Recruiting season just getting started

THE SEASON may be over for WSU on the field but for coach <b>Bill Doba</b> and the staff, the recruiting season is just getting warmed up. And though there are no more games to play in '04, that doesn't mean the Cougar players won't have anything to do upon returning from Thanksgiving break. News, notes and a look ahead to the coming weeks and months before Signing Day, from both the recruiting angle as well as the goings-on for the current players.

Less than 24 hours after the Apple Cup victory, most of the assistants were already out on the road -- the rules allow for seven assistants on the road at any one time. The contact period begins next Sunday, Nov 28. The Saturday night before that, coach Bill Doba himself will fly out to hit the recruiting trail.

Then on Monday, Doba will return to Pullman to meet with the team as the players return from Thanksgiving Break before heading back out to recruit. Because the Cougs aren't going to a bowl game this year, those three weeks before Christmas they'd normally spend in bowl practices will be spent in the weight room. No conditioning -- just an early start to their offseason strength program.

And that's the thing the Cougs need most according to Doba, strength and flexibility. Those extra three weeks should serve as a great "springboard" into the offseason.

DOBA SAID in one respect as far as recruiting goes, the Cougs are probably a little bit ahead of where they were last year.

"Last year we had offered a lot more kids," said Doba. "We've been a lot more selective in who we've offered this year. I think we're down to the (last remaining group) that we really want."

The numbers can remain in flux all the way up to Signing Day but as it stands now, the Cougs are looking at taking 18-20 players this February. That figure is inclusive of any grayshirts from last year that will sign as part of the 2005 class.

DEFENSIVELY, the staff is looking at safeties, another corner and a good defensive end or d-tackle is also a possibility. Another area of emphasis is linebackers. "We'll take three or four (good linebackers) if we can get 'em," said Doba, noting the 'backers are what makes a good special teams unit.

With two starting safeties graduating in Hamza Abdullah and Jeremy Bohannon, the Cougs will be looking to the junior college ranks for a safety who can step in and contribute next year. (*See below for one JC player who might fit the bill)

OFFENSIVELY, the Cougs are looking to take two or three wide receivers, a tight end, three or so offensive linemen and a few running backs. "I'd like to get two or three running backs if we can. Good ones. Good high school kids.

Should there exist other outstanding JUCO players beyond the safety, the Cougs could go that route, provided the player is special. "If there's a great junior college linebacker or a great junior college running back, we'd take those also," said Doba.

News and Notes
  • Recruits in town this weekend on official visits for the Apple Cup were Fevaea'i Ahmu, Vic So'oto, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Willis. When the final seconds ticked off the clock in Washington State's 28-25 victory over the Huskies, Ahmu and So'oto led the charge out onto the field to celebrate. The recruits arrived home too late Sunday night for us to touch base with them but we hope to talk to all four in the days to come for their take on their trips to WSU.

  • One possibility at safety from the junior college ranks is 6-2, 195-pound Dewayne Patterson out of Chaffey. Patterson is fast, a big hitter who covers a lot of ground in the back forty.

  • Will Derting will have surgery this offseason to fuse the bones in his wrist. The expectation is Derting would be completely healed by the time spring ball rolls around. The recovery period is usually six-to-eight weeks for this surgery.

  • Aaron Johnson (MCL sprain) and Matt Mullennix (season ending ACL) should both be back and ready to roll in the spring.

  • Asked for perhaps the hundredth time about the starting quarterback situation in the context of next year, Doba said Alex Brink performed very well in '04. The redhsirt freshman showed improvement throughout the season as a starter but Doba said you don't necessarily demote a player, Josh Swogger, for being injured.

    It's too early to tell for sure, but Swogger (broken foot) might be fully ready to go for spring drills. If so, look for both Swogger and Brink to get equal reps in the spring and Gary Rogers should also get a good amount of turns. Ideally, Doba said the starting quarterback situation would be finalized by the end of the spring sessions, before the team goes into their voluntary summer workouts, skellies, etc.

  • Doba stated he very much wants to keep this coaching staff together. While the news defensive coordinator Robb Akey wasn't interested in the Weber State opening was certainly welcome, the annual coaching carousel really hasn't begun yet here in the third week of November. Coach Kelly Skipper had some NFL offers last year. As another example, a situation could arise where, say, coach Robin Pflugrad wants to move closer to his parents in Oregon. The bottom line is its too early to definitively state this coaching staff will stay intact for next season at this point. The same can be said for most any school. "I'm going to try my darndest to keep them all here if I can," Doba said.

  • Asked what the kicking situation looks like for '05, Doba thinks Loren Langley will end up being a very good kicker for the Cougs. And he pointed out WSU has Graham Siderius coming back next year as well. A good walk-on kicker is always an ideal situation but with a sophomore kicker on scholarship, a really good walk-on kicker would probably look elsewhere first.

    More season and Apple Cup notes
  • Michael Bumpus, Jason Hill, Norvell Holmes, and Ropati Pitoitua were among the pleasant surprises this year for coach Doba.
  • Bumpus sprained his ankle in the Apple Cup, nothing serious. "But there's a lot of guys with bumps and bruises. It was pretty good hitting out there," said Doba.

  • Doba said Derting had a particularly good Apple Cup, the junior linebacker was "all over the field." He also noted Allen Thompson had a good game. "Thompson just really gets it up in there quick. He's tough to bring down. For a guy that runs straight up and down like he does, he packs a punch. And Harrison had a good ball game."

    Editor's Note - Asked earlier this season who would start between Chris Bruhn and Jerome Harrison, Doba said the guy who they'd like to get more carries was Allen Thompson. AT not only had some very solid runs this year, he is an exceptional blocker and is just very fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. This was the first year the 5-10, 205-pound junior made it through an entire year without a season ending injury. With the emergence of both Jerome Harrison and Allen Thompson in '04, the future of next year's running game looks bright indeed.

  • Oregon State, the first game he felt the Cougs really got beat and weren't in it, was the low point of the season for Doba. "That was the toughest one for me," he said. The turning point of the season was the win over the Bruins, the game the Cougs got their confidence back. "The UCLA victory was huge." The high point, of course, was the Apple Cup victory.

  • After being penalized for "dunking" the football through the goal posts in the Apple Cup, Hill immediately apologized to Doba and to Akey for putting the defense in a bad spot. The sophomore wide receiver told Doba it was something where his emotions just took over after he set the WSU single season mark with 12 TD receptions. Doba joked, "I'll let him have one celebration (penalty) for every record he breaks... He's a great kid."

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