COMMENTARY: Perspective, context on '08 class

WASHINGTON STATE'S 2008 class of football recruits will, like last year's Cougar crop, be the lowest "rated" in the Pac-10. The 2007 group has since proven itself to be one solid collection of athletes. Can the 2008 class follow suit? Only time will tell, of course, but a little perspective on the situation shows the newest Cougs to be a most intriguing bunch.

One reason the class will rank so low at day's end is because the vasyt majority didn't draw offers from other Pac-10 schools. And that fact needs to be given it's proper weight.

At the same time, it's important to note that many of these guys have simply not been evaluated by the recruiting services -- they get the requisite 2-star rating (out of 5) simply because they signed with a D-I school, not because someone has evaluated them. Brandon Gibson, Eric Frampton, Jason Hill -- to name just a few -- are examples of 2-star guys who became terrific Pac-10 players.

There are some very athletic kids in this group -- there are a number of bigger, athletic kids who all run well. And all five Cougar defensive backs -- corners Kevin Frank, Daniel Simmons, Terrance Hayward and safeties Jay Matthews and Tyree Toomer have good speed. They're also all high schoolers, with nary a JC defensive back in the group.

THE THREE BIGGEST points of emphasis this class were at the d-line, defensive backfield and those DE/TE types. At first glance, it appears Washington State did not go after a lot of offensive linemen this class. The Cougs have a fair amount of current guys on the roster who are center/guard type bodies. But things are also not always as they appear.

WSU under Wulff will also be putting more of a premium on athleticism at the tackle spot in the coming years. One of the models the staff used at Eastern -- and one Jim Walden and Mike Price used at WSU -- is to take tight end/defensive end type bodies, and over the next two years in the system and weight room, see where they fit best.

Alex Reitnouer, Skylar Stormo, Adam Coerper -- these types of guys could end up being defensive ends or tight ends, but they could also end up highly successful offensive tackles. It all depends on how the next two years shake out.

WHAT WASHINGTON STATE DID was to address depth issues in the defensive backfield and the defensive line in a limited time frame. They picked up a few more junior college kids than they normally would have because of immediate needs. But they also didn't sell the farm and go hog wild on JC kids -- there are six junior college players and 18 prep kids expected to sign, along with J.T. Levenseller joining the class as a prep grayshirt.

But who are some of those guys who will be looked to to contribute immediately?

Most all of the junior college kids are candidates, and Bernard Wolfgramm and Josh Luapo will be expected to help replace three of four graduating seniors on the d-line. Jesse Sanchez could also earn time in '08. And keep an eye out for running back Chantz Staden.

Coaches always like to have 4-5 guys in that running back spot they can trust because you never know when you'll lose two to injury in a game. And in the new no-huddle, high tempo spread attack coming to WSU this year, there will be some two-back sets WSU fans have not seen before. Staden was an explosive and versatile back this past year, and might just thrive in a Wulff offense.

YOU WERE NEVER going to be able to judge Paul Wulff and his staff's recruiting prowess based on this class, that will come next year at this time -- this staff came on board about six weeks ago, and with only three verbal commits in the fold. A lot of the guys who would have been their targets if they had a full year, they were already off the board and committed elsewhere.

But they went and got guys like Wolfgramm, they took a guy from Washington's commit list in Cory Mackay. Really, they did a very nice job given the numbers on hand when they arrived and the kinds of kids they went and got.

As for the jewels, that's always hard to say and particularly so this year. You could pick a guy like Bernard Wolfgramm or Andrei Lintz, they're among those who stand out at this early stage. Another guy who is intriguing is Kevin Norrell because he's more polished than your average high school D-I receiver prospect.

Norrell also seems to have a lot of drive, and in the same way we were struck by Brandon Gibson's drive three years ago coming out of Puyallup. Norrell, like Gibson, has good speed but he's not the absolute fastest receiver out there, nor is Gibson. But Gibson is among the elite receivers in the Pac-10, and a big reason for that is his work ethic, and that he's been tutored by Mike Levenseller.

A lot of things have to happen to get from here to there, that's important to note, but Norrell has shown signs he could develop into a receiver who could really thrive at WSU.

Cougar fans in looking at this class should be excited for the future because of how hard this staff has recruited since they got here in mid-December. That bodes well this coming recruiting year in watching how the staff does when they have a full year to recruit to Washington State.

The Cougs are still going to look to unearth hidden talent others miss on, the Brandon Gibsons, the Eric Framptons, the Jason Hills. But they will also be in some heated recruiting battles with Pac-10 schools this coming year for prospects. Given how this staff collectively recruited their tails off after coming on board, the WSU coaches might just win their share of those highly contested battles, and then some.

And then there are also the results they produced this year in an impossibly short time frame.


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