Sears' recruiting acumen a boon for Cougs

IN SOME RESPECTS, you might say Jody Sears is what Jim Walden would have been if he'd grown up in Palouse country rather than northeast Mississippi. He's glib, he's funny, he's passionate about football – especially Washington State football. He's Walden without the drawl. And, says Walden himself, Sears is a better recruiter.

"Jody is more relentless than I was," Walden says. "He doesn't back off an athlete regardless of who else is after him. USC, UCLA, Cal -- he says so what. He's not afraid of the word no.

"He was a graduate assistant for me at Iowa State. He was there when daylight came and he was there until dark," Walden noted. "He can communicate. He would talk to recruits like he'd been around them all his life. He has great one-on-oneism."

Washington State put the finishing touches on the 2010 recruiting class yesterday – a class widely viewed as one of the finest WSU has landed in many years. Sears, WSU's co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach, had a huge hand in that bounty.

And it's easy to see why. He's earnest, original, energetic -- and quotable.

After playing phone tag in pursuit of an interview, he answers the phone late the other night without the customary hello. Rather, he opens this way: "The horses are in the barn and the wings are hot, so I might not be able to talk long."

By horses, he wasn't talking about the recruits WSU had landed. When Sears talks horses he usually means it literally. His dad Orville was a key player in WSU's animal sciences department for many years and the family raised horses.

As for recruiting prowess, Sears deflects attention from himself. "This is a team effort. Our entire staff gets after it hard. To a man, we are tireless in our efforts to secure big-time athletes with big-time character."

Asked to summarize the 2010 class, Sears is direct.


"I think the character, toughness, football acumen -- those are all excellent. It is absolutely everything we were looking for and everything we're needing," he said.

Sears appears to have come right out of central casting. He's scrappy, fearless, tenacious and a straight shooter. In high school and college he competed in calf roping competitions. In sports, he did it all at Pullman High and then walked on at WSU as an undersized receiver. He played for Dennis Erickson and Mike Price, earning two letters. He caught 11 career passes, but is perhaps best known as the holder for arguably the finest placekicker in college history, Jason Hanson. Paul Wulff was one of his teammates.

RECRUITING IS ALL about hard work, something Sears has been doing his whole life, says Walden. As a kid, Sears rose before dawn to tend to the family horses. Working longer and harder than everybody else is part of his DNA.

That attribute has never been on better display than in Washington State's last two recruiting classes. Both groups featured disproportionate numbers from Northern California. That recruiting territory, not surprisingly, is assigned to Sears and high-energy assistant head coach Chris Ball.

Twelve of the 23 members of the WSU's 2010 recruiting class are Californians who hail from north of Bakersfield.

When the Contra Costa Times came out last week with its annual "Cream of the Crop" list for the East Bay area, seven of the 20 players selected were Washington State verbals. In the 20 years the newspaper has been compiling the list, no single college has secured as many players in one year.

In fact, prep coaches in the Bay Area and throughout Northern California have suggested to CF.C that WSU's success there has riled Cal coach Jeff Tedford. To convey his pique, he targeted WSU's most highly rated in-state verbal commit -- tight end Aaron Dunn of Spokane – and made an exhaustive push for him. Cal also made overtures to Spokane quarterback Connor Halliday. Both signed with the Cougs yesterday.

"Jody didn't play for me at Washington State – he came after I was gone – but his brother Cotton did. So I knew Jody," said Walden. "I knew he was as competitive as they come. That's why I hired him at Iowa State – he was good ol' Cougar with fire in his belly. That's what you want in a coach and recruiter. He's impressive."

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