How WSU landed superstar WR

ROBIN PFLUGRAD, WSU's assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator, offered a fascinating glimpse at how WSU caught the recruiting world by surprise with the signing of Michael Bumpus, the star-studded prep receiver thought destined for USC.

It's a tale of good timing, low-key persistence and, in the end, a week's worth of silence that kept other possible suitors from descending upon the coveted athlete.

Bumpus, a first-team "Best in the West" pick from Culver City, Calif., committed verbally to nearby USC in mid-December. But Cougar assistant coach Kelly Skipper remained in contact with him. "Kelly kept at him in a diplomatic way, calling every two weeks or so just to let him know we'd love to have him if he had a change of heart," Pflugrad told CF.C on Friday at the Pierce County Cougar Club's annual Bill Doba Dinner.

When USC landed a verbal commitment from Dwayne Jarrett, a 6-4 playmaking receiver from New Jersey, just days before letters of intent were signed, Bumpus was back on the market. Observers of the California recruiting scene aren't clear whether USC pulled its offer to Bumpus after landing Jarrett or whether Bumpus de-committed because USC was sending the bulk of its love on the receiving front elsewhere.

No matter which, the ongoing attention WSU and Skipper had given to Bumpus was about to pay off in a big way.

Bumpus had good feelings about the Cougars. He had taken an official visit to Pullman in early October -- a weekend when temperatures hit 80 and the Cougars chalked up their fifth victory of the year, 30-7, over Arizona. By all accounts, it was a great trip.

"Michael really liked the family feel here," Pflugrad said. "But when USC pushed hard for him, it was a slam dunk -- he grew up wanting to be a Trojan and his mom was hoping he'd stay close to home."

Still, the Cougars didn't scratch him from their list.

"We stayed in regular contact with him. And once we had him, we crossed our fingers that word wouldn't get out. If it got on the internet, Washington, Oregon and everyone else would have been all over him," Pflugrad said.

The days leading up to signing day were nervous ones, but when Bumpus' LOI rolled off the fax Feb. 4, Pflugrad, Skipper, et. al. breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"He's a heck of a kid," gushed Doba on Friday in a front of packed house of crimson faithful. "I know his mom didn't want to see him leave the area, but we'll take good care of him."

The Bumpus signing not only speaks to Skippers' persistence and personality, but also to the power of WSU's three consecutive 10-win, top 10 seasons.

"We're now getting the cream of the crop to visit Pullman," Pflugrad said, whereas in the 1990s it was rare to get the most elite of elite players from California to trip to the Palouse. "The next step is to get them to sign here in large numbers. This year we lost a lot of kids to USC, Michigan and Oregon."

Continued success on the field, including marquee victories like the Holiday Bowl win over Texas, will bring WSU to that next level of recruiting success among the most elite, he said.

Pflugrad showed film footage of each of WSU's 28 signees in the 2004 class, and the shots of Bumpus drew oohs and aahhs from the Pierce County crowd --- in part, because two of the clips were of him playing out of position, at quarterback, rather than receiver. He ripped off one run of 80 yards and another of 60.

Turns out Bumpus, rated one of the top 15 receiving prospects in the nation, was pressed into signal calling duty three games into Culver City's 2003 season when their regular QB went down with injury. He led the team to a 9-2-1 record and finished the year with 800 rushing and 160 passing yards, plus another 170 in receptions in the first three games.

Pflugrad said Bumpus is one of two prep signees in the 2004 class who he sees as possibly contributing to the Cougars right away. The other is Michael Willis, a 6-3, 205-pound WR/DB from Tacoma's Lincoln High.

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