Peterson's impact already being felt at WSU

PULLMAN -- Fate is a funny thing. The seemingly smallest twists to an ordinary day can end up making a lifetime of difference. Take a conversation in the late '70s that put Greg Peterson on the path that now finds him in his first season as Washington State's recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach.

One of Peterson's teammates on the basketball team at Nebraska Wesleyan mentioned that the Division III school's new football coach had approached him about turning out. The teammate didn't have any eligibility left, but suggested to Peterson that his 6-foot-plus frame was tailor-made for receiver. Peterson ended up being a two-year starter at wideout.

Peterson, 45, came to Pullman in March, but already is making his mark. Three weeks ago, as a direct result of Peterson, the Cougars landed a gem of a first verbal commitment for the 2007 recruiting class. Quarterback Kevin Lopina, rated one of the top 25 prep QB prospects in the nation coming out of De La Salle High in 2005, announced he was transferring from Kansas State to WSU.

Lopina said he went to Kansas State because of the coaching staff, but when head coach Bill Snyder retired -- putting Peterson and the rest of the coaching staff on the job market -- he started looking elsewhere.

Peterson spent 12 years at K-State, helping the Wildcats earn 10 bowl game invitations along the way. As receivers coach, 12 of his players would go on to play professionally. In 2003, when Peterson was elevated to co-offensive coordinator, K-State ranked No. 9 nationally in rushing and scoring offense and 17th in total offense.

And then Snyder shocked everyone by retiring.

Greg Peterson
Stromsburg, Neb.


Played receiver at Nebraska Wesleyan from 1982-83 while earning a degree in business and physical education. Also a standout in basketball. Secured a master's degree in education in 1991 at Eastern Oregon.

Started in 1984 as a graduate assistant at Nebraska Wesleyan. At Eastern Oregon from 1987-91 before moving to Idaho from 1992-93. Spent 12 seasons at Kansas State, variously serving as receivers coach, recruiting coordinator, passing game coordinator and co-offensive coordinator.

"I learned a long time ago that great players make great coaches," Peterson says when talking about the importance of a year-round recruiting effort.

In 2003, presided over a K-State offense that ranked ninth nationally in rushing and scoring. While at K-State he tutored the only four players in school history who have eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving.

He and wife Leanna have two kids, Taylor, 9, and Rachael, 7.

But fate has always been on Peterson's side. You see, the coaching path that the football coach at Nebraska Wesleyan put Peterson on so long ago wound through Moscow, Idaho, in the early 1990s. While there, he got to know some of his counterparts eight miles down the road, including Mike Levenseller, George Yarno and Bill Doba. Over recent years he also got to know Cougar assistants Robb Akey and Leon Burtnett through bump ins along the recruiting trails of Colorado and Texas.

"It was easy to come to Washington State because of the people on this staff," Peterson said last week amidst WSU's annual camp for high schoolers -- a camp, notably, in which the Cougars secured their second verbal commitment of the 2007 class in the form of Burien lineman Kevin Freitag.

"Coach Doba is as good a guy as there is in the business and in the game of football -- and I like what he stands for, what this program is about, how he works with young people and the expectations."

Those are some of the reasons that Peterson believes will bring more outstanding recruits to WSU.

"The people on campus that teach and make this university go, they're outstanding," said Peterson. "They really do have the best interests of young people in mind, for how they challenge them in the classroom, but also how they treat them with respect and trust."

For the recruiting class of 2007, he inherited a sizable list of prospects from Pflugrad and is in the process of building it up to around 1,000 names that will be narrowed to approximately 250 in the fall and then 75 to 100 by December. He's also spending time building his list for the 2008 class.

THERE ARE SIX TO EIGHT PLAYERS from last year's recruiting class that Peterson said he expects to contribute right away this season. But he's hesitant to give names, because it's hard to gauge abilities until you work with athletes on a day-to-day basis and watch them adjust to WSU's style, Peterson said.

"We're counting on some guys to contribute in our secondary and we have five or six guys that are defensive backs," he said. "We signed a large number of running backs and I would think we have some guys who can contribute there as well.

The newcomers in the secondary who figure to contend right away are all cornerbacks: JC transfers Markus Dawes, Brian Williams, B.T. Walker and freshman Kerry Maddox. Walker at last word was still awaiting clearance so he isn't a sure thing at this point. Among the five running backs the Cougars signed are two touted JC transfers: Derrell Hutsona and J.T. Diederichs. Diederichs, from Seattle, is still working on his AA degree so can't be considered a lock at this point.

"We're excited about the young people we've signed," Peterson said.

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