Doba excited about 2004 class

WASHINGTON STATE coach Bill Doba had a chance to take a breath—of sorts—during the afternoon of this Letter of Intent day and offer his opinions on the nearly concluded 2004 Cougar recruiting class --- a class most pundits rate one of the 25 best in the land.

"I think it's a great class, I'd rate it an eight or nine," he said. "We recruited athletes and we liked them as people."

High praise, indeed, from a coach who is known to keep exaggeration in check.

"We're very excited," he continued. "This is an outstanding group and we think we met most of our needs."

Most, but not all.

"Well, we didn't get a high school corner," he said. "But we did get an outstanding JC corner (Tyron Brackenridge)."

The coach seemed thrilled with the three high school wide receiver additions: Charles Dillon, Benny Ward ("both have excellent speed") and Michael Bumpus ("one of the top receivers in the country"), as well as JC receiver Greg Prator.

"When (Devard) Darling left, we felt we needed some maturity in the receiving group," he said. "So we were real fortunate to get Greg Prator."

Doba sees each of the four JC signees (Brackenridge, Prator, back Jerome Harrison, DE Letrell Myers) as contributing next fall and feels a few true freshmen could make an immediate impact for the Cougs next season, namely safety Randy Estes, athlete Michael Willis, and Bumpus.

Regarding Estes, it is Doba's understanding that his legal issues will be resolved and the charges, in fact, will be dropped. As for those critical of the Cougars' offering him a scholarship, the coach was to the point.

"They (the critics) didn't sit in his living room and talk to Randy and his father."

Doba also noted the impact three top 10 seasons has had on the program, including a big Holiday Bowl victory over Texas just over a month ago.

"No question winning 10 games for three consecutive years has helped," Doba said. "And the Holiday Bowl helped us a lot; gave us great exposure."

Recent success has changed the recruiting landscape at WSU. Players who, not so long ago, wouldn't have thought twice about coming to Pullman are now in the mix. And the geographical boundaries have expanded, as well. But Doba isn't about to mess too much with the successful alchemy of the Cougs.

"The heart and soul (of recruiting) is in the Northwest and California," he said. "You want to dance with who brought you and you don't want to get a big head and start running all over the country."

And he has a simple philosophy when it comes to recruiting.

"The biggest thing in recruiting is being honest."

Of the 28 signees, 13 can be considered local products: 11 from instate and two others—linebacker Alex Hamill and DE Colin Donovan—are from nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Superior, Mont., respectively.

"There's a lot of kids from instate who really want to be here," Doba said. "Who just bleed Crimson and Gray."

The signing of Donovan continues the Cougar tradition of finding gems off the beaten path. Last year it was grayshirt Scott Selby of Castle Rock. The year before it was Matt Mullenix of Spangle. Others in recent years include Will Derting (Okanogan), Pat Bennett (Forks) and Brian Boyer of Lapwai, Idaho.

Doba doesn't see any problems with signing 28 players with just 25 spots available next fall.

"Over signing has worked well for us in the past," he said. "Couple of kids we think we'll grow into good players; a couple are marginal academically."

It's likely at least three of the signees will go the grayshirt route and delay enrollment until spring 2005.

Doba listed QB Cole Morgan, DE Mike Graise, and DL Lawrence Ball as potential grayshirts, but noted that nothing was definite and a decision on the matter would not likely be made until after spring ball.

The Cougs have somewhat of a tradition in signing two standout quarterbacks in one class. They last did it with Chris Hurd and Josh Swogger in 2001 (although Swogger ended up grayshirting). Before that, it was 1986 with Brad Gossen and Timm Rosenbach. And it was Clete Casper and Ryne Sandberg in 1978.

Now the Cougs can add a new pair to that "tradition": Morgan and Gary Rogers.

"We liked both of them," Doba said. "It was a chance to get two good kids and we got both of them."

Doba said there "may be one more (signee), we got one that is flipping." Coaches are still prohibited from talking about specific players who are unsigned, but he was undoubtedly referring to Ohio back Delbert Ferguson, who has reportedly committed to both Cincinnati and WSU in the last three days.

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