5 takeaways from WSU’s Signing Day

WASHINGTON STATE got faster on Wednesday, especially on defense. That was among the major takeaways coming out of Signing Day at Wazzu.

Four of the new Cougs are also competitive sprinters who have posted official times in the 100 of between 10.45 and 10.8 seconds: RB Caleb Perry, LB Cole Dubots, WR Travell Harris and DB Damion Lee (pictured above). As the old saying goes, you can’t teach speed. And the fact we didn’t list WR Jamire Calvin or the boat load of other receivers and corners here doesn’t mean they’re slow – it means we don’t have track results on them.
Another big – literally – storyline is the 1,100-plus pounds WSU secured for the offensive line in the form of Jonathan Nathaniel, Robert Valencia, Abe Lucas and Alec Kuzmack. (WSU does not list 6-6, 305-pound Dontae Powell of Richland among its Wednesday signees and it’s believed he could sign with the Cougs sometime before April 1 if all looks good academically.) But the quartet that did sign is tall like Mike Leach wants ‘em (between 6-5 and 6-8), they all possess agile feet and they all bend at the hip. The WSU OL group was rated in’s top 15 nationally as of this morning but just moved off the list as Signing Day unfolded.
Valencia is a 4-star JC transfer who already is on campus and will compete in spring ball. Lucas and Kuzmack are Pacific Northwest guys and are rated by among the top 20 offensive tackles in the West. Nathaniel hails from Arizona. The Cougars pushed hard for him when Tacoma’s Quazzel White decommitted (signed with TCU). Nathaniel chose the Cougars over Arizona. He is rated the No. 10 OT in the West -- just four spots behind Powell.
The Cougars didn’t sign a single prospect classified as a defensive tackle for the second straight class and none of the four classified as defensive ends that they landed fits the typical mold of a future DT – all  stand between 6-4 and 6-6 and weigh between 220 and 240. That’s not to say the potential isn’t there at DT – after all, Rien Long, a high school tight end, won the Outland Trophy at WSU in 2002 at 6-6, 280 pounds. But on its face, the Cougars’ 2017 class of recruits looks balanced – except at DT.
WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was on the radio this morning saying his focus in recruiting is getting the Cougar d-line quicker with long and lean players who will develop. Football chief of staff and recruiting coordinator Dave Emerick echoed those comments to CF.C members in a forums chat today. Here’s how he addressed the DT topic: 

“The general emphasis on our defense is speed. We recognize that we do need bigger bodies to play on the defensive line but don’t want to sacrifice athleticism on the field in order to do so. We were able to get several long athletes that we believe will be able to add weight and get to a weight where they will be able to effectively compete in our conference. Dallas Hobbs (6-6, 240, and Will Rodgers (6-5, 230) are two individuals that have the frames to be able to add weight, and their athleticism speaks for itself off their film.”

When it comes to early playing time, the JC transfers are the first ones to look at, but among the incoming freshmen you have to like wideouts Jamire Calvin, Travell Harris and Anthony White and DBs Josh Talbott and George Hicks. analyst Brandon Huffman likens Hicks to rising WSU sophomore Jalen Thompson, who was an ESPN Freshman All-American this past season. Another youngster to keep an eye on is defensive end Will Rodgers. His ability to slip and shed blocks is going to make it hard for WSU to redshirt him.

As for the JUCOs, Valencia figures to compete immediately and keep an eye on CB Sean Harper (a longtime Grinch recruiting target), WR Easop Winston and DE Preston Hendry. Hendry won’t arrive until the spring but one of his top attributes is getting after the QB -- something that figures to be a major emphasis for WSU coming off a 2016 season where not enough heat was applied in the backfield.

It’s also worth noting that today began with Cougar fans concerned about the WR class, which numbered only three, with CF.C's projection at four to five. By day’s end, the highest-rated recruit in WSU’s class (Calvin) and another 3-star WR (Harris) were on board, making for what looks to be a solid five-man group. 

In terms of pure rating -- which is always a crap shoot -- this class is currently pegged at No. 39 nationally (8th in the Pac-12), compared with No. 50 (10th in the Pac-12) last year. That arbitrary ranking aside, this class on film looks all-around more athletic than last year's class. And, as noted above, you can't teach speed. Here’s how the Pac-12 shakes out in the Scout rankings at this moment:

Remember the old days where a WSU recruiting class was primarily from California and the Pacific Northwest? Welcome to 2017 and class that stretches far across the nation.

WSU's 2017 class today numbered 25 from 11 states: Arizona (1); California (8); Colorado (1); Florida (3); Georgia (2); Hawaii (1); Idaho (1); Louisiana (1); Iowa (1); Oregon (1) and Washington (2).

WSU hasn't officially announced him but DE Kelle Sanders tweeted this out late on Wednesday afternoon:

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