PULLMAN — Washington State’s football program brought in 22 new players during the NCAA’s early signing period in December. The Cougars signed seven additions from the transfer portal last month.
WSU had already completed much of its recruiting work for the 2023 season before national signing day, so it wasn’t all that surprising when the Cougars announced only one new player on Wednesday.
The lone signee was Rocky Shields, a high-school defensive lineman out of Colorado. Shields chose WSU over offers from Utah State, Nevada, Wyoming, Air Force and Army, among others.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder from Columbine High is a three-star recruit, the No. 14 prospect in Colorado and the No. 108 defensive tackle in the country, according to ESPN. He earned all-state honors in each of the past two seasons, recording a combined 57 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. As a senior, Shields helped Columbine High to the Class 5A state quarterfinal round.
Shields is the 18th high-school recruit in WSU’s 2023 class, which includes five junior college players and seven Division I transfers who will be expected to adopt playing roles next season. The Cougars replenished a couple of depleted position groups, signing three transfer linebackers and three former standout receivers at the Group of Five level.
Former Cougar players return in coaching roles
WSU finalized its 2023 staff on Tuesday. Among the new hires are two former WSU standouts who will begin coaching careers at their alma mater.
Jahad Woods, a WSU linebacking great who tied a program record with 56 career appearances between 2017-21, is a defensive high-school scout for the Cougars. He will also supervise alumni relations. Woods piled up 427 tackles during his WSU career — fourth in program history — and tried out for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year before moving into a coaching position.
Former Cougar defensive back George Hicks III (2017-21) joins WSU’s staff as a defensive graduate assistant. Hicks appeared in 46 games for the Cougs, starting 11 at safety and 13 at cornerback.
Newcomers on the offensive side of the ball include quality control assistant John Kuceyeski and grad assistant Colt Garrett. Kuceyeski, a Penn State grad, made stops at Northwestern, Western Michigan, Toledo and Iowa State in support roles before taking an assistant job at Cornell. He coordinated Eastern Illinois’ offense from 2019-21 and served as the director of player personnel at Western Kentucky last season. Garrett also comes to WSU after a stint as a support staffer with the Hilltoppers.
Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle was hired last month to take the same job at WSU.
Incoming defensive staffers include Pullman product J.C. Sherritt (analyst), former Cougar player Danny McDonald (quality control) and Patrick Belony (grad assistant), who most recently served as a GA at Fresno State, his alma mater.
After graduating from Pullman High in 2006, Sherritt played linebacker at Eastern Washington. He spent seven years playing for Edmonton of the CFL, then coached linebackers for the Calgary Stampeders before a three-year stint at FCS Cal Poly as defensive coordinator.
At EWU, Sherritt played under Jeff Schmedding, a Spokane native and former longtime Eagles assistant who was recently hired as WSU’s defensive coordinator. Schmedding most recently coordinated defenses at Boise State (2019-20) and Auburn (2022).
McDonald played receiver at WSU from 2011-12 and served as a volunteer assistant with the program between 2013-14. He was an assistant at West Texas A&M before joining Schmedding at EWU. McDonald followed Schmedding to Boise State and Auburn.
Returning as fulltime staffers under second-year coach Jake Dickert are Mark Atuaia (associate head coach/running backs), Clay McGuire (offensive line), Nick Whitworth (special teams/tight ends), Pete Kaligis (assistant head coach/defensive tackles), Jordan Malone (safeties) and Ray Brown (cornerbacks).
Taking over as receivers coach is Nick Edwards, a former standout pass-catcher at EWU who coached at his alma mater, Cal and Cal Poly, and served as an offensive assistant with the Atlanta Falcons last year. Frank Maile enters his first season as WSU’s edge rushers coach after a two-year stop at Boise State.
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