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Originally published Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Cougars quietly sign a class of 22

Washington State coach Paul Wulff has letters from 20 high-school players and two JC transfers in his recruiting class.

Seattle Times staff reporter

In the end, the windup to the first full-year recruiting class of Washington State under football coach Paul Wulff was much like the impact the group had on some analysts' radar: quiet.

That was a good thing in Pullman, where there was no late attrition to a class of 20 high-school prospects and two junior-college recruits the Cougars seem to like.

"We only lost the one player who committed to us and went somewhere else," said Wulff on Wednesday, referring to Lynnwood's Geoff Meinken, who opted for Stanford in November after an early pledge to WSU.

"I think it speaks volumes to the character of who we were recruiting. Every one of them was hounded by other institutions even though they had verbally committed to us."

WSU took a couple of late flyers on two talents that are iffy academically: Butte Junior College defensive end Brandon Rankin (6-5, 260), who had 27 sacks for a national-title team, and Terell Thompson, a linebacker from Colorado.

"Everybody in the country called on him or came by, from USC to LSU to N.C. State and East Carolina," said Rankin's coach, Jeff Jordan, of a player who had 27 sacks last season. "But he's got to pass 24 hours by August, so a lot of people weren't taking the chance."

Said Wulff candidly, "At this point, we don't believe he's going to make it. He'd be somebody we'd hope would enroll in January [2010]. He's a wonderful kid. As a person of character, he's somebody we'd be willing to work with."

Similarly, Wulff said, Thompson has a hard road ahead academically, and if he doesn't make it, hopes to land him on the rebound from junior college.

Down the stretch, WSU also solidified a commitment from defensive-back prospect Asi Hosea of Murray, Utah. That, combined with the signing of Wailuku, Hawaii tight end/defensive end Jordan Pu'u Robinson, signals a push into two states where the Cougars recruited little under Wulff's predecessor, Bill Doba.

"I think we have something to offer to kids in those states that isn't readily in front of them," Wulff said, noting the absence of Pac-10 schools in Utah and the fact that two of WSU's brightest lights of this decade, quarterback Jason Gesser and basketball guard Derrick Low, came from Hawaii.

Meanwhile, someday a recruiting service is going to be woefully wrong about this WSU class, either Scout.com or Rivals.com. Scout rated WSU's class at No. 45 nationally, which would be a creditable showing for a program that went 2-11 in 2008 with several resounding defeats. But Rivals has the class tied with Hawaii for No. 91.

Ignoring that debate, Wulff said, "I'm very confient this is the type of class that can potentially bring some bowl games and bowl-game wins to this program.

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"I couldn't tell you how proud I am of our coaches and how they've battled and battled and never wavered. I think [recruits] can feel the energy of our coaching staff. They're very consistent, solid people you can trust."

Notes

• Wulff said he might envision two to five recruits contributing as freshmen, mentioning Skyline receiver Gino Simone, defensive linemen Quayshawne Buckley and Travis Long and Bellevue safety Jamal Atofau.

• Two ex-Ingraham High walk-ons have been awarded a scholarships — linebacker Myron Beck and Eastern Washington transfer receiver Jeffrey Solomon. Also getting a ride is kicker Nico Grasu, whose second-overtime field goal was the difference in the 2008 Apple Cup.

• Asked independently which WSU players were the most effective "hosts" of prospects, recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen and Wulff each named a handful of players, but only two went 2 for 2: tight end Tony Thompson and linebacker Andy Mattingly.

• Wulff said the Cougars were "blindsided" by the abrupt departure from school of JC recruit Peter Tuitupou, a tight end, to go on a church mission, which is likely to cost WSU a scholarship against the overall limit of 85. "If we knew he wanted to go on a mission, we wouldn't have signed him," Wulff said. "When you sign a junior-college person, you're expecting immediate help. It doesn't make a lot of sense."

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

Cougars recruits
Pos. Name Ht. Wt Hometown (last school)
S Jamal Atofau 5-10 185 Bellevue (Bellevue)
LB Andre Barrington 6-1 205 Federal Way (Federal Way)
DL Quayshawne Buckley 6-4 285 Ontario, Calif. (Colony)
RB Arthur Burns 5-10 210 Corona, Calif. (Centennial)
S Anthony Carpenter 6-1 177 Los Angeles (Serra)
DL Justin Clayton 6-4 250 Napa, Calif. (Justin-Siena)
WR Johnny Forzani 6-1 200 Calgary, Alberta
*Enrolled at WSU in January 2008 (Dr. EP Scarlett/Douglas College)
DB Asi Hosea 5-10 178 Salt Lake City (Cottonwood)
LB Sekope Kaufusi 6-4 230 Palo Alto, Calif. (Woodside)
DB Casey Locker 5-11 175 Ferndale (Ferndale)
DE Travis Long 6-4 245 Spokane (Gonzaga Prep)
LB Darren Markle 6-1 232 Meridian, Idaho (Mountain View)
DL Chris Mastin 6-2 210 Spokane (Lewis and Clark)
OL William Prescott 6-5 285 Riverside, Calif. (Martin Luther King)
DL Jordan Pu'u Robinson 6-4 256 Wailuku, Hawaii (Baldwin)
DL Brandon Rankin 6-5 260 Shallotte, N.C. (Butte College)
WR Gino Simone 6-0 170 Sammamish (Skyline)
LB Terell Thompson 6-2 215 Aurora, Colo. (Eaglecrest)
QB Jeff Tuel 6-3 207 Fresno, Calif. (Clovis West)
OL Sebastian Valenzuela 6-2 315 Burbank, Calif. (John Burroughs)
DB Nolan Washington 5-10 175 Burien (Kennedy)
RB Carl Winston 5-9 200 Harbor City, Calif. (Serra)

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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