brand new inside receivers coach, JaMarcus Shephard, was also on hand Wednesday night and said he was impressed with the group of four prep receivers the Cougars signed: Dezmon Patmon, Renard Bell, Isaiah Johnson and Grant Porter.

Their height stands out. Patmon is 6-4, Johnson 6-3 and Porter 6-2.

“That’s kind of where things are going,” Shephard said. “You want to find guys with size as well as speed. The difference with Bell (who is 5-10) is that he’s just so fast and and can cause so many problems for defenses.”

Johnson, who is considered the prize of the group given the load of major-conference scholarship offers he received, is now enrolled at WSU after graduating from high school in December.

“He’s already in there working hard with the other guys,” Shephard said.

Leach envisions Johnson as an outside receiver, which isn’t a stretch after watching the big, fluid receiver beat double-team after double-team on his highlight reel, going up over two defenders in the back corner of the end zone for touchdowns.

“Going up and over the top like that is great, but now at this level you’re going to be going against guys who can jump, maybe, six inches higher, so that catch is going to be that much harder to make,” Shephard said. 

“You’re going to have to keep doing all those things consistently, every play.”

Johnson caught 106 passes for 26 TDs and more than 2,100 yards in his three varsity seasons at Dwyer High in Belle Glade, Fla.

Leach said the fact that Cougar quarterbacks led the nation in passing the past two seasons was a big reason the team was able to attract receivers of this quality.


  • When Leach stepped to the podium to address a sold-out audience of Cougar alums, he told them that this was the first signing day that he has ever had go off without a hitch. “That doesn’t mean it was without anxiety,” he said. “You get one tweet and suddenly everyone gets all anxious and afraid everything is going to fall apart.”
  • The two big takeaways from the Cougars’ class of recruits are the offensive linemen and the speed of the defensive players, Leach said.
  • WSU athletic director Bill Moos, who is no shrinking flower when it comes to positive thinking, was at this hyperbolic best. “We were a missed field goal away from having the best record in the conference,” he said. “We haven’t won the conference (since 2002). But we will. We haven’t played in the Rose Bowl (since 2003). But we will. And we haven’t won the Rose Bowl (since 1916). But we will.”
  • Mike Price kicked off the event. “I’m responsible for the snow at the Sun Bowl. You know that! You know that!” said the former UTEP and WSU coach.
  • For the complete list of players in WSU's 2016 class of recruits CLICK HERE.

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