Apple Cup recruiting weekend on tap for Cougs

THE APPLE CUP takes center stage on Saturday, but this weekend is also a seminal event in the recruiting process. A number of prep and junior college prospects with crimson hued scholarship offers will be on hand this weekend when Washington State and Washington clash out on the Palouse in the regular season finale for both teams and a bowl berth for Washington State likely holding in the balance.

Among the known prospects on official visits to Washington State this weekend, defensive tackle Tonga Tea, whom everyone just calls Junior, or June.

The 6-0, 309-pounder said recruiting had taken a back seat to his season and his class work up until this weekend -- Tonga plans on graduating next month, making him eligible to enroll in January. Mid-year transfers can sign with a school as early as Dec. 20, and through Jan. 15, while the prep signees and JC players who graduate in the spring can first sign on Feb. 7, LOI Day, and through April 1.

Tea is a built-low-to-the-ground steamroller, according to Snow College assistant coach Tyler Hughes, and a d-tackle who packs a wallop to go along with some serious quicks. Hughes says Tea has very good hands and athleticism, but his instincts for the game are what set him apart.

"Man, he's so explosive," said Hughes. "He doesn't get engaged or locked out, he does the locking out."

Tea only played one year of high school ball in Anchorage, Alaska before coming to Snow. In addition to the scholarship offer by Washington State, Tea holds offers from Oregon, Utah and Oklahoma State. Boise State and Florida are showing significant interest and both could be on the verge of an offer, with Oklahoma State in particular making a strong recruiting push -- Tea will trip to OSU on Dec. 8.

Defensive coordinator Robb Akey is running the recruiting point for the Cougs.

"On Wazzu, it's a pretty good school," said Tea. "So far, I've only talked to one coach and I haven't visited campus so hopefully they can instill in me some reasons why i should pick them. I've pretty much looked into all the defensive fronts and defensive schemes, so right now I'm looking at where I'd fit in and be most comfortable, the atmosphere and environment. (Akey) seems like a great guy."

FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, nationally rated offensive lineman Steven Ayers will trip to Pullman this weekend.

The Bellingham hoss out of Sehome High is ranked among the top 40 o-line prep prospects in the nation by

Ayers is more than a little familiar with Washington State, having visited a number of times of the years -- his family on his mother's side are all Cougs. Most all the academic and football questions have been answered in his mind on Washington State, he said, and with good result.

One of the things he said he'll be focusing on this weekend is the environment and off the field activities and surroundings.

"At this point, I'm starting to think about making decisions -- getting visits scheduled and trying to decide," said Ayers.

The 6-4, 275-pounder said he doesn't anticipate verbally committing until he gets at least a few more official trips under his belt. He will trip to UNLV Dec. 8, and the Running Rebs have especially been coming on strong in the recruiting stretch drive. Ayers, who has a personal best clean of 340 pounds, also holds offers from Oregon State and Boise State, among others.

OUT OF ARIZONA WESTERN, junior college All-American and defensive end Luis Vasquez arrives in Pullman this weekend. Like Tea and Ayers, Vasquez' first official visit this recruiting season will be to Washington State.

Vasquez is a sack machine, with 14.5 pass sacks this season to go along with his 16 from the year before, when he took home JC All-American honors his freshman campaign. Washington State is recruiting the hardest, said Vasquez.

"Washington State is on me pretty good, coach (Robb) Akey, coach (Greg) Peterson, coach (Bill) Doba, I've been talking to them all," said Vasquez. "And I've been expressing a lot of interest in them."

Following the visit to Washington State, Vasquez will visit Arizona State on Dec. 2 and Utah on Dec. 9. Neither school has offered yet. Details are also being finalized on a Kansas trip, with the date to be determined. Vasquez said he anticipates he will probably make a decision sometime in mid-December. He is on pace to graduate in December and would be eligible to sign starting on Dec. 20, enroll in January and take part in spring ball.

Vasquez holds six offers; WSU, OSU, Idaho, UTEP, UNLV, Kansas. He originally signed with Purdue out of high school and has been in contact with the Boilermakers this time around as well but the Purdue staff has told him they might not have space for him.

DESPITE NEVER HAVING played the game until he arrive at Mount San Jacinto College two years ago, Vaughn Lesuma (6-5, 330) has been making up for lost time and then some.

Lesuma, amped up about his visit to Washington State this weekend, also holds offers from Oregon State, Iowa State, New Mexico State and San Diego State.

"...It's probably going to be the toughest decision of my life," says Lesuma. "I know that after this weekend, because of the hype of how excited I am to go visit Washington State, it's going to be...heads one place, tails the other place in terms of respect and what I think of each program," he said of his two co-leaders, WSU and OSU.

Lesuma said he doesn't anticipate he would make a decision in the immediate future with a pair of visits scheduled following his Apple Cup trip. Lesuma is scheduled to visit New Mexico State Dec. 1 and to San Diego State on Dec. 8. Lesuma said the bowl intrigue that could ride on the game's outcome just makes it that much more of an event.

"It will be a great experience, to experience the atmosphere of the Washington State Cougars," says Lesuma. "I'm looking forward to seeing the team spirit, I know I'm going to go see a bunch of warriors, so to speak. And that's what I'm looking for, a team that doesn't give up when their back is up against the wall."

ALSO SLATED TO visit Pullman this weekend was Chris Daniels, a jackrabbit fast running back out of Serra High in San Diego, the same high school that produced Washington State starting defensive tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu two recruiting seasons ago.

As of Monday, Daniels (5.9, 180, 4.3) was in the process of rescheduling his trip according to but it was unclear at press time Friday if he would instead go ahead with the planned trip to Pullman this weekend. His six finalists are Washington State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Colorado State, and San Diego State. All have offered.

"It is pretty much down to those six schools," Daniels told earlier this week. ""One of my real good friends goes to school there. They run a one back offense. I do not know, we have just been talking a lot. And the more we talk, the more I like them."

Daniels was slowed this year by a variety of injuries and dings, a far cry from when he rushed for 1, 800-plus yards and 26 TDs as a junior.

"I was in and out all year," says Daniels.

His injury plagued senior season, however, has not appeared to have slowed his recruitment one whit.

After the official visits come to a close on Sunday, seven Washington State coaches, the maximum allowed on the road at any one time, will hit the recruiting trail that night and Monday morning. The coaches will be out recruiting until they return home for the Thanksgiving weekend, and then seven again, including coach Bill Doba, will leave in anticipation of the in-home visit period, which begins Sunday, Nov. 26.

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