It’s time to start thinking big things about Washington State in the coming years. People already had those thoughts about Mike Leach, Mike Breske and the Cougar coaching staff when they joined the team before the 2012 season. But the results haven’t quite been the thing that dreams are made of so far, at least not good ones.
Many fans questioned the team camaraderie and lack of care for players by the coaching staff after some harsh criticism of his team by Leach in the media after a few losses this season. Marquess Wilson didn’t help the situation. But there are more signs of positive change in the program than anything negative overall and most of that can be seen with what’s happening in recruiting.
Leach and Co. had an immediate impact with their first recruiting class, even though it was abbreviated. The names Gabe Marks, Brett Bartolone, Jeremiah Allison, Taylor Taliulu and Teondray Caldwell have all made immediate, positive impacts on the team. Others like DL Robert Barber, S Feddie Davey, OL Denzell Dotson, CB Alex Jackson, DL Destiny Vaejao, WR Robert Lewis and at least 3 or 4 others that the staff picked out are eventually in line to make at least a minor impact on reshaping the culture and adding to the playmaking ability at WSU. Then of course there was the retention of QB Austin Apodaca from the Wulff staff, who could play early in his career and eventually get a chance to start with his accuracy and good feet.
Now after their first full year, the coaching staff is on an even bigger roll recruiting and is reeling in talent that has previously been unreachable and even un-attempted from the Palouse for over a decade. It’s still not what the national media would consider “major talent”, but it’s a higher rated class than the school has seen in a long time. Also, as we know, Leach has always been a master of finding first class talent in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier High School rated players. It’s more important to find guys that “fit” the system and can play big in the scheme, not necessarily big names and that is what Leach is all about.
So how is Leach pulling it off? He’s doing it with old school techniques, calling on relentless pursuit by his staff, trust from his players and a close family atmosphere as the main ingredients to help recruits buy in. It’s smart of course, but more importantly, many recruits the likes of Peyton Pelluer, Daquawn Brown and DeMarcus Ayers have commented on the true family vibe they feel in Pullman along with how current players speak of the coaching staff with respect and admiration. There’s nothing quite like actually seeing and feeling what’s being sold to you, which really seems the case at WSU.
WSU is still looking at filling 5 or 6 more spots in an oversigned recruiting class, and then there’s the challenge of fighting off other schools that are hot in pursuit as National Signing Day approaches. So far though, it seems most everyone on board has been rock solid in their commitment to WSU, which speaks volumes to the atmosphere being presented.