The offensive line.
“Cody O’Connell was not highly recruited, Cole Madison was not highly recruited, Andre Dillard was not highly recruited,” Emerick said of the Cougar linemen that have signed with the school in his tenure and since become the backbone of Washington State’s pass protection. O’Connell and Madison were rated 2 stars by Scout.com, Madison was a 3-star prospect.
“A lot those guys, especially early that we signed, kinda came in with a chip on their shoulder and wanted to turn this program around. I think the exciting thing is when your guys come in and they do turn the program around ... the guys we brought in five years ago are the ones that have gone to three bowl games in four years.”
The WSU assistant coaches, Emerick said, are the recruiting focal point: they're the ones in close communication with the recruits and are the ones out on the road. He, meanwhile, focuses more on compiling stats and sending them along to the coaches and then, once Leach or Alex Grinch targets a potential Cougar player, Emerick works to help foster the relationship between the student and Washington State.
“Because coach Leach does so much as far as being head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach, I’m handling some of the other administrative duties," said Emerick. "So my first responsibility is oversee recruiting, and then kind of liaison between football and the rest of the athletic department -- so marketing, media relations, Cougar Athletic Fund, (NCAA) compliance.
“We’ll set up official visits, we’ll take them around, you know, they’re here for 48 hours,” Emerick said of his role with potential recruits. “We’ll show them Pullman, we’ll show them Washington State, I’m with them pretty much every day (of the visit).”
When it comes to identifying future Cougars, rankings aren’t important to Leach, the assistant coaches, nor Emerick. He does need to know everything and let the Cougar coaching staff sort through the information, though.
“I’ll get them names and lists and rankings and stuff like that, and all that’s good, just to provide information,” he said. “We don’t care so much if we get a 5-star kid or a 4-star kid, but we want the names. We want to evaluate every kid.”
His job is also about managing the numbers in the recruiting class. Emerick will remind the coaches “how many quarterbacks we’re taking, how many running backs, how many receivers, how many o-linemen,” he said. “They’re four year scholarships so you make a big commitment to a kid and he makes a big commitment to you.”
That’s why it’s important to make sure that WSU isn’t using too many of its scholarships for a single position even though it may be tempting to go over the planned number, though of course not all Cougar players play the same position they did in high school.
“A lot times in high school, your best player on the field is the quarterback,” he said “So on film you can see the athleticism, you can see their ball skills, you can see a lot things but you don’t know how it translates.
“A lot times you’re just taking a chance, based on athleticism and potential -- every year you’re going to miss on guys (but) you make the best decisions you can with the information that you have.”
Asked to summarize his typical day, Emerick said that would be difficult.
“No two days are really the same,” he said. “You got a lot of meetings.
“If coach Leach can’t go, I’ll go to the head coaches meeting. I go to some of the senior staff meetings, there’s compliance meetings,” he said.
He remains proud of the turnaround WSU football has seen under Leach. The biggest change, said Emerick, was getting more athletic.
“On offense we were trying to get more playmakers, more guys who could run. This past class has shown a lot of that, there’s some guys that can really run.
“We want big, athletic offensive linemen, which a lot of times are guys that are tight ends in high school that we’ll put weight on,” said Emerick, citing Dillard and Madison as players WSU has converted to excel at new positions.
But he’s quick to point out the risk involved in any commitment to a player.
“You have to watch them on film, you have to like how they play," said Emerick. "Then you've got to do a lot of research, you gotta do academics, you gotta do character. You don’t know how anyone’s going to turn out. You sign them cause you like them, but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, if they’re gonna get hurt, if they’ve already kind of maxed out on their potential, if they have so much more room to grow.”
Emerick is also quick to remind that football is not the main the goal of the WSU recruiting process.
“One of the biggest priorities that coach Leach makes very clear is that he wants everyone to graduate, and that will give them so many opportunities, football or otherwise,” Emerick said “His expectation for everyone is to get their degree.”
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Dave Emerick takes you inside WSU recruiting
The offensive line.