• WSU recruiting thumbnails
On numerous occasions last fall, Washington State football coach Paul Wulff would point out that he was looking for a certain type of player to help rebuild the Cougars football program.
Wulff often admitted that the 2008 roster didn’t quite feature enough of those players.
But Wulff and his staff moved one step closer Wednesday to changing that.
Given their first full year to recruit, Wulff and his staff said they have put together a well-rounded class that will continue to build the foundation for WSU’s rebuilding project, signing 22 players – 20 high school recruits and two junior college transfers – to national letters of intent.
“We wanted to recruit the players that we really felt fit with what we’re trying to do here and, more importantly, have the mental makeup we’re looking for,” Wulff said.
As in most other years, recruiting services weren’t really high on the WSU class. Scout.com rated the Cougs’ class as the 45th in the country, while Rivals.com rated it 92nd. Scout has the Cougs with the seventh best class in the Pacific 10 Conference, ahead of Oregon State, Arizona and Washington. Rivals isn’t quite as kind, ranking the Cougs last in the Pac-10.
Regardless of rankings, recruiting to Pullman is often tougher for geographic reasons. Adding a 2-11 record with most of the losses coming in blowout fashion meant building any semblance of a solid class was not a given.
“In our coaches’ eyes, it’s truly our first full year to recruit like everybody else,” Wulff said. “To do what we did in our first full year – and obviously we had a poor season – it was great for us. We had a full year to create great relationships and we recruited kids that stuck to their commitment. I think that speaks volumes about their commitment.”
Of all the early commitments WSU received, only one high school recruit – Geoff Meineken of Lynnwood – didn’t follow through. Meineken decided to forgo WSU for Stanford, an understandable decision.
“It speaks volumes of who we are recruiting and signing,” Wulff said. “Every one of them was hounded by other institutions even though they had committed to us. And they held strong and true to their commitment. I think that says a lot about the type of person coming in.”
No better example of that would be the state’s most prized recruit, wide receiver Gino Simone of Skyline High. The Cougs got an early commitment from the speedy Simone, but when Steve Sarkisian took over at the University of Washington, he made a late, hard push to try and change Simone’s mind.
But even after taking an official visit to Montlake, Simone stayed with WSU.
Simone leads a class of seven Washington players to sign with the Cougs. Wulff, who built his program at Eastern Washington on state players, used those contacts to pick players from all parts of Washington.
Besides Simone, Wulff showed the ability to pick up players west of the mountains, signing hard-hitting safety Jamal Atofau from Bellevue, linebacker Andre Barrington from Federal Way and defensive backs Casey Locker of Ferndale and Nolan Washington of Kennedy.
“There’s no reason we can’t go anywhere in the west and go after players that we think fit our program,” Wulff said.
Wulff also picked up two players from Spokane, signing defensive linemen Travis Long of Gonzaga Prep and Chris Mastin of Lewis & Clark.
Wulff lauded Simone’s maturity on and off the field. Simone is also a quick receiver with a knack for making plays, something the Cougs need immediate help with. It makes him a candidate to play as a true freshman.
As for the others, “every year that question is asked and every year I’m guessing,” Wulff said.
Wulff said perhaps as many as six players from this class could see playing time next season. Simone seems to be the most obvious. With depth on the defensive line an issue, Long and Quayshawne Buckley of Corona, Calif., could also figure in the mix, while running backs Carl Winston and Arthur Burns could be needed with the health and academic issues surrounding Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory.
One player who will see playing time is transfer receiver Johnny Forzani, who brings a unique background, having never played high school football as the Calgary, Alberta, native’s high school cut the program his sophomore year. Forzani instead focused on basketball and became a standout player, leading Douglas College to a Canadian national championship.
Forzani tried out at a Canadian Football League camp and made the Calgary Stampeders’ practice squad and junior team and switched to football. It was a similar path that his dad, Tom, had followed at Utah State and then turned into an 11-year career in the CFL.
“He’s got excellent athleticism,” Wulff said. “He’s got the raw skills, but he needs to learn a lot of the mental and technical things.”
Wulff also took a chance on junior college defensive end Brandon Rankin, who had 24 sacks last season for Butte College in Oroville, Calif. But Rankin is a borderline candidate for getting his associates degree and may not be ready to enroll until January of 2010.
“He’s a wonderful kid and a person of character where we would work with him as long as necessary because he’s such a good person,” Wulff said.
Even if Rankin doesn’t qualify, Wulff is still satisfied with where the program is headed.
“Knowing what I know (Wednesday), we are much better football team today than we were a year ago at this time,” Wulff said. “We will be an improved football team. I’m anxious to see our growth and see how these new players can help aid in our improvement.”
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The 18 players signed by the Cougars on Wednesday:
Jamal Atofau, S, 5-10, 185, Bellevue/Bellevue: A hard-hitting linebacker for the Wolverines, WSU coach Paul Wulff said he believes Atofau can bring that much-needed physical mentality and history of success to the safety position.
Andre Barrington, LB, 6-1, 205, Federal Way/Federal Way: Somewhat overlooked because of high school teammate and Huskies recruit Andru Pulu, Wulff loves Barringtons quick feet hes also a quality basketball player and believes his frame can put on 20 pounds of muscle without his agility being affected.
Quayshawne Buckley, DL, 6-4, 285, Ontario, Calif./Colony: With the lack of depth and talent on the defensive line, Wulff said he believes Buckleys combination of size and strength could allow him to come in and play as a true freshman.
Arthur Burns, RB, 5-10, 210, Corona, Calif./Centennial: He already has the size that WSU likes in its running backs, but he also uses it by being a physical north-south runner while being surprisingly quick.
Anthony Carpenter, S, 6-1, 177, Los Angeles/Serra: He was the first four-year letterwinner at his high school and picked up leadership skills while starting at quarterback. Wulff said he believes Carpenter is athletic enough to play any position in the secondary.
Justin Clayton, DL, 6-4, 250, Napa, Calif./Justin-Siena: Clayton impressed WSU coaches at summer football camp by showing smarts and a strong motor. Wulff said he believes Claytons got the frame to pack on muscle.
Asi Hosea, DB, 5-10, 178, Salt Lake City/Cottonwood: WSU ventured into Utah and got a physical player that coaches saw at summer camp. Hosea has good bloodlines: He is a cousin of Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and USC fullback Stanley Havili.
Sekope Kaufusi, LB, 6-4, 230, Palo Alto, Calif./Woodside: Only 17 years old, Kaufusi is a raw athlete who could play any number of positions on defense, but currently projects as an outside linebacker for the Cougars.
Casey Locker, DB, 5-11, 175, Ferndale/Ferndale: Not as big or fast as his brother Jake, but the younger Locker is every bit as tough if not tougher, which Wulff loves and wants more of from his players.
Travis Long, DE, 6-4, 245, Spokane/Gonzaga Prep: A 3.9 student, Wulff compared Longs combination of strength, toughness, smarts and competitiveness to WSU center Kenny Alfred. Long could see playing time immediately.
Darren Markle, LB, 6-1, 232, Meridian, Idaho/Mountain View: Theres little question hes strong enough to play immediately. Markle is a national champion power lifter and Wulff called him a workout-aholic.
Chris Mastin, DL, 6-2, 210, Spokane/Lewis & Clark: The biggest concern is his size, or lack thereof, but Wulff said he can gain the required weight and strength to match his playmaking mentality.
William Prescott, OL, 6-5, 285, Riverside, Calif./Martin Luther King: The size is evident, but the strength is something that needs to be worked on. Brings more depth to a position in need of it.
Jordan Puu Robinson, DL, 6-4, 256, Wauluku, Hawaii/Baldwin: Primarily a tight end in high school, Puu Robinson has all the potential in the world, Wulff said. WSU hopes he adds size and strength to play on the defensive front.
Gino Simone, WR, 6-0, 170, Sammamish/Skyline: The News Tribunes state player of the year and the consensus top recruit in Washington, Simone brings speed, quickness and much-needed playmaking ability to the Cougars receiving corps.
Terrell Thompson, LB, 6-2, 215, Aurora, Colo./Eaglecrest: A top running back in Colorado, Thompson rushed for 1,368 yards his senior season, but WSU hopes he converts into a top-notch linebacker.
Jeff Tuel, QB, 6-2, 207, Fresno/Clovis West: A dual-threat quarterback, Tuel threw for 1,714 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 674 yards and five scores as a senior. Tuel will most likely redshirt this season to learn the WSU system.
Sebastian Valenzuela, OL, 6-2, 315, Burbank, Calif./John Burroughs: Nicknamed Sea-Bass, Wulff loves Valenzuelas aggressive attitude and physical nature on the line, despite not having a classic lineman build.
Nolan Washington, DB, 5-10, 175, Burien/Kennedy: Part of a football playing family with his dad, Nolan Sr., having played at Idaho and two uncles playing at Boise State. Washington was rated as one of the top 10 recruits in the state.
Carl Winston, RB, 5-9, 200, Harbor City, Calif./Serra: A stocky player who has shown overall versatility, including an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and solid pass-blocking skills. Transfers
Johnny Forzani, WR, 6-1, 200, Calgary, Alberta/Douglas College: An interesting story, Forzani is already at WSU. He was a standout college basketball player and did not play high school football, but was a member of the CFLs Calgary Stampeders practice squad while earning rookie of the year and outstanding receiver awards with their junior team.
Brandon Rankin, DL, 6-5, 260 Shallotte, N.C./Butte College: A talented player, the Cougars hope Rankin can get squared away academically to get eligible. Wulff said there is a possibility that Rankin may not enroll until January.
Ryan Divish, The News Tribune