Oct 31, 2013; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars coach Mike Leach reacts during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
After months of exhaustive efforts by the entire coaching staff, Wednesday afternoon Washington State head man Mike Leach talked about his 2014 recruiting class who have signed their national letter of intent to play football for the Cougars.
Listening to Leach, it sounds as if the third time will be the charm. He was crystal clear when expressing his feelings about the incoming class.
"“This is the best one I’ve had here at Washington State.”– WSU Coach Mike Leach"
In general terms, Leach likes the “…combination of size and speed. A more polished group than we’ve had in the last two years.”
In this age of social media, online media and television, the recruiting process requires a herculean effort by everyone connected to a football program if the end result is to prove successful. Of course Mike Leach credits the entire coaching staff, which is basically the same group at WSU for the past two years, for making it possible to talk about the future with a positive tone in his voice.
But that’s only part of the recruiting process.
“The players on campus deserve some credit for (the best class), too. They competed at the recruiting effort. (They) made these guys feel at home.”
One of the most frequent comments made by prospects after visiting Pullman was that there was a feeling of family prevalent and pervasive throughout the Washington State football program.
Feedback from players hosting recruits is yet another important component.
“Occasionally there are guys we brought on visits that didn’t fit, that didn’t mesh well with our team,” said Leach. “Our players helped evaluate that.”
Sometimes it’s just as important to weed out potential problems as it is to bring in highly touted players.
“Everybody here is excited about our program, our commitment to facilities and academics. …and the type of players we have here on our team. A lot of that sells itself.”
Yet another important component to recruiting is to bring in student-athletes who will fill any void created by graduation. A fact of life for new coaching staffs is having to bring in guys who weren’t really a primary target but might be serviceable replacements.
Leach’s overview of the young men who signed on as part of the 2014 class suggested there was no need to offer a scholarship to simply secure a warm body who might help them get by.
“The thing that was important to us is was to not settle on any of these guys. …we need this so, well, this isn’t exactly what we’re looking for so we’re going to go ahead and take him anyway. We’re inclined to keep the scholarship rather than settle. We didn’t settle on anybody.”
Though Mike Leach hasn’t been concerned with speaking to the media often this off season, the head coach was in mid-season form when responding to a question about his opinion on the importance of rankings and ratings related to recruiting.
“I pay virtually no attention to it,” replied Leach who was just revving up. “It’s just trivial if someone mentions it to me. When I start paying attention to (recruiting rankings) is when I’m going to call the media and people outside of football and say, ‘Look, we’re playing so-and-so this week. If you would, write up a game plan. Tell me everything you suggest we run on first down, second down and third down.’ And I’ll do it all that way.”
Rather than further embarrass the person posing a question which wasn’t careful thought through, Leach continued, “None of that makes sense to me really, but with the recruiting rankings, it’s a starting point. We’ll evaluate all (a recruit’s) films. And believe me, there were four and five star guys historically that I thought were awful. I don’t know how many stars we lost when we recruited Wes Welker. It was probably a minus three stars …coming out of high school.”
What does make sense to Mike Leach is the direction Cougar football is heading.
“We had a big jump last season and I think we’ll have a jump this season. That starts first with our off season. Working hard. Working together. We’re becoming more of a team which I think is very key with everybody magnifying their role within the team.”
The future appears to be very bright for Washington State Cougar football.