Recruiting: With season opener at hand, what about Washington State's official visits?

IN RECRUITING, home games signal the start of a new phase: official visits. The early fall weather on the Palouse is spectacular. And the charged atmosphere surrounding a Cougar game is a huge selling point for the Washington State coaches. But Mike Leach implemented a bold new recruiting strategy last year, eschewing official trips until after the season. Will it continue in 2016-17?

It will.

Some verbal pledges and targets have mentioned this offseason they plan on officially visiting Washington State during the season. But we'll have to wait and see if that truly ends up being the case. WSU recruiting coordinator Dave Emerick confirmed to CF.C recently that Wazzu plans to wait until after the season to bring prospects in on official visits -- the exception would be if it’s absolutely necessary, such as if the prospect simply cannot make the trip in December-January.

And according to prep and JC recruiting sources CF.C has spoken to this week, no prospects are officially tripping to WSU for this weekend’s season opening game vs. Eastern Washington (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

The reason for holding off on official visits until after the season had its genesis two recruiting classes ago. WSU lost a lot of pledges after January 15 in the 2015 crop, including those who had already taken their official trip to Wazzu. As great an experience as 2015 class verbal pledges had at Wazzu during the season, as much as they continued to say they were 100 percent crimson, that didn’t stop those prospects from flipping over the final three weeks before Signing Day.

But this past February, after holding its official visit weekends after the season, the vast number of WSU verbals stayed crimson despite other schools trying to pry them away. 

Delaying the official trips until after the season means the Cougar coaches can spend a ton more time with the recruits.  During the season, the No. 1 priority is the game at hand and as soon as it's in the books, the focus turns to the next one. And that means Leach’s time, as well as that of the assistant coaches, is limited when it comes to quality face-to-face recruiting time during the season. The Cougar players also have far less time to spend with the recruits.

WSU already has 15 known verbal commits in its 2017 class. With a small graduating senior class, Emerick told CF.C earlier this year WSU expected to sign around 22 on February’s signing day. But with normal attrition, the number almost always travels upwards to a full boat of 25, and CF.C expects the Cougs will sign the maximum allowed in this class.

Emerick has also emphasized from the very first day Mike Leach arrived in Pullman: if a stud prospect wants to come to WSU, they’ll find a way to fit him in. They’re not going to turn him away.

WSU’s official visit calendar this recruiting cycle figures to be stuffed full into the five official visit weekends in December and January.  (Four, really, when you consider Leach generally uses that final weekend to bring in a handful of preferred walk ons on official visits).

The first two weekends in December are open before recruiting shuts down for the holidays and major bowl season. The weekend visits start back up again on Jan. 13, with three weekends left before Signing Day on Feb. 1, 2017.

The off-campus, in-home visit period opens on Nov. 27 this year.  Washington State’s final regular season game is the Apple Cup, held on Friday, Nov. 25.

RELATED STORY: Chat summary with CF.C recruiting guru Braulio Perez

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