Dillon Beschel, a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end/offensive tackle, and Cody Sorensen, a 6-0, 185-pound receiver/safety, each have been invited to walk on at WSU next season. This past year, as Ferris juniors, both were mainstays on a Saxons team that was the Class 4A state runner-up.
"You might ask, ‘What's the rush if you're not going to offer a scholarship?'" says Jack Evans, Cougfan.com's recruiting analyst emeritus. "It matters because WSU is very aggressive with its walk-on program -- really using it as a pipeline to bolster the roster with kids who may just need a year or two to blossom. The coaches know that in the case of athletes with high GPAs they're going to be battling the service academies and maybe the Ivy League to get them, showing some love this early can make all the difference down the road."
Beschell maintains a 3.85 GPA and Sorensen holds down a 3.58 in the honors program.
WSU HEAD COACH PAUL WULFF has said from the moment he was hired that the Cougars would be aggressive with walk-ons. To that end, Wulff has awarded eight scholarships to walk-ons over the last two years. The list includes starting linebacker Myron Beck and starting receiver Jeffrey Solomon.
"We have potentially seven to nine more walk-ons on the roster right now who look like they'll be in line for scholarships," Wulff told CF.C this week when asked about the state of his walk-on program.
A robust walk-on program, if managed right, can go far in taking the sting out of the natural roster attrition that occurs through injuries, academic woes and the like, Wulff said.
So serious does he take the walk-on effort that -- as Sorensen and Beschel illustrate -- WSU recruits walk-ons in ways other programs might not.
"We home visited a lot of them and brought some in on official visits," Wulff said of the walk-ons that dot his roster. "These are kids who fit our program and have potential to develop. We give them the same opportunities with weights and nutrition as every other player on the team. If they stick with it and work hard, they'll have a role with the team."
"What makes Dillon and Cody attractive is that they're athletic, have solid frames and are excellent students. Those are the types of kids you target as invited walk-ons because if they develop physically they could really take off," says Emmerson, who himself was a WSU walk on -- albeit uninvited -- in the mid-90s and eventually became a starting linebacker.
"They are hard workers and they like to come out and hit you," Emmerson said of Sorensen and Beschel. "They're also smart, which is critical for a walk on because when they get their chance they have to know exactly what they're doing and where they're supposed to be."
Beschel has the frame to add another 40 pounds and Sorensen, who is only 17, is still growing and could wind up in the 6-3, 210-pound range. He runs the 40 in 4.55 and his affinity for contact at the WSU camp this summer earned him the gentle nickname of "Baby-Face Assassin" from one of the graduate assistants.
Beschel was second-team all-league last season at offensive tackle despite missing three games with a knee injury. Sorensen, playing out of position at cornerback, posted 120 tackles and 18 pass breakups in 2009. He is the son of former WSU All-American and radio color commentator Paul Sorensen. When contacted by CF.C for this story, the elder Sorensen, said, "As you know, I've never been at a loss for words, but when it comes to Cody's next step in football I think it's best if I stay out of the public eye. His actions will speak for him more loudly than I can."
Spokane, which produced a steady steam of college football talent in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, has experienced a renaissance in recent years. Ten current Cougars, including starters Jared Karstetter (Ferris) and Travis Long (Gonzaga Prep), Dan Spitz (Mead), and touted freshmen Connor Halliday (Ferris), Aaron Dunn (Mead) and Jake Rodgers (Shadle Park), are Spokanites.
The crop of athletes coming out of the Lilac City this season is deep. Gonzaga Prep's Bishop Sankey is one of the top running back prospects in the West and verbally committed to WSU in December. Kellen Clute, a 6-foot-5 tight end from Mt. Spokane, verballed to Oregon State a month ago, and Charlie Hopkins, a lineman from G-Prep, has pledged his services to Stanford.
Those three are the big gets out of Spokane this year, but there is a large group of athletes in the tier behind them that offer intrigue heading into their senior season. Among them, in addition to Beschel and Sorensen, are LC defensive back Dakota DuBois; Ferris WR/DB Jordan Tonani; Ferris WR/DB Riley Stockton; University lineman Joe Dahl; and Central Valley lineman Brandon Schmidt.