For most coaches in college football, when they change schools there is often a dynamic change in the way they have to approach recruiting. Coaches have to adjust a little bit and this is the case especially when any coach moves regions. These coaches, more often than not, just accept the change and take what they are given, but the great ones go out and hire assistants at their new job that are most familiar to the places that they are comfortable with to attract players that they want for their favorite style of play.
Mike Leach has pledged to compete for the best Northwest recruits around, eventually. He has also adapted to the Washington State and Pac-12’s absolute stronghold in California, although he’s changed the previous strategy of recruiting in Southern Cali to be more prevalent in Northern Cali. A major reason for this change in philosophy is that Northern California has many talented athletes that aren’t being recruited as heavily early in the process by the “Big Boys”.
But Leach is of a different mold. He’s not afraid to fight the big boys for even more talent in states like Texas and Arizona (and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t soon reach into FL because of his home in Key West). He is one of those few risk takers that is going back to his roots no matter what. He’s taking on the Southwest to try and snag talent that is proven in his system. He’s hired coaches that are familiar with the area and is going after big time players that would make Wazzu relevant again. The thought is that if you can poach a one or two guys that are respected as “elite” throughout the country (especially a highly touted qb that could eventually become an NFL prospect), then other guys will follow in the near future with the promise of success. It’s human nature. Guys that are big time want to go where other big time players are going and quarterbacks are the key to everybody jumping on board.
Recruits do have reservations about certain places still, and Washington State in one of those places. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade and realize that Washington State is still 9-40 in the past 4 seasons and not a winning program before that either! I’d say that most of the upper tier talent in America is wary of that fact. That’s why Bill Moos has worked so hard to get the practice facility updates and stadium renovated. It’s why he hired the best coach he could find without thinking about the price on the check. And it’s why Coach Leach is going for broke in recruiting. But in order for this recruiting strategy of landing one big name to lure other big recruits to work, one of those guys has to take a chance and commit to the unknown.
Because of that, there’s a two part process that has become a seemingly integral part of the recruiting process here at WSU. It has become a Cougar cancer over the years and the fans have fallen disgustingly accustomed to it. Part 1 is that Cougar coaches simply don’t find a recruit that’s “out of their league” and attempt to jump over other schools to go get him. Part II is that instead they “settle” for the guys that they feel they can get and therefore never get any difference makers in their program. As a result recently, Coug supporters have been worried and even critical because the new Cougs have been going after these “out of our league” players so hard that they haven’t landed a high number of commitments, specifically here from the Northwest. This way of thinking is why Rivals’ 13th ranked Qb Tyler Bruggman would never have been approached by 98% of WSU coaches in the past, because he simply is “too good” for lil’ ole Pullman. Therefore, recruiting at WSU has been neutered completely.
Leach doesn’t subscribe to that nonsense. He knows that you can miss out early on 50 great players that would be ‘good’ because there are 500 great ones elsewhere. He also knows that generally, it only takes one of those great players to open the floodgates and there’s still 8 months left to put his first full class together. Yes, it was only a matter of time before Leach got a decent leader at the quarterback position and of course he had thrown some “WSU” type offers out there. But the man is smart and he understands the process is more than just one year at a time. All of the great teams in college football eventually get the players they want instead of scrapping for those that they really don’t want and it’s because the recruits begin to want to be a part of the success. Also, the great recruiters don’t chase the great local players, while the fans are worried about missing out on them. Instead, when the recruits start piling up, those elite local players over the next few years will want to be a part of the program and jump on board.
And now we have the proof that Leach knows what he’s doing! Arizona has become the gateway to future Cougar recruiting success in the South and in the Northwest because Tyler Bruggman, a 4 star Pheonix native, decided to take a chance on the Cougs! Let’s not kid ourselves, Wazzu didn’t sell itself. Our coach had a huge impact on the commitment, but as a coach you still gotta sell your school and its potential, which is what the previous coaches of the last decade and a half have failed to do. It’s the reason the Cougs have been the doormat of the Pac for a long time now, too long! It’s time for a football revival in the Palouse. For you impatient fans out there, huge changes are coming because Leach takes chances and doesn’t panic, just bear with the process. Big recruits will follow Bruggman and others to the Palouse and eventually our recruits will want to stay in-state to play here. Quality talent is on the way and the culture of recruiting, the way we play and ultimately the standards of the Crimson and Gray uniform is changing here at Washington State.