Mike Leach's first WSU recruiting experience hectic, successful
WSU staff comes through with solid recruiting class in short time frame
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Jim Mora — of all things, a Husky — did Mike Leach a nice turn this year.
Next year, Leach is on his own. That will no doubt be an adventure, because with Leach, it always is.
Wednesday, you might have caught wind, schools across the country announced their 2012 football signing classes. This was Leach's first at Washington State, one more stride for WSU fans in their getting-to-know-you process with the intriguing new coach.
At his teleconference from Pullman, somebody asked him for a memorable story from his brisk two months along the recruiting trail.
"I should have collected my thoughts on that," he said. "I get asked that every year. And I give a crummy answer every year."
Then he riffed for five minutes on the snow-out two weeks ago in Seattle; on a Ping-Pong tournament at a recruit's home; and on flying into Hawaii a few minutes before noon one day to meet safety Taylor Taliulu's family, and being on a red-eye out that night.
Of course, recruiting has more to do with grinding than it does happy anecdotes, and Leach and his new staff made it a big point to work Los Angeles hard. Paul Wulff's staff went lighter there, finding more hay to be made in Northern California.
Leach said he recruited L.A. "in a limited way" at Texas Tech. But he got a law degree at Pepperdine, and besides, he takes pretty much a world view of recruiting. The Cougars pulled a safety out of Miami plus two American Samoans, and Leach noted that his initial recruiting list spans six time zones.
"People say you've got to be from Texas to recruit Texas," Leach scoffed. "I've never had one of these folks check my driver's license."
Anyway, several of Leach's new staffers had Pac-12 and L.A. ties, so they plunged into SoCal and it turned out profitable. Incoming is the only consensus four-star recruit of the class, Venice High receiver Gabriel Marks, plus linebackers Kache Palacio (Gardena) and Khalil Pettway (Culver City) and South Gate's Robert Lewis, a made-for-Leach all-purpose type nicknamed "the Human Joystick."
All were once committed to Southern Methodist. But then Mora, the former UW defensive back and Seahawks coach, got the UCLA job, and hired SMU assistant Adrian Klemm to his staff, and suddenly, loyalties were loosened. (Think of it as the southern version of Tosh Lupoi torpedoing California's recruiting.)
Mora's Bruins were shooting higher than most of Klemm's L.A. brigade, and indeed, they've got a top-10 class. The Cougs were happy to capitalize on the instability, and besides, Leach has a reputation for finding treasures at garage sales.
As Leach put it Wednesday, "We tried to select guys that were good football players. Not how fast or how strong, but, can he play football?"
Wulff knew the value of line play, but the recruiting results were hit-and-miss. Accordingly, Leach's first class was heavy on linemen — eight projected on offense — and if you thought WSU was already stocked with receivers, Leach had other ideas, adding at least four.
"Our reception with receivers," he said, "is understandably high."
It's also pretty good with quarterbacks. He said WSU was "approached by a number of people to transfer," but declined because of incumbents Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday. That led them back to Wulff's commitment from Colorado prep Austin Apodaca, whom Leach says has "a combination of feet, accuracy and IQ."
So what might we expect from Leach in these parts? Will he become a thorn to the Huskies on the west side of the state? The Cougars always swim upstream in that regard, but on short notice, they came close on Lakes standout Cedric Dozier (California) and got in the ear of UW line signee Jake Eldrenkamp of Bellevue.
"It's going to be a huge emphasis for us in the spring," Leach said, referring to Washington high-school recruiting.
In the meantime, he said the results, given the time constraints, were the best he's experienced in his coaching days.
"I'm incredibly proud of my staff," he said. "We had guys with contacts throughout the region."
And for this class, it was a big region.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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