Despite the chaos and confusion of January, Washington State emerged on Wednesday’s national signing day with a class full of talented players, many of whom were coveted by some of college football’s most prestigious programs.
While WSU lost some of its longtime commits in the weeks leading up to signing day, it got a surprise when coveted receiver Jamire Calvin sent his letter of intent to the Cougars a week after he committed to Nebraska.
WSU coach Mike Leach said he found out that Calvin would be coming to Pullman when his letter of intent arrived. While a pleasant surprise, that sort of uncertainty can make it difficult for coaches to fill out their class while not knowing for sure which positions need to be filled.
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“It’s a nuisance; every year is kind of chaotic,” Leach said. “The chaos manifests itself in different ways. In our case, this was really kind of a less chaotic year. I guess Jamire was one of the last ones we knew was going to be on board, but we knew there was a significant chance he would select Washington State.”
However, WSU lost some players. Tacoma offensive lineman Quazzel White signed with TCU after having committed to WSU, and defensive lineman B.J. Thompson, from Arkansas, flipped from WSU to Baylor.
Speedy running back Caleb Perry had no drama in his recruitment, committing to WSU well in advance of signing day and sending in his letter of intent on time. But he offered some perspective on his peers.
“I think the recruiting process, a lot of guys get overwhelmed and a little bit too excited,” said Perry, who attended King’s in Seattle. “Growing up, we have favorite schools we want to go to. But when you get in the recruiting process is when you get to really see the stuff behind the curtain: The coaches, chemistry, players, how they run the ball or how the school operates.”
Perry continued, “When it comes to the recruiting game, I made sure I kept an open mind. I didn’t look at the record of the school. I made sure I’d been on campus and asked as many questions as possible. A lot of kids get an offer from a big school and are so overjoyed they hop right on.”
WSU’s 2017 class has a distinctly Southeastern imprint. The Cougars signed players from Georgia (defensive back Sean Harper and linebacker Willie Taylor III), Louisiana (receiver Davontavean Martin) and Florida (receivers Anthony White Jr. and Travell Harris, defensive back Zaire Webb).
“I think it’s random,” Leach said. “I think it’s a combination. ... Some of it’s relationships the coaches we’ve gotten to know over the years. As they’ve seen our program emerge, they’ve reached out to us. From our standpoint, it’s simply the best players we can possibly get that are interested in what we’re doing.”
WSU’s class is particularly strong in the defensive front seven, with eight defensive ends or linebackers signed. There does not appear to be a true nose tackle in the signing class, however, at least not yet.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Leach said the Cougars emphasized speed on defense, playmaking on offense and height along the offensive line.
In those regards they succeeded. WSU signed four offensive linemen, with 6-foot-5, 295-pound Alec Kuzmack the shortest of the bunch.
Preston Hendry should provide immediate help on WSU’s defensive line. The Orange Coast Junior College transfer was coveted by Arizona State, Baylor and Kansas State.
The Cougars reloaded strongly at wide receiver, where they lost Gabe Marks and River Cracraft — the only teammates in Pac-12 history to each have 200 receptions — to graduation.
Martin, a 6-foot-4 receiver, chose the Cougars over scholarship offers from ACC schools, and will provide depth on the outside.
At inside receiver the Cougars signed Travell Martin, a 5-foot-8 speedster who chose WSU over Arizona, Purdue, Missouri and others. More likely to make an immediate impact inside is Easop Winston, a transfer from the City College of San Francisco.
White, a 6-foot receiver out of Miami, could play either inside or outside receiver. With reported offers from LSU, Cincinnati and South Carolina, he likely has the talent to excel anywhere.
WSU’s situation at outside receiver improved this week when word came from the NCAA that C.J. Dimry will be granted a medical redshirt, giving him a sixth year of eligibility next season.