Speed kills: Cougs' recruiting has swift theme

<b>WASHINGTON STATE'S newest class of football recruits isn't approaching the hype of last year's group or the touted 1999 crop, but the overall speed and athleticism -- coupled with marquee pick ups Arkelon Hall and Fevaea'i Ahmu, and some high upside sleepers --- make it a most intriguing haul.

In terms of rankings, Scout.com puts WSU at No. 47 nationally, down from the top 25 showing of year ago that was fueled by Michael Bumpus and Randy Estes.

But talk about getting the guys you wanted. The Cougars hosted 34 players on official visits this recruiting campaign and signed 20 of them.

"In the ideal world, they may have wanted another cornerback and one more running back, but generally speaking there's little to quibble about with the 20 signees who are joining three holdovers from a year ago to form the 2005 class," said CF.C recruiting analyst Barry Bolton. "This is a collection of athletes who can excel in the Pac-10. There's also the intangibles you don't see on paper -- work ethic, leadership and character. I like this class a lot."

He also noted that most of the kids are multi-sport standouts -- even the hosses. OL Joey Eppele, for instance, is one of Canada's top hammer, shot and discuss throwers.

The roll call includes five incredibly athletic linebackers, which also will prove a bonus on special teams. There are four junior college transfers who figure to contribute immediately. There are three big bodies for the offensive line and another three on defense. And the skill positions and secondary are filled with quality.

There's also the family connection, which seems a staple of every Cougar recruiting class. This year it's Fullerton High's Xavier Hicks, nephew of early 90s Cougar running back Kevin Hicks. Xavier, by the way, starred at both quarterback and defensive back and is considered one of the top 50 safety prospects in the nation.

More than anything, though, there's the speed that makes this class interesting. Running back DeMaundray Woolridge, one of four Texans in the class, leads the way with a blazing time of 4.3 seconds in the 40. But at least 11 other members of the 23-person group runs the 40 in 4.55 seconds or less: Shelton Danzy, Brandon Gibson, James Bradley, Dwight Tardy, Lorenzo Bursey, Benny Ward, Michael Willis, Cory Evans, Greg Trent, Jason Stripling and Courtney Williams.

What's scary is that four of those – Evans, Williams, Trent and Stripling – are linebackers. And the fifth LB in the class, Lamar Brumfield, runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds.

"With the excellent coaching the youngsters figure to receive from (Bill) Doba and his staff, this well-balanced group will form the foundation of what Cougar fans hope will lead to more of those 10-win seasons they have been enjoying recently," said national recruiting analyst Allen Wallace.

The single-biggest prize in the class is quarterback Hall, but as WSU assistant head coach Robin Pflugrad said today in the CF.C Chat Room, "What I like about this class is that there are several medium-to-large catches that hopefully we can coach into big catches."

USC is considered the runaway winner of the Pac-10 recruiting wars. Every major recruiting service ranks the Trojans' class in the top five nationally. Cal, Arizona and UCLA all the only other Pac-10 schools cracking most every top 25 list.

With depth at running back a concern -- the Cougars will have only two scholarship tailbacks in spring workouts -- look for both Woolridge and Tardy to get serious opportunities to play in the fall.

We'll have to check the archives, but the guess is that you'd have to dig long and deep to find many Cougar recruits over the years from the state of Louisiana. Cory Evans, from tiny Lena, La., is a member of this class thanks to his high school coach, an old friend of WSU graduate assistant Don Bartel. In short, Bartel got the word – and some film – that Evans was a diamond in the rough. Pflugrad said today that Evans could turn out to be the recruiting sleeper of the year. Williams, Stripling and Gibson may push him for that distinction, though, he added.

Pflugrad also noted that the Cougar staff met this morning to start mapping the recruiting trail for 2006. That class figures to number 18, with special emphasis on cornerbacks and tight ends.

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