Doba likes 2006 outlook; talks grades & more

AUBURN – Washington State football came to Emerald Downs Friday night and with it a concern expressed by Bill Doba about a potential change in recruiting emphasis. Doba, the Cougars' head coach, presented an optimistic appraisal of what his 2006 team might be like, a belief backed up by offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller and defensive coordinator Robb Akey.

But, clouding Doba's optimism about the future was his belief about how four-year schools might soon be relying more on junior-college transfers for talent because of an upcoming increase in eligibility requirements for high-school graduates as mandated by the NCAA.

"What it's going to come down to is we're going to be looking more and more at the JC ranks,'' Doba told several hundred Cougar fans who attended what has become an annual post-recruiting celebration of WSU football for the benefit of Puget Sound area fans. "All he (JC player) needs to do is graduate (from a JC) to be eligible at a four-year school.''

Beginning in 2008, Doba said, a high-school graduate will have to have had four years of English, three years of math, two years of science and additional years of math, science or English to be eligible for a football scholarship.

The effect of the increased academic emphasis, Doba said, will be a greater migration of football talent to junior colleges.

"It's going to limit the number of kids who qualify by quite a bit,'' Doba said before returning to Pullman. "I think you'll be forced to recruit more JC players.

"It used to be that the junior-college athlete was not a very good student or not capable. But I think there are going to be kids who are very capable in junior college because you don't need three years of math for a communications degree or a social studies degree.

"We needed some (academic) reform, but I think we've gone a little bit overboard. When you eliminate a kid after his sophomore year (in high school), that's kind of tough.

"If he's got a good home with family support, it probably isn't going to bother those kids. But the inner city kids with maybe a single parent or is living with a grandmother … if his high-school coach isn't really on top of things he isn't going to have a chance."

Doba said the absence of junior-college football in Washington could be a problem for WSU.

"But we've been able to recruit California pretty well and they play (JC) football there,'' Doba said. "And they play it in Utah and in Kansas.

"I'll tell you I think junior-college football is going to grow in population and maybe come back into this state. If they can put out a good product it might be worthwhile to investigate putting football back into Wenatchee and Walla Walla and some of those other schools.''

Doba added that there would be some high-school players who will eventually get the message and respond positively to the higher academic demands.

"Kids will get better,'' Doba said. "The word will get out. And if big brother couldn't go (to a four-year school) little brother is going to make sure he gets it done.''

THE NEW ACADEMIC requirements will "not necessarily" have an influence on who Doba hires to fill the vacant recruiting coordinator position on the Cougar coaching staff. Robin Pflugrad, recruiting coordinator and tight-ends coach since 1991, has accepted a position at Oregon in his hometown of Eugene.

"First of all it's going be a guy who likes to do it," Doba said. "You don't want to hire a coach and then assign him to be the recruiting coordinator. You want somebody to be the coordinator and a coach.''

Levenseller's appraisal of next season's offense was upbeat.

"I believe we have some continuity with our players right now that we can move on and have a very productive offensive season,'' said Levenseller, who has been coaching Cougar pass receivers since 1992.

He said his receiving corps is going to be the deepest it's ever been at WSU.

The basis for Levenseller's optimism is the fact Jason Hill shunned the NFL draft in favor of returning for another season at WSU and Michael Bumpus becoming academically eligible.

Akey said his defense "is going to play better" than it did in 2005 because of the quality of the players returning.

The coaches' presentation ended with Doba showing taped highlights of the entire class of 23 recruits – 17 high-school players and six junior-college transfers – who signed letters of intent earlier this month.

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