Cammon Cooper (Blair Angulo)

WSU recruiting ties to 4-star QB Cammon Cooper go back 30-plus years; Jim Mastro and Cooper's head coach won JUCO national title together

RECRUITING CONNECTIONS are always fascinating to study. But few of them go back this far. The Cougs are recruiting hard 4-star QB prospect Cammon Cooper out of Lehi, Utah, this spring. And Cooper’s head coach in high school and one WSU assistant go back more than 30 years.

Ed Larson, Cooper's head coach at Lehi High, quarterbacked his San Jose City College squad to the 1986 national championship. The guy lined up behind him in the backfield?  WSU running backs coach Jim Mastro.

“The thing about Jimmy, he was a great running back and the thing I remember most was that he always had my back,” Larson told CF.C.  “He was a great blocker. I could always count on him to protect me when they brought the blitz. But he was also a tremendous runner (and) caught the ball well. He was just one of those all-purpose backs that everyone is going to now. So maybe a couple decades ahead of his time.”

Mastro and Eric Mele made Lehi their first stop on the recruiting trail this spring, visiting with Larson about Cooper (6-4, 200) on Wednesday.

“They just wanted to make sure that Camm knew, through me, that he was their top priority. They’re waiting for him, they want him, he’s their No. 1 guy. They just wanted to convey that message of how much he means to them. They’re just going to take one quarterback as opposed to some other places that are going to take two quarterbacks,” said Larson.

Cooper is expected to make his decision in June. The No. 25-ranked QB prospect in the land holds double-digit offers including rides from WSU, Georgia, Tennessee and others. Larson made the trip to Pullman with Cooper when he unofficially visited Wazzu earlier this month.

“I really loved going there because I think it’s one of the most – they don’t want it to be – but I think in the football world it’s one of the best-kept secrets in how the football facility is placed on the campus. It’s amazing, a great venue, great location. A lot of these schools where the stadium is off campus, the football facility is off campus. But this one is right there, a really nice venue,” said Larson.

LARSON SAID 27 schools have contacted him to set up dates to come by during the spring evaluation period that runs through May. That number continues to grow.

“A lot of these guys are just calling out of the woodwork now,” said Larson. “I just got a call (Thursday) from Alabama. Everybody starts making their commitments, and then the guys start committing and decommitting … but I think Mike (Leach) has done a great job in recruiting Camm. He’s taken a personal interest in him as the head coach and let him know how much they want him.

“I went through the process myself as a player and you’ve got to be wanted. If they’re taking you just because, well, we didn’t get our 1, 2 or 3 choice, yes they want you but they didn’t really want you. When you’re their No. 1 guy, to me that means a lot.”

IF COOPER does end up going crimson, Larson says he’d be a hand-in-glove fit in Leach’s Air Raid.

“Mike was a student assistant at BYU, I was a graduate assistant at BYU. Even though our nomenclature is different, the schemes that we run are all based out of that stuff. What Mike calls ‘92’ we call ‘62’ – the mesh concept. We have The Climb which they call Y-cross. So (Cooper) is already used to the concepts,” said Larson.

Larson has also coached at the JC and collegiate levels where he’s mentored seven quarterbacks who took home All-American honors. How does Cooper compare to them?

“He has a chance to be better than all of them ... if he continues to work hard and do the things he’s going to get coached to do at whatever program he chooses. If he chooses Washington State, he’s going to get the opportunity to get mentored by obviously one of the best passing minds in the country in Mike Leach,” said Larson.

Larson said one thing about Cooper that can be both a plus and a minus is his demeanor – you can’t tell from his reaction whether he just threw a TD or an interception.  One of Cooper’s attributes skills-wise is that “he has great anticipation skills” and leads his receivers into the “open hole.”

“Too many quarterbacks have to see the receiver open before they throw it. And he’s able to see the opening where the ball and receiver will mesh together. I think that’s one of his greatest skills,” said Larson.

It’s no surprise Mele accompanied Mastro down to Utah. The Cougs’ special teams coach has been heavily involved in quarterback recruiting under Leach. He was crucial in bringing another Utah quarterback to Washington State: former walk on Luke Falk.

Mastro as a player, Larson says, wanted the ball as much as anyone. Larson recalled a SJCC game when Mastro came back to the huddle 3-4 times in the first half after they had had run a particular play, telling his QB no one was following him as he flared out of the backfield. With a minute to go in the half, on the sideline during a timeout, Mastro brought it up again, this time to the coach and they ran it again coming out of the timeout. “As soon as the ball left my hand, I saw the linebacker. He followed him on the fifth time, let’s put it that way. So I threw the pick and we just looked at each other. I said, ‘Dude. You said you were wide open,’” Larson laughed.

RELATED: WSU coaches' trip to Lehi, Utah, turns 4-star QB's head

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