BREAKING: Xavier Cooper joins new WSU class

TO THE UNINFORMED eye, it might seem like Paul Wulff signed Xavier Cooper today just to get another d-lineman body in the fold. Not the case -- not when you consider he was offered by Wisconsin, and that Tennessee was charging hard after him just three days ago. Not when you consider he competes in the 100-meters in track despite weighing 265 pounds. And not when you consider..

.. that he throws down two-handed dunks on the basketball court.

To understand why Xavier Cooper (6-4, 285, 4.8) didn't sign this past Wednesday, you have to look at his recruitment as a whole. Schools backed off him earlier this year when it looked like he was going to have trouble qualifying.

But that situation has cleared up considerably over the past several weeks -- the outlook is now favorable for him to qualify in time to join WSU this fall.

And when that became apparent, WSU offered him, a day before Signing Day as it turned out. It took until today for the paperwork to make its way through the system. If it turns out he does not qualify in time, Cooper said he'll grayshirt, finish off any last requirements and then join WSU in January.

When other schools began to find out Cooper's academic situation had greatly improved, those who still had defensive line needs came calling -- too late, as it turned out.

"Tennessee was on the verge of offering me. They called this Saturday. I told them, 'Sorry, I'm signing with Washington State,'" said Cooper.

THE COUGS WERE unable to announce his signing until today but Wulff said WSU has been recruiting Cooper for a long time, and it's been intensive since this past spring.

"Worst case scenario, he could come in the fall as a grayshirt, and that may be what happens but it's a lot clearer path now to possibly getting him eligible," said Wulff.

"He's a very good athlete, and an excellent basketball player. If you watch his film, he's got great size and range, he's very long armed and has excellent quickness.

"He definitely has Pac-10 skills and a Pac-10 frame."

COOPER, WHO RECEIVED the Wisconsin offer this past summer when he was at their camp, had a number of other schools over the course of this past year. They included Oregon and UCLA, who were waiting to see how his academic progress would turn out before deciding if they would offer.

"The offer from Wisconsin was on the table but then they were contemplating other kids who were (further along). Washington State was the one that stayed with me. I now have a good chance of going and playing ball next year," said Cooper.

What the Cougs, and others, liked about him isn't hard to figure out -- speed, power and athleticism.

"When Oregon would come watch me, they wanted to see me play basketball," said Cooper. "There aren't a lot of guys who are 6-4, 265 that are throwing down two-handed dunks and going up for alley-oops...I went to UCLA's camp and Neuheisel told me I would probably get an offer but then they had some guys who committed early."

"When Levy came to watch me run track -- and I don't throw the shot put, I run the 100 (meters) -- I think coach Levenseller was probably saying, 'Hey, this kid is athletic for his size and if we put him in the weight room and he does what he needs to do, good things will happen."

Cooper also said that Levenseller told him over a year ago that he needed to work on his explosion if he wanted to play in the Pac-10 -- and that he could get a bushel of sacks if he did. Among his 85 tackles this season for Wilson, 11 of them were sacks.

"I think that's what they liked about me, my explosion," said Cooper. "Washington State is the best fit for me...Wulff and Levenseller to me seem like guys who really, really care about their players. I think I am going to excel over there."


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