More misses than hits in 2000 class

PUBLISHED REPORTS out of Salt Lake City that back-up WSU middle linebacker <B>Aaron Wagner</B> is planning to transfer to Brigham Young puts an exclamation point on why Washington State made a change in recruiting coordinators after the 2000 season.

Of the 26 members of WSU's 2000 recruiting class -- the last one spearheaded by Jim Zeches before Robin Pflugrad was brought in as coordinator --- only seven have started a game for the Cougars.

That's right. Only seven cracked the starting line up in four (4) seasons of football.

A whopping 10 of the them never set foot in Pullman or never took a snap in a game: receivers Billy Chase and Anthony Buchanan; defensive backs Ronnie Nunn and Tyrone Ward; running backs Eddie Linscomb and Damon Johnson; linebackers Brian DeMaestri, Lacy McDonald and Lance Mitchell; and quarterback Tali Ena.

Along with Chris Bruhn (a member of the class who didn't arrive on campus until this season), Nunn and Mitchell failed to meet academic requirements coming out of high school and went the JC route. Both ultimately became starters at other schools --- Nunn at USC and Mitchell at Oklahoma. Buchanan suited up for a season and then opted to devote full-time to sprinting on the Cougar track team. Ena transferred to New Mexico, where he currently is third string.

And now The Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake tells us that Wagner, who spent the 2001 and 2002 seasons on a Mormon mission, is heading to BYU after turning in a disappointing season for WSU in 2003. He was expected to contend for the starting middle linebacking job this year, but instead saw most of his action on special teams while youngsters Scott Davis, Brian Hall and Steve Dildine worked their way up the linebacking depth chart.

Wagner, from Lethbride, Alberta, said in Sunday's Deseret Morning News that after serving on a mission he doesn't feel comfortable in boistrous Pullman and will enroll at Provo in January, sitting out a year before playing.

Of the 26 members of the 2000 class -- of which the 18 high school recruits in the group would now be either fourth-year juniors or seniors -- only four were starters for the Cougars this season: First-team all-Pac-10 defensive backs Erik Coleman and Jason David, honorable mention all-Pac-10 hoss Calvin Armstrong, and cornerback Karl Paymah.

Three other members of the class -- defensive tackle Steve Cook, running back Bruhn and defensive back Hamza Abdullah -- saw a fair amount of action and are expected to start next season. A fourth, lineman Norvell Holmes, also figures to see more action in 2003. Tight end Mark Ahlberg and running back LaVell Anderson are deep backups.

THERE WERE EIGHT junior college transfers in that 2000 class. Two of the them starred for one season -- receiver Nakoa McElrath and running back David Minnich --- and two others made solid contributions: running back John Tippins and linebacker Alex Nguae. Chase, Linscomb abd Ward never took a snap and Mike Freeman was a deep backup.

"WSU's class of 2000 was the product of tough back-to-back seasons on the field for the Cougars, 1998 and 1999," said Jack Evans, CF.C managing editor. "I think the Cougs had to take some chances on guys and a lot of them didn't work out. If you look at the current roster, this particular class stands out because it's so under-represented.

"It also speaks to the holes the Cougars had to fill immediately when this class first arrived on campus --- Erik Coleman and Jason David, the class's two biggest stars, had to play as true freshmen."

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