Inside the process: WSU football recruiting

MOVE OVER TEXAS. Here comes Hawaii. In a range of moves Paul Wulff is implementing with Washington State's football recruiting, renewed emphasis will be placed on luring talent from the Aloha State. WSU will still spot-recruit in the Lone Star State, but there no longer will be two coaches assigned to the region. And that's just a sample of Wulff's evolving battle plan in the talent wars.

The Pacific Northwest and California, of course, will remain the Cougars' key hunting grounds. But Hawaii, given the network of contacts Wulff's staff has built there over the years, will play a more prominent role than in recent years, WSU recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen told CF.C in a wide-ranging interview.

Arizona will also see more attention, he said, noting that 19 players from that state signed letters of intent with Pac-10 schools earlier this month.

In recent years, the Cougars made a big push in Texas, largely on the strength of assistant coaches Leon Burtnett (now at Houston), Greg Peterson (now at Colorado State) and Dave Walkosky (destination not known).

Facts are facts, however, about the state of Washington. WSU will have heavier emphasis on in-state recruiting than in recent years, Rasmussen said.

ANOTHER STRUCTURAL UNDERPINNING of Wulff's recruiting philosophy is that each Cougar assistant coach will be responsible for identifying and staying on top of the top 15 prospects in the region(s) he's assigned.

Rasmussen, as the recruiting coordinator, will run the staff's talent meetings and oversee the ever-expanding database of potential players. But coaches are expected to be the ultimate authority on the talent in his area.

"Each of our coaches will be assigned primary and secondary areas," said Rasmussen. "And we're in the process of redrawing some boundaries if you will, not only within the state but also along the West Coast."

The geographic breakdown of assignments is still being made final, he said.

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF a recruiting coordinator vary from school to school. Under Wulff, Rasmussen has more than most. And he's probably also out on the road more than other RCs -- it's a good thing he lives, breathes and eats recruiting. But the decision on whether to offer or not, as it is with virtually every school, rests with the head man.

"Coach Wulff makes all offers. There is not a single guy we will offer that does not come from him," said Rasmussen. "He and I know every single individual that will be offered by us...I'm a lot more hands on than some guys because I believe I've built enough relationships within the state. And I do well when I can get face to face not only with recruits but with parents, and have the opportunity to bring them on campus."

Finding the right balance between early offers and evaluation
FORMER COACH Bill Doba caught criticism from WSU fans the last two seasons because the Cougar made comparitively fewer early offers to prep players. Doba mentioned the importance of seeing a prospect's senior season before making an offer.

The early vs. late debate is an interesting one. If you don't offer top prospects early, they'll be gone or close to it by the time you do offer them. At the same time, waiting to see senior film can help avoid mistakes while at the same time unearthing late bloomers.

Rasmussen says while there are the no-brainer prospects who will receive offers based primarily off junior tape, there are vast numbers of other intriguing guys with upside, but until WSU has a chance to do a studied evaluation on them, no offers will be extended -- regardless of what other schools do.

"We're not going to make offers without having a chance to see video and talk to high school coaches. And that's the process we're in now -- it's what normally would have happened last December and January. And I'm hoping we can play a lot of catch-up here and get more of these evaluations done," said Rasmussen.

THE TREND IN college football has been to offer scholies earlier and earlier. UCLA, for example, had 22 verbals in July of last year. But Rasmussen says WSU will not flood the market with scholarship offers this spring.

"Our overall list is going to be a constant work in progress because we're still going to be very big on evaluating senior video tape -- there is such a maturation process that goes on between someone's junior and senior years. It's important for us to see senior film," said Rasmussen.

Besides the tangible assets, video also reveals something else high on the Wazzu priority list: fight and fury.

"You can't teach competitiveness, either guys have it or they don't," said Rasmussen. "You'll see guys that are lazy on film, and they become a risk. We're looking for guys that don't give up on plays, the defensive players that are always chasing the ball, the guys that play with a great motor."

AND AT LEAST as important a tool as video will be the Cougs' annual summer youth camp under Wulff.

"Evaluations on gut feelings made over summer camp are so much better than any evaluation you can possibly make off of watching video tape," said Rasmussen.

Gut feelings. In a nutshell, that spells out the challenges of the early offer. And it's part of the reason why Wazzu's summer camp is projected to be packed with 600 prospects this year under Wulff. WSU's camp the last two years hosted roughly 450 to 500 players.

"We want these kids to have a great experience. We are going to work with every single camper in this camp...we're not just going to walk around and evaluate and make cameo appearances. We honestly believe that every kid who has paid money to come to our camp deserves the opportunity to be coached by us. It doesn't matter what school he came from, what his age group he's in or whether he's a prospect or not, we're going to coach every single one of those kids up this summer," said Rasmussen.

NOT EVERY PROSPECT is able to make a school's camp. And that's where video can become invaluable. It used to come from the high school coach, and it still does. But in recent years, colleges have augmented that with outside services.

"You've got the ones that just provide a database, you've also got the ones that gather data and provide video. We use a couple of those resources, it's a way for us to get a large amount of film in specific areas and not have to rely on constantly asking the high school coaches to dub film because we know how valuable their time is also," said Rasmussen.

And more and more, says Rasmussen, they're seeing personal DVDs from the prospect themselves, a result of so many high schools now having editing software the kids use to put together their own highlight reels.

THOSE ARE ALL simply tools, however. When it gets down to crunch time and guys affixing their John Hancock on a crimson letter of intent, it's about the relationships, says Rasmussen. In the recruiting process, no detail is too small, from knowing what a recruit's favorite meal is to knowing what kind of music is on his CD player. But those kinds of questions also come later, after an all-important foundation is built.

"We'll get into those questions typically three to five conversations down the road. Initially you want to find out if they have any ties to the school...it's a little more difficult when you're recruiting someone who has absolutely no ties to the school," said Rasmussen.

And recruiting to Wazzu can be made more difficult by oft-repeated embellishment about Pullman by the media -- as well as the coaches recruiting against Washington State.

"The one challenge you always hear about is the remoteness of Pullman but I would counter that by saying you have a tremendous quality of life here," said Rasmussen. "You can leave your house unlocked, it's a safe area for your kids to be raised.

"That's a great opportunity for someone to go to school in that environment because it allows you to be a student-athlete and focus academically. You don't have nearly as many distractions."


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