Wulff follows own path on recruiting trail

CONVENTIONAL PAC-10 recruiting wisdom has held that the Northwest schools look locally for offensive linemen and head to California for speed. Paul Wulff appears to be running a counter option to that old bromide, at least as it regards hosses and defensive backs. As the Cougar coach moves closer to wrapping up his second WSU recruiting class, it's clear California beef is big on his menu.

In the class that will be signed in February, Wulff so far has secured verbal commitments from three prep offensive line prospects. And all three -– Sebastian Valenzuela, William Prescott and Quayshawn Buckley -– are Californians. In his first recruiting class a year ago, Wulff signed two prep hosses and both of them -- grayshirting Alex Reitnouer and Tim Hodgdon -- hail from the Golden State.

Five hosses, five Californians.

Historically speaking, that's about as unprecedented as never-ending snowfall in Seattle.

For perspective, consider that in the Cougars' four preceding recruiting classes, from 2004 to 2007, there were a collective 13 prep offensive linemen and only three came from California. Nine were from Washington and one, Joe Eppele, was from British Columbia.

You can understand why Wulff isn't shy about going after California linemen. He was one of them once upon a time, prepping in the Sacramento area prior to his standout career at WSU in the 1980s. That heritage in the southland could be one reason why the Cougs are luring steak eaters north -- Wulff can tell them first-hand about the magical nectars that a Californian will discover in Palouse country.

Another explanation is simply improved knowledge and exposure. High school coaches in the West have said consistently over the last year-plus that WSU's coaching staff is burning the midnight oil on the recruiting front like never before. Moreover, Eastern Washington University, where much of the staff worked previously, was no stranger to the California market. Under Wulff's watch, EWU made notable inroads into California.

Wulff isn't just going against the norm with offensive linemen. At defensive back, where the Cougars traditionally stock up in California, Wulff this season is bringing in a plethora of Washington-grown talent. Of the five DBs who have verbally committed to the Cougs for 2009, four of them are locals – Andre Barrington of Federal Way, Casey Locker of Ferndale, Jamal Atofau of Bellevue and Nolan Washington of Burien (Kennedy). The Californian in the mix is Anthony Carpenter, a speedy three-star safety from Gardena (Junipera Serra).

"I don't know that any long-term trend lines are developing here," Cougfan.com recruiting analyst Barry Bolton said of the geographic about-faces at DB and OL. "Some of what you're seeing could be driven purely by happenstance -- where pockets of talent happen to be congregated at a certain position in a particular year.

"But what I think this is indicative of is a staff that doesn't do things by rote. My sense is that they spend huge amounts time doing their homework, that they put tremendous stock in overall athleticism, including on the offensive line, and that their network of relationships in the prep ranks can also lead them off the beaten path a bit. The result of it all is that they cast their nets both wide and deep and geographical stereotypes really don't apply. At the moment, I'd also say it's adding up to a very nice class for 2009 -- Paul Wulff is getting the guys, and the kinds of guys, he wants."


The Associated Press recently came out with its All-State teams for Washington. Locker, who earlier this month was named all-classifications All-State at defensive back, was tabbed by the AP as the Class 3A All-State quarterback and an honorable mention choice at DB. Also on AP's Class 3A first-unit All-State team were Atofau and Washington. Both were picked at defensive back.

On AP's Class 4A All-State team, three other future Cougars were honored as first team selections – defensive end Chris Mastin of Spokane's Lewis & Clark, receiver Gino Simone of Skyline and defensive end Travis Long of Spokane's Gonzaga Prep. Barrington was an honorable mention pick at linebacker. In addition, another prospect believed to be seriously weighing an offer from WSU also was on the 4A first unit: DB Desmond Trufant of Tacoma's Wilson High.

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