Washington State’s 25-man class of 2016 recruits was heavy on offensive linemen, defensive backs and linebackers, and consisted of kids from six states and American Samoa.
But even though the Cougs got more in state talent this year – four Washington signees compared to one in 2015 – they stuck to the script that’s worked for them in years past: raiding California for talent snubbed by traditional powers USC and UCLA.
Fifteen of the Cougs’ 2016 signees came from high schools or junior colleges in the state of California, and the Cougars got as many recruits from the San Diego metro area as they did from the state of Washington.
It’s a strategy that’s paid dividends for Leach’s staff, said Adam Gorney, Rivals.com’s West Coast recruiting analyst.
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“What Mike Leach has done is come into California and done a smart thing,” Gorney said. “He knows he can’t get the top rated kids and he has a good feel for who’s gonna go to USC and UCLA. Then he goes after the kids he thinks can do what he wants them to do and goes and gets them.
“A lot of the kids in their class are kids from California who weren’t getting that USC and UCLA love and who wanted to play in the Pac-12 and play in an offense where they would get the ball in their hands a lot.”
This recruiting cycle marked the first year that WSU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has been able to lead the Cougars’ defensive scouting and recruiting efforts, and he emphasized speed and athleticism. The Cougs signed 13 defensive recruits: five defensive backs, five linebackers and three defensive ends. Grinch also tapped into his Mount Union College connections and recruited two defensive prospects — LBs Jahad Woods and Mason Vinyard — from fellow Mount Union grad Troy Starr, the coach at San Diego powerhouse Helix High School.
The Cougs’ 2016 recruiting class ranks No. 54 nationally if you average out final rankings from the four main recruiting services: Rivals.com, Scout.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN.
The consensus is that WSU’s class is ranked 11th in the Pac-12, though Scout.com ranked the Cougs at No. 10.
Still, WSU made out with some recruits who were coveted by other Pac-12 schools. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and outside linebackers coach Roy Manning both said Thursday that USC made a late Signing Day push for a couple of WSU commits. One was Valhalla (El Cajon, Calif.) defensive end Danny Bender. Both commits stuck to their guns and signed with WSU.
WSU’s 2016 recruiting class in the national rankings
- Rivals.com: 52nd nationally; 11th Pac-12
- Scout.com: 50th nationally; 10th Pac-12
- 247Sports.com: 59th nationally; 11th Pac-12
- ESPN.com: 56th nationally; 11th Pac-12
How WSU’s recruiting classes have stacked up nationally in the Leach era:
- 2015: 45th (Rivals), 45th (Scout), 49th (247Sports), 54th (ESPN)
- 2014: 70th (Rivals), 58th (Scout), 58th (247Sports), 61st (ESPN)
- 2013: 53rd (Rivals), 45th (Scout), 54th (247Sports), 58th (ESPN)
- 2012: 56th (Rivals), 50th (Scout), 58th (247Sports), ??? (ESPN)