A sea change in Cougar preparedness

DeANGELO CASTO isn't the only incoming Cougar to get a jump start on his Washington State career beginning today. Indeed, the numbers are eye-opening. There is a fundamental shift taking place this year out on the Palouse in the number of incoming Cougars -- and in both the football and basketball recruiting classes -- and when they start their college careers at Wazzu.

CF.C reported last week DeAngelo Casto will start his WSU career early, prior to fall semester getting underway in August.

It turns out Casto is part of a substantially large group.

The university's Alive! program is a three-day orientation taken by all incoming students at Wazzu. A large number of the football and basketball incoming rookies will start the program at WSU today. Upon completion, they'll be taking their first college class, and thereby becoming eligible to join voluntary offseason workout programs.

The entire incoming basketball recruiting class -- DeAngelo Casto, Marcus Capers, Klay Thompson, James Watson, Michael Harthun, Nick Witherill -- is in Pullman today for the orientation and then will settle into WSU coursework.

Most of the incoming football class is there as well. And that should pay dividends, possibly substantial ones, for the upcoming season.

For some of the football rookies, their high school graduation has not yet taken place so they aren't eligible to get to WSU in time for the school's final summer school session which starts next Monday. For others like Chantz Staden, he won't finish up his AA junior college degree until the end of this month.

Still, the numbers show a marked departure from years past in the football program, when just a handful of the incoming rookies enrolled early in summer school. Instead, on Monday, the majority of the football recruiting class starts early.

That's a rather significant development.

The benefit is two-fold: on the student side, the Wazzu rookies get a head start on their academics and ease into college life before the fall semester begins in August.

From an athletics standpoint, with the recruits now eligible to work out with the veterans for a month-plus before fall camp begins in August, to be able to get that head start football-wise before August, well, that's valuable indeed.

Summer conditioning holds some of the toughest workouts the Cougs do all year, since doing the same during the season would result in a team simply being tired on gamedays.

From a conditioning, team unity, individual and team development standpoint -- you name it -- the football program will benefit with so many of it's members getting the extra time in.

The rookies coming in early could also have an effect on the veterans. Increased competition at more spots this year is certainly possible with a new first-year head coach in Paul Wulff. With the rookies getting the head start and then trying to turn coaches' heads to get noticed in fall camp, it would not be a surprise to see the vets, in turn, raise the level of their game these next six weeks and into fall camp.

Rookies formally report for fall camp August 3, veterans on August 4. The first fall camp practice is slated for August 5.

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