WSU recruiting: Is there a common thread in recent Cougar decommitments?

WASHINGTON STATE has seen three recruiting decommitments in a week’s time, with safety Charles Watson, DT Lamonte McDougle and RB Cyrus Habibi-Likio all announcing they’d opened things back up. Is there a common thread here? Are the off-field incidents taking a toll? Is Washington State’s 1-2 mark in non conference play, when expectations were far greater, a part of it? Is it something else?

Watson opened his recruitment back after taking an official visit to Oregon State this past weekend.  Habibi-Likio had been getting a lot of recruiting love by Utah before he backed off his WSU pledge (and second-year Cougar RB James Williams went wild in Week Three).  McDougle, as did the others, indicated he’d rushed into his decision and wanted to make sure of his decision by taking another look at others.

In trying to read the tea leaves, it’s clear from this chair that WSU being in the news for the wrong reasons has played a role.  And opening the season 1-2 when the expectation was to challenge for the Pac-12 North crown hasn’t helped either.  Think of those two as the catalyst.  There’s also something else …

This is the new normal in recruiting.  In each passing recruiting cycle, more and more prospects are decommiting as other schools keep showing them the love. And no school has been immune to seeing its verbal pledges open things back up.

A prospect’s verbal is greeted with thunderous applause by a fan base. And then suddenly, they tend to be forgotten when it comes to the public sphere - fans and alumni move on to 'Who's next?' Meanwhile, they see uncommitted prospects continue on in the limelight: being interviewed for stories, mentioned nonstop on twitter and message boards and more. The college football season kicks off and other schools make a huge push for them to take an official visit to their school, telling him over and over how important he is to their future plans.

To love to be loved, is human nature.  WSU verbals have been getting a lot of love from other schools.

And when a prospect does go on a trip like Watson did to OSU, regardless of the game’s outcome, a great time is had by all.  A high school senior hopping on a plane, being showered with attention and love where the surroundings, and so much else, make for a new, exciting and different experience? That’s more than enough to get a 17-18-year-old thinking.

These aren't the first decommitment for WSU in its 2017 class -- and almost certainly won’t be the last.  Tayari Venable went to Oregon State as well this weekend. He said he remains pledged to Wazzu, but he still wants to check out some more schools.  And therein lies the answer. 

No matter how great a feeling was had when a prospect verballed to WSU, it’s nice to feel that way again. No matter how great a situation a prospect might have at the school he verbally committed to, prospects will continue to look around to see if they can find ‘something better.’  Other schools target a prospect, and regardless of whether he’s verballed somewhere else, will continue to do all they can - over time - to snatch him away, 

Meanwhile, WSU has been in the news – the prospect of targeting of football players by the local police has been raised by its head coach. That’s not something other schools recruiting against WSU are going to ignore – not here in late September, and not on Jan. 31, 2017.

So should WSU eschew its policy of not bringing official visitors in until after the season and start flying them in for the games?  I don’t think so. Two classes ago, prospects had a whale of a time on their official trips to the Palouse and still ended up playing the decommit and flip game when recruiting opened back up mid-January for the final three weeks.  The finish line, when prospects sign, is still a long ways off for Wazzu.

Washington State may see more verbals decommit between then and now. Indeed, I’d say it’s pretty close to a certainty that they will.  It’s the new normal.  But it’s also true WSU can put its best recruiting foot forward after the season, giving itself the best possible opportunity to land the best possible recruiting class. 

The closer to Signing Day they can show/remind a recruit why he verballed to WSU in the first place, and convince others to hop on board, the better.  In the meantime, WSU coaches, in addition to staying in close frequent contact with verbals and prospects, can also do something out on the football field in the weeks to come to give themselves a recruiting boost. Beating Oregon would be a very good place to start.

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