Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach talks to an official during the first half against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers beat the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Signing day has always been an interesting part of football. The lead up to signing day is interesting too. Players are scouted and given a star ranking and a class ranking and every kind of ranking you could imagine. As players get recruited fans join in the excitement and look to the rankings and star ratings to determine how their team is going to look. Watching someones highlight tape doesn’t always help because everyone looks good in their high school highlights.
I suppose the big hype of signing day comes from a hunger of wanting to get back to football, teams are rated by how many 5 and 4 star prospects they got. Fans who follow these types of things “book their ticket” to the playoffs because their team had a top 4 class. The thing about many of these recruits is that most are still developing while others have peaked. It’s impossible to tell the future of a young man, there are too many things that could change throughout college for any given individual.
This is where Mike Leach sets himself apart folks. This is why he makes the big bucks. Mike Leach has an almost uncanny ability to take guys who are not highly sought after or as highly rated as other players and turn them into college football stars (think Wes Welker). In an interview with the Pac-12 networks Leach was asked how important the star ratings were to him when evaluating guys to bring to Pullman.
"Well it’s almost irrelevant when you consider, some of where we recruit there’s not a lot of stars given out. I think they’re not well evaluated. In a lot of cases the stars are distributed by journalists and non-football coaches. Until I’m prepared to start asking them what to run on third down or what to run in the redzone, I’m probably not going to rely on the stars but you know it is a starting point early in recruiting.– Mike Leach"
Leach made an interesting point when asked what the focus was after the bowl game in recruiting. Leach says the focus was the team they already had. He praised the players for doing a great job in recruiting making it a warm, family type of environment. The type of guys Mike Leach looks for are people who fit into that environment, who fit in with the team and have great football ability. A perfect example is this quote from Mike Leach about the star rating system.
"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.– Mike Leach"
Mike Leach also praises his coaching staff as the “hardest working” staff he’s been a part of when it comes to recruiting effort. I can only imagine it takes a great sense of where the program is going and everyone being on the same page when it comes to recruiting the guys that Leach wants. It is very difficult to have an entire staff on the same page when you have to look past a young man’s ratings to get the guys you want.
"Believe it or not, Coach Leach has never put much stock in stars and ratings. We look for guys that would best fit in our system and go from there. There are too many other factors that go into ratings beyond just playing ability– Dave Emerick – WSU football Chief of Staff, Recruiting Coordinator via CF.C Live Chat"
Even though the class was not highly rated I believe in what they are doing at Washington State and it’s kind of what has always had to be done there to have success which is why Leach and his staff’s style fits so well in Pullman. You generally aren’t going to get guys who already have a name to come to Wazzu, people have to make a name for themselves in Pullman. Go Cougs!
For more great Leach quotes and analysis from his Signing Day press conference, check out Lew’s Recap.