For the Washington State fans who’ve grown concerned about the Air Raid offense in a post-Luke Falk era, it probably didn’t help to learn earlier this month the Cougars will be without two key wide receivers going forward.
How does an offense that accumulated nearly 4,500 passing yards recoup without its quarterback and receivers Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson-Mack? It replenishes.
Few coaches in college football have restocked at those two positions as well as Mike Leach has done. The WSU coach and his assistants got most of their heavy lifting out of the way during the NCAA’s early signing period – which was introduced this year – by unveiling a class of 18 players that should help easy any worries about the Air Raid’s future.
The headliner is Cammon Cooper, a four-star quarterback who was one of the Cougars’ earliest targets. Cooper recently led Lehi High to a Utah 5A championship and spent his senior season rewriting the state records books – a few of which were held by Falk, who spent his formative years in Logan, Utah.
“When he first started recruiting him, he didn’t have a lot of attention but then of course as time went on, he became one of the most decorated quarterbacks in America this year,” Leach said, “and broke so many records I can’t keep track of all of them.”
At 6-4, 202 pounds, Cooper brings ideal size to the quarterback position. As an early enrollee, it’s possible he'll have a better chance to push Falk’s presumed replacement, Tyler Hilinski, for starting reps.
“Besides the fact that he’s a statuesque quarterback, he’s fast,” Leach said. “Runs the 200 meters.”
If Cooper ever does assume the starting duties, he probably won’t be working with an empty cupboard. WSU signed four wide receivers on Wednesday – three of which stand 6-2 or taller, giving the Cougars a few options to replace Martin Jr. and Johnson-Mack.
Of those four, scouting services are the highest on Drue Jackson, a four-star wideout from Sachse, Texas, who’s “very polished right now,” according to Leach, and “is going to be a very important part of our receiving arsenal.”
The quartet also includes Spokane’s Rodrick Fisher (East Valley), an Army All-American who blends blazing speed with good size – “we got him down at 6-2 … but he’s taller than that,” Leach said – and physicality.
“I’m not going to say that Rodrick’s the fastest (of the class),” Leach said. “Somebody on here might be faster but it would be hard to find somebody faster than Rodrick Fisher.”
Brandon Gray, a rangy 6-5 wideout from Detroit, Michigan, and Kassidy Woods, a 6-3 receiver from Addison, Texas, round out the group.
Coach Jim Mastro’s recruiting ties to the Bay Area netted the Cougars three skill players from the prestigious West Catholic Athletic League: defensive back D’Angelo McKenzie and linebacker R.J. Stone of Junipero Serra, as well as DB/WR Patrick Nunn of Junipero Serra.
With three starting offensive linemen on the way out, the Cougars made that position group a priority during the early signing period with the additions of 6-7, 270-pound Cade Beresford, 6-5, 260-pound Jarrett Kingston and 6-4, 323-pound Syr Riley.
The Cougars got everything on their wish list, including a running back.
Max Borghi’s signature came in two days later than expected, but Washington State locked up the three-star running back from Colorado, fending off Stanford after the Cardinal made a late push to flip the Pomona High School standout.
Borghi signed on Friday afternoon, giving the Cougars their 19th addition to the 2018 class and their first running back.
Borghi’s signature was worth the wait. The running back from Arvada, Colorado, won the Denver Post’s 2017 Gold Helmet Award after leading Pomona to the first 5A state championship in school history. An early enrollee, Borghi expects to join the Cougars in January.
WSU graduates two senior tailbacks this year, Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow, meaning Borghi could get playing time right off the bat. Morrow was as instrumental to the Cougars’ passing game as he was to the ground game, becoming the second player in Cougars history to amass 1,000 all-purpose yards in three consecutive seasons. Borghi’s versatility and his knack for catching the ball out of the backfield could help the Cougars make up for Morrow’s loss.
As a senior, Borghi was named Colorado’s outstanding senior football player, rushing for 1,690 yards and 27 touchdowns with seven 100-yard efforts. He caught 10 passes for 115 yards, had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and returned another punt for a touchdown. In the 5A state title game, he accumulated 247 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.
In addition to WSU and Stanford, Borghi also listed offers from Colorado, Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina and Utah.