Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson, who has built a reputation as an outstanding recruiter over his two-plus decades in college ball, says the view of de-commits in the eyes of the fans is worlds apart from coaches.
"From a fan standpoint, they live and die with guys committing and de-committing," Wilson tells CF.C. "And really, from a coaching standpoint, we don’t."
The proliferation of the internet and social media fueled the phenomena because fans have access to most every detail and nuance of a prospect’s recruitment, along with every twist and turn, over the course of a year or more. They become vested in a way that was impossible in the 1990s.
Coaches, though, haven't changed in terms of the daily grind and dealing with the hills and valleys of the process.
For example, Wilson said if the Cougs have one inside linebacker spot to fill in its recruiting class, there could be seven prospects identified by WSU in its “1A” group.
“And any of those seven guys, we’ve decided, can help us be a better football team … Obviously you rate them 1-7 but it’s not like there is some terrible drop off in that group that we feel terrible about. And that’s opposed to a fan who falls in love with the one guy – while we see hundreds of ‘those guys’ across the country,” said Wilson.
WHEN WILSON FAND THE STAFF are evaluating defensive recruits, including the MIKE and the WILL, there is one question at the top of the board in the staff meeting room: Can he run?
And if the answer is no, WSU’s staff moves on, says Wilson.
“It doesn’t matter what position -- there’s a giant note there that says: Can he run?” said Wilson. “If he can’t run then we don’t even want to evaluate him. It doesn’t matter to us his size, position -- he could be a wide receiver. If that kid can run, and then he can all of a sudden tackle and is tough in his routes, if we can project him as someone who can run and make plays in the defense, then we can evaluate him.
“That’s the biggest thing that (WSU defensive coordinator) Alex Grinch has brought and that we’ve incorporated into our defense. That’s the starting point: Can he run?”
This past signing class, Wilson was either the area recruiter or was key in recruiting five signees, or 25 percent of the class:
- LB Faavae Faavae,
- DB Zaire Webb,
- DB Damion Lee,
- DB George Hicks
- LB Cole Dubots
He was also the area recruiter on 2016 holdover DB Isaiah Love, who joined WSU in January.
And while this will be Wilson’s 24th year of coaching, having spent 19 years as an assistant at Nevada, recruiting for him never gets old.
“It’s competitive for us. It’s one way that coaches get to compete against each other and to compete against other staffs. So that part of it is fun. But we don’t live and die on the commits and decommits,” said Wilson.