Cougs enter homestretch; 23 days 'til LOIs signed

COUNTING HOLDOVERS from a year ago, WSU entered the 2005 recruiting wars with a very specific get list. The numbers have changed a bit over the months and with letters of intent due to be signed in less than a month, the Cougars' class is shaping up nicely. But there's still some work to do. Here's the rundown on the what, the where and the who. Plus a few surprises.

The Cougs have 13 known verbal commitments plus three 2004 holdovers, for a total of 16. They're looking to take between 19-21 in all.

The numbers may grow by 2-3 if the Cougars oversign with the notion of turning those additions into grayshirts who will enroll a year from now and count toward the 2006 class.

As the Cougs enter the homestretch, the picture is coming into sharper focus but there are also a few surprises beginning to surface -- with not one, not two, but three so-called "Mr. Z's" coming across the radar in recent days. More on that in a moment.

The top target for the Cougs remains Timberline High's Jonathan Stewart, the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. He's been at the top of the Cougars' list from the start and appears to have narrowed his choices to WSU, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. WSU's goal in this class was three high school backs, so they're two-thirds of the way home, having already secured verbals from DeMaundray Woolridge and Dwight Tardy.

There remains a possibility the Cougs could go to the JC ranks for a back but they will undoubtedly hold a spot for Stewart. With it looking more likely that Stewart will not verbal until LOI Day, this one figures to go right down to the wire.

The Cougs have a verbal commit from Texas standout Marcus Burton and would like to add two, and perhaps even three, more to the mix. One of those slots could be filled by Tyson Kirksey, a holdover from the 2004 class. His academic status could be cleared up any day now. Also on the radar us Lamar Brumfield, a 6-3 tackling machine who will make his official visit to Pullman next weekend. K.J. Ellis who, like Burton, hails from Texas and is considered one of the top 50 prep LB prospects in the nation, is another one to watch.

There is another prospect we've been hearing about recently, but have not yet been able to speak with directly. Until we do, we'll just call him Mr. Z, the first of a trio.

Another Mr. Z, a multi-dimensional prospect who could end up at a number of different positions, has surfaced over the last few days. CF.C will be continuing to attempt to speak to him directly, too.

The Cougs were planning to take 2-3 WRs and already have verbals from two very good ones in Brandon Gibson and 2004 holdover Benny Ward. They may nab one more on LOI day.

Originally, WSU was targeting three prep hosses in the 2005 class, but right now it looks like they're going to go with the two verbals they have -- Kenny Alfred and Joey Eppele -- and use the other slot for a more pressing position.

That flexibility stems from a couple of facts. For one, the Cougs have a lot of linemen in the pipeline who appear to be coming into fine form -- including all three of the Big Uglies they took in last year's recruiting class (Andy Roof, Eddie Vickers and Dan Rowlands). It also doesn't hurt that they nabbed arguably the best offensive lineman in the state in the form of Alfred and perhaps one of the great steals of the class in Eppele, a big body from British Columbia.

The Cougs have two verbal commits on the corner in Shelton Danzy and James Bradley. Danzy is a talent who is also a born leader -- he has been the telephonic glue that has helped all the verbals stay in close contact. Bradley is a fearless defensive back who will make a big play at any time in any situation.

With as much as the Cougs go to their nickel and dime package, expect them to pick up another talented defensive back. The group they'll choose from includes two-way standout Gardner McKay II, who had an exceptional week at the CaliFlorida Bowl and lightning bolt JC prospect Marlon Wood, also a star return man.

A third candidate to the two above is the final Mr. Z we have been hearing about lately, a very intriguing athlete. CF.C will be continuing to attempt to speak to him directly.

One of the Cougs' biggest needs going into this recruiting season -- safety -- appears to be met and convincingly so. When 2004 holdover Michael Willis qualified, the Cougs got a bona-fide star with the ability to start as a true freshman. In JC transfer DeWayne Patterson, the Cougs have another big hitter who can compete for immediate playing time. And then there's Xavier Hicks, a phenomenal prep athlete.

It is unlikely the Cougs would take any more safeties. One on the radar, Jason Haywood, is both talented and a huge hitter at 6-4, but has not qualified academically and the Cougs appear set with the three they already have.

The Cougs scored a top-tier defensive tackle in Fevaea'i Ahmu, the No.1 rated DT in the West and among the top 50 in the nation. Along with Wilson Holman, a physical specimen from Moses Lake, Wash., the Cougs are for the most part set on the d-line this class.

The one defensive line player the Cougs would still like to get is '04 holdover Letrell Myers. He's a junior college defensive end who has only scratched the surface of his potential, having only played organized football since 2002. His status could be cleared up at any time.

  • WSU no longer appear to be looking at tight ends in this class. One could come through as a grayshirt but more likely the Cougs will target walk-ons at the position. There is already one such player taking his first college classes today at Washington State -- Tony Thompson, son of Cougar legend Jack Thompson.

  • January enrollees Cole Morgan, Ward and Willis also embark upon their WSU careers today.

  • The coaches departed a couple days ago for the coaches' convention. They will return later this week.

  • Sunday was a quiet period. Monday through Thursday, Jan 10-13, is a dead period. A two day quiet period follows on Jan 14-15.

  • A quiet period is defined as when it is permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts only on the member institution's campus.

  • A dead period is defined as when it is not permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts or evaluations on or off-campus nor permit official or unofficial visits.

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