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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profiles: Washington State Cougars

Our Tour Around the Pac-12 Finally Makes Its Way Up to Washington

Washington State v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Welcome to a series in which I am profiling the recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past 5 seasons. That includes the 2014-2018 classes ending with the incoming freshmen for this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article here which has all of the information you could want and more.

You can also look at the previous editions profiling: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, and USC. With that out of the way, let’s go in-depth with the Washington State Cougars.

Program Overview

Mike Leach was on the hot seat in 2014 after going just 3-9 in season number 3 (for already the 2nd time) in the Palouse . It looked like he was all but gone when the Cougars lost the 2015 opener against FCS Portland State. But Washington State rallied to win 9 games that year and have been an above average program since. The Cougars followed that season up with 8 and 9 wins in 2016 and 2017 respectively but have yet to break through with a Pac-12 north title or a victory against the Huskies since Chris Petersen took over.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.37 stars, 0.882 composite rating (12th in conference)

Average Commit: 3.05 stars, 0.85 composite rating (11th in conference)

Average # of Offers: 163.4 (4th in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Spray and Pray, Quality- Barrel Scraper

The Cougars hand out a lot of offers but they’re on the lower end of the worst offenders in the conference. In both 2015 and 2018 they gave out about 50 more offers than in the other 3 years so they aren’t very consistent in that regard. Washington State has missed out on their 200 most highly rated prospects over the last 5 years. You can essentially take the top 25% of their offers every year and immediately disqualify Wazzu from having a chance.

The average rating of their offers and commits are pretty consistent. They’ll give out about 30% of their offers to 4-star players and depending on the year maybe hit on one of two of the lower rated ones. Otherwise they work almost entirely within the ranks of the 3-star world.

Best Recruiting Win: Class of 2017, WR Jamire Calvin (sort of), 4 stars, 0.8923 composite rating.

“It’s funny, but the answer to this came in Mike Leach’s first month after getting hired when he flipped Gabe Marks from Houston. To this day, he’s still Leach’s highest-rated recruit (4-star, 0.9358 composite), and he lived up to every bit of the hype -- and then some. He not only produced on the field, obliterating school records while also setting conference ones; he also was a big part of changing the culture around the program into a winning one. Come to think of it, I guess that was six years ago, but whatever. If you want one that’s strictly in the last five years, flipping 4-star receiver Jamire Calvin from Nebraska was pretty great. He had a solid freshman year, but the jury’s obviously still out.”

-Jeff Nusser, CougCenter

Worst Recruiting Loss: Class of 2015, WR Deontay Burnett, 4 stars, 0.8584 composite rating.

“This one is another receiver: Deontay Burnett. A lot of people don’t realize he was committed to WSU up until signing day, then flipped to USC thanks to a bizarre and little-used recruiting strategy called blueshirting -- that’s where a player doesn’t sign with anyone, shows up on campus of a school in the fall as an “unrecruited player” (according to the NCAA’s definition), and is awarded a scholarship. The Cougs were incredibly high on him, and it became obvious why as he turned into USC’s best receiver.”

-Jeff Nusser, CougCenter

Recruiting Map Profile

WSU Offers 2014-2018

The Cougars really focus their efforts on California as almost half of their offers go out to players in that state. It’s the highest percentage of any school in the conference which is somewhat surprising since, you know, they’re not even in California. Consequently, they have less of a footprint in Texas than a lot of Pac-12 schools and about an average presence in the Southeast. Unsurprisingly, they also have a heavy presence in their home state of Washington although they give out a lower percentage of their offers in state than cross-state rival UW.

Highest Success States

Washington: +8.2%, California: +7.34%, Colorado: +1.96%

It’s unclear whether or not it’s a good thing that their highest success rate is as low as it is. It means they’re pretty efficient with their recruiting resources but don’t have one state in particular with a much greater appeal. Their best advantage comes in Washington where they get a little better than 25% of the players they offer. Despite offering so many players in California they still score well there as 56% of the roster comes from Cali. It’s not listed above but props to the Cougars for being one of only 2 schools (Utah) with a positive success rate in Florida.

Lowest Success States

Texas: -8.32%, Oklahoma: -2.2%, Hawaii: -1.77%

It’s no surprise to see Texas on this list as it’s a major area of struggle for a lot of Pac-12 programs despite it’s size. We’re in edition 11 and this is the first time that Oklahoma has popped up. Washington State has handed out 2.2% of their offers (9th among states) within the relatively talent-light state and have come up completely empty. Almost every other Pac-12 school has some combination of Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana as their bottom 3 so Washington State has done a good job realizing where they can and can’t compete.

Out of Conference Profile

Non-Conference Rival- Boise State Broncos, 45.71%.

The Cougars are one of three schools in the Pac-12 with a losing record against Boise State despite being technically a tier higher by conference affiliation. Since the two campuses are so close it isn’t surprising that the Broncos are the school with the most conflicts against Washington State at 35. Boise holds a 19-16 advantage overall and a 3-2 edge going after 4-star composite prospects.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Oklahoma Sooners, 8.7%.

The larger than normal interest in Oklahoma is evident here as Washington State has gone up against the Sooners 23 times which is the most of any power conference team. The score is 21-2 in Oklahoma’s favor and Oklahoma signed the 19 most highly rated recruits.

Non-Conference Little Brother- San Jose State Spartans, 82.61%.

If you’re looking for Washington State’s placement in the recruiting pecking order it’s below most of the Pac-12 and the Mountain West powers but above everyone else in the West. The Cougars have gotten commitments from 19 of the 27 players with offers from both schools choosing one or the other. However, San Jose State won out for the 2nd and 3rd most highly rated such players so they still were able to compete for the top end of those players.

Washington State Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 8.77% 8
2015 6.83% 8
2016 6.96% 8
2017 5.15% 11
2018 7.33% 10
Overall 6.95% 10

It’s fairly surprising that as the Cougars have improved on the field they’ve gotten worse in their conference ranking. Washington State signs one of every 12 to 20 prospects that they offer who has at least one other Pac-12 offer. It’s hard to imagine that percentage hitting double digits any time soon.

Washington State Weighted Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 10.42% 10
2015 11.39% 7
2016 3.66% 11
2017 6.96% 12
2018 13.89% 9
Overall 9.26% 10

The weighted numbers don’t dramatically change the outlook here. 45% of the Cougar signees had no other Pac-12 offers although some had offers from other power conference programs. Only 2 of their commits over the last 5 years had offers from over half of the conference and both came in 2017 (WR Jamire Calvin and ATH Dominick Silvels). It’s just really really difficult to get anyone to Pullman over an offer from one of the 5 Pac-12 recruiting powers (UW, Oregon, USC, Stanford, and UCLA). Just 18.6% of Wazzu commits had an offer from at least one of those 5 schools and the odds are not many of them were truly commitable.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

How often have you been able to say that the Cougars have secured a commitment from the #1 player at his position in the country? Well you can say it for 2019 because Washington State currently have a verbal from the top...long snapper... Ok, maybe that’s not the best angle to go with to sell recruiting. Washington State has 3 commitments currently for 2019 but the most important is that they have their QB in Gunner Cruz. He’s a mid-3-star recruit by the scouting services but with a name like Gunner I don’t see how it’s possible for him not to be an amazing QB. Although the image conjured by the name and the reality of a QB who’ll be throwing bubble screens and 5-yard hitch routes for the next 4 years don’t entirely mesh.

Mike Leach has made headlines recently for all of the wrong reasons and it certainly seems as if his belief structure may not mesh with the average 18-year old football player. But it’s not as if the Cougars are used to getting high profile recruits and Leach just isn’t performing up to expectations. While he’s unlikely to win a Pac-12 title with the air raid, Leach is doing exactly what you should do in a situation where the recruiting deck is stacked against you. Play a particular system and recruit players who fit it that might be overlooked by bigger programs. And it has worked. Washington State is in one of the more successful periods in their history. Unless Mike Leach’s twitter account makes his continued employment untenable (not completely unrealistic) he’ll continue to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12 recruiting metrics but continue to put up bowl eligible seasons.


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