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Originally published February 3, 2010 at 7:52 PM | Page modified February 3, 2010 at 11:10 PM

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Bud Withers

WSU coach Paul Wulff says he's pleased with Cougars' recruiting class

Washington State's football recruiting class got a boost with the signing of linebacker C.J. Mizell, a Florida State recruit in 2009.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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The great bulk of Washington State's football recruiting class has long been accounted for, dating to a commitment 18 months ago from four-star tight-end prospect Aaron Dunn of Spokane.

But there were plenty of sparks at the 11th hour, starting with the signing of a linebacker from the Southeast, C.J. Mizell, who chose Florida State a year ago and was rated then as the fifth-best player in the country at his position.

There was Mizell's addition, but also some subtraction, as Woodinville offensive-line prospect Maxx Forde changed his mind on WSU and signed with Idaho; and highly regarded tight end Asante Cleveland of Sacramento defected for Miami. Safety Erick Dargan of Pittsburg, Calif., picked Oregon over the Cougars and UCLA.

WSU coach Paul Wulff announced the signing of 22 in this class, which includes junior-college offensive linemen David Gonzales and Wade Jacobson, who are already in school. So, too, is JC defensive end Brandon Rankin, a 2009 signee who enrolled in January.

The class is heavy on defensive backs and receivers, and no doubt lighter than Wulff would have liked on defensive linemen.

"I can't speak to the (complete) history of Washington State football, but I've kind of watched it from afar, and I think this is as good a class as has come here," he said.

Scout.com rated the class 39th in the country, better than might be expected from a program that has won only three games in two years under Wulff.

"I'll just be honest; I think we're very, very good recruiters," Wulff said. "As these kids mature in the program, we're going to look like good coaches, too. Whether we're winning a bunch of games or having a down year, that's not going to affect our recruiting."

The signing-day blockbuster was Mizell, a player with a checkered past who signed with FSU a year ago but didn't qualify. Before that, at a high school in Georgia, he was involved in a fight with a coach and was expelled for his junior year, later landing at Leon High in Tallahassee. He had another unconfirmed issue while a senior, and Wulff acknowledged Mizell having had "a few incidents."

"We did our background check with C.J., and found out from people involved they're not as serious as they would appear in media reports," Wulff said. "We went back three years and talked to people."

Wulff said it was widely unknown that Mizell had qualified academically during 2009, but WSU uncovered him through contacts in the Southeast and brought him in for a visit last weekend, during which he met with faculty and staff people.

"There wasn't one person who didn't feel real good about him as a person," Wulff said. "He's got a great smile and he's really a good person."

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Wulff said he expects the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Mizell to arrive as soon as the first summer-school session in May.

Mizell's coach at Leon High, Bill Ragans, said, "My prediction is, he'll be the Pac-10 freshman of the year. He's a hell of a player."

Wulff had some choice words, as he has before, for those who flipped WSU commitments and went elsewhere.

"I go back on the parents and educating the kids, keeping them true to their word," he said. "A lot of people say, 'That's how recruiting is.' I don't believe in it, and I never will."

Forde is the son of ex-WSU linebacker Brian Forde, the season record-holder for tackles at WSU (1986) and a former NFL player.

The senior Forde said Wulff called in mid-December and told his son he had to make a decision by noon the next day, or in about 14 hours. He said he encouraged Maxx to make the commitment, but they continued to talk with both Army and Idaho.

"You can't fault an 18-year-old kid if he has a change of heart on something," Brian Forde said. "He didn't break any laws. Last time I checked, you're allowed to change your mind. When your son tells you, 'I prayed on it, and I really feel Idaho is the best place for me,' what do you say at that point?

"If Washington State feels they got done wrong, maybe they got out-recruited."

Notes

• WSU signed eight recruits from the Bay Area, primarily manned by co-defensive coordinators Chris Ball and Jody Sears.

• Wulff said WSU plans to sign another unnamed receiver, who could be 5-10, 180-pound Isiah Barton of Fresno City College. The coach there, Tony Caviglia, said this week, "There's a chance" Barton will sign with the Cougars. He was a transfer from Fresno State.

• WSU announced three walk-ons: Two kicker/punters in Andrew Furney of Burlington-Edison and Jacob Miller of Central Valley in Spokane; and LB Zach Johnson of Stanwood.

James Montgomery, the running back who had calf surgery early last fall that was thought to be career-ending, is recovering well and Wulff said "it looks real good" for his return for a senior season in 2010.

Casey Hamlett, the ex-Edmonds-Woodway standout who transferred to WSU when Western Washington dropped its program a year ago, has been awarded a scholarship. His brother Connor Hamlett, a 6-7 tight end, signed Wednesday with Oregon State.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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