Recruiting round up: Looking for WSU playmakers

WITH LESS THAN a full allotment of 25 players expected to be signed this incoming recruiting class, Washington State can afford to be choosy. But the scholarship numbers-game means -- even more so than normal -- that WSU can't afford to miss. Two positions of need in the 2006 recruiting wars for the Cougs are at cornerback and tight end.

Recruiting coordinator Robin Pflugrad told a packed CF.C chat room in February the Cougs were working with a ballpark figure of 18 this class. It's important to emphasize the word ballpark. The last two years the number has changed, dramatically so last season when WSU initially planned on 12-15 future Cougars and ended up taking a full load of 25.

Note: The 25 figure includes the two March signees, Greg Walker and Nehemiah Mundy, and Joey Eppele -- all likely to grayshirt and count towards the 2006 class. It also includes Benny Ward, Cole Morgan and Michael Willis, all grayshirts from the year previous.

Working with the 18 figure for this recruiting cycle, the Cougs look to have five players on board -- the three probable grayshirts listed above and two prep verbal commitments -- athletic wide receiver Keith Rosenberg out of Bellevue who sports a 4.5 forty time, and smooth Mesa, Ariz., running back Marcus Richmond.

Richmond (6-1, 200) and Rosenberg (5-11, 180) will play offense at WSU but both are also fine defensive backs and this year the Cougar secondary, namely cornerback, is a priority position, as is tight end.

OUT ON THE ISLAND, Vincent Joseph, Chris Carney, Devin Ross and Darian Hagan Jr. are among the top prep prospects WSU has targeted.

Joseph packs 180-pounds onto his frame, alternately listed at 5-8 and 5-9.5. He plays much bigger than his size, with exceptional coverage skills and tremendous make-up speed. He was rarely tested last season, opponents just would not come his way. He has four offers, WSU, Oregon, Colorado and Cal, with the three Pac-10 schools tied for the lead.

Carney is a tall corner at 6-1, a physical tackler and has the frame to add on to his 170-pounds. In addition to Washington State, the first to offer a scholarship in writing, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Northern Colorado have offered Carney. He does not have any frontrunners at this time.

Ross is the Scout.com's No. 2 rated cornerback in the nation. He has 14 offers and checks in at 5-11 and 185 pounds. He lists no leaders but Washington, Nebraska and Oklahoma look to figure in the race to land him. He's shown the instincts and skill set to potentially develop into an elite cover corner at the next level.

Hagan Jr. isn't listing the Cougs in his top six at this time but WSU also appears to have time on their side. The 6-1, 175-pound corner out of Los Angeles recently said he doesn't want recruiting to interfere with his senior season, and plans on making his pledge after his final prep campaign.

ITS NO COINCIDENCE that since Pflugrad arrived at Pullman in July of 2001, the Cougs have experienced a resurgence at tight end. Say this for coach Pflu -- A top-notch recruiting coordinator, he's also one hell of a football coach.

Perhaps the key to the offense last season were Troy Bienemann and Cody Boyd -- when they were healthy, everything opened up for the Cougs.

Last year in a not-so-deep TE talent pool, WSU eventually decided to address other needs after narrowly missing out on a couple prospects. The position becomes a priority this year.

Anthony McCoy (6-4, 220) out of Fresno is among the targets for WSU in the 2006 class, an explosive pass catcher with exceptional blocking ability. But there are other prospects Washington State's looking at, projected to play other positions in college, who could end up being top tight ends.

Andy Mattingly (6-4, 215) looks to play linebacker or safety at the next level but some pundits think he might have a better college career at tight end. Also in-state, Mondala Green has loads of potential, but is not yet considered a marquee name. Gabe Miller (6-4, 230) out of Lake Oswego, Ore., has been receiving interest from WSU. He has a great set of hands and runs like a deer.

THE CURRENT cornerback situation for WSU is a bit cloudy. Alex Teems and Omowale Dada are both seniors. The player tied with Dada out of spring ball to claim the starter role on the left side, Tyron Brackenridge, looks to redshirt and concentrate on academics this season, and Ian Bell is healing up from an ankle injury. Don Turner showed considerable promise in 2003 but didn't have the break out year many expected last season.

The Cougs could go shopping for some junior CBs this class, but coach Bill Doba has also said corner is one of the few positions conducive to a freshman being able to come in and immediately play. Still, such a player would have to be a rare talent.

At tight end, Bienemann is a senior, and Boyd and Jesse Taylor will be juniors this year. With the importance of the tight end to Washington State's offense, it wouldn't be too big a shock if the Cougs were to take two at the position, even with a small class. But its also unlikley the Cougs will take too many gambles this recruiting season. If two tight ends were to join the crimson fold in February of 2006, they'd have to be premier talent in the eyes of the WSU staff.

Notes:
One tight end who should go down as one of WSU's best after this season nearly played defense for the Cougs. Then coach Mike Price said on Signing Day in 2001 that Bienemann would get his first look at tight end, but he might very well end up on the WSU defensive line. Bienemann was a terror for Saint Francis High and co-league MVP on defense. Thankfully, Bienemann thrived immediately on offense, and enters the 2005 season as arguably the top tight end in the Pac-10 conference.


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