The foundation for rebuilding the Washington State Cougar football program had been and continues to be recruiting student/athletes.
This is the final installment of a three-part series on WSU recruiting. The focus of the series has been on how recruiting works, rather than listing individual prospects and commits. Those names will come later.
Coach Paul Wulff and his staff have made tremendous strides in recruiting players that will make WSU competitive in the Pac-10 once again.
Improvement in getting better players is coming from doing basic things better.
When it comes to filling the Cougar roster, Coach Rich Rasmussen is focusing staff efforts on evaluating players from a few basic views.
Filling the ongoing position needs for the team has to be a priority. Determining need is quite basic. Simply look at the team depth chart and factor in class ranking.
The WSU coaching staff is going to great lengths to bring in student/athletes who look forward and are excited to become part of the Cougar family. Determining a recruit's attitude and personality is important to assure they will become an integral part of the team.
A key factor in making a quality assessment of how a student/athlete might fit into the Cougar football program is the opportunity to attend college in Pullman.
For many grizzled members of the media, they find little attraction for living in a college town as special as Pullman.
In all likelihood, that's a mutually shared view. Folks who enjoy living in the Palouse area have little time for being part of a faceless city with bright lights and all that goes with that.
"Our big deal is making a quality assessment...and finding the guys we think are going to be a good fit for here." - Coach Rasmussen
One of the challenges of making a "quality assessment" is the maturing process for high school players. A lot of high school players don't step into the limelight until their senior season. The late bloomers.
Those are prospects who are labeled as "flying under the radar." There won't be much game video on these prospects, because they have waited in the shadows behind starters.
"The process never stops. We've got to keep evaluating. Evaluate every (frame) of video we have now and we continue to get about 10 videos a day during the course of the summer. And as soon as the fall hits, we'll start gathering game films and watch as much as possible to continue evaluating guys as their name starts popping up on the board." - Coach Rasmussen
For the staff at Washington State to be successful with recruiting, it's crucial to have good working relationships with high school coaches.
Dating back to his years as head coach at Eastern Washington, Coach Wulff has developed and established great relationships with high school coaches throughout the Northwest.
"Different staffs have different philosophies. When it comes to recruiting, whether it's right, wrong or indifferent our focus is to to recruit the Northwest extremely hard...and stay within our television market.
For me as recruiting coordinator, it didn't make a lot of sense for us to go recruit some areas that have a lot of traffic, such as Texas.
For us to get back to where we want to be, and that's back to being in bowl games and having an opportunity to play for a Rose Bowl, it's extremely difficult for us to go into Texas and beat Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, even Oklahoma or Oklahoma State in the head-to-head recruiting on a kid.
They are going to stay close to home where their parents have an opportunity to see them play.
If we stay within our television market, and if a parent can't see their son play in person they're going to have an opportunity to see them play on television every weekend." - Coach Rasmussen
More now than in the recent past, the budget alloted for high school recruiting has limits. That fact plays a significant role in this process as well.
"Beating the Big 12 and the Big Ten down there...that's pretty darn tough. It's almost counterproductive.
You might get a kid every other year, but look at the man-hours you're spending compared to being realistic and saying, if we spend that same amount of time in Northern California, what are our chances of getting that young man?" - Coach Rasmussen
There are several young men who have already verbally committed to playing football at Washington State before they begin their senior season.
For many others, they may well make their choice for college after attending football camp at a school being considered. WSU just wrapped up camp for over 500 high school players last week.
"Camp was awesome. One of the best camps we've had!" - Coach Wulff, Twitter
Coach Rasmussen would like to see more verbal commits through the course of this summer, but things are different this year.
"The economy is effecting (recruiting) a little bit. Our big thing is if we can get kids and their parents on campus, we have a great opportunity and a great chance of getting them here.
But due to the economy, some of the kids out of California and other areas aren't able to come up for (football) camp." - Coach Rasmussen.
Some visits to Pullman don't happen until fall. That's a logistics challenge which requires coordination.
Coach Rasmussen is quick to praise the diligent efforts by staff to match high school schedule bye weeks to Cougar football home games.
"As soon as high schedules start getting posted (on the Internet), we're pulling off the schedule for every single kid we're interested in. We highlight when their bye week is. We try and match it up with a home game, which at times is like finding a needle in a haystack.
If the two work out to where they've got a bye week and we've got a home game, we're going to try and do everything we can to bring those guys in on campus.
When that doesn't match up, we have to try and bring them in on Saturday morning which doesn't give us as much time as we'd like to spend with them. If they fly in at 11 a.m., we're typically tied up with pre-game activities.
We try to show them around a little bit before the game. Then they get to watch the ballgame.
We spend some time with them Saturday night. Then cram academics and facilities tours of campus on Sunday morning before we have to put them on a plane to send them back home." - Coach Rasmussen
Part of the limitation in the process of setting up campus visits is the desire of Coach Wulff and the entire staff assurance prospects don't miss playing in their Friday night games.
Recruiting is a basic, simple, and fundamental element to rebuilding a college football program. Or is it?
After taking the specifics touched on by Coach Rasmussen in this series of articles, you may decide that recruiting may be basic and fundamental but not all that simple.
The essence of what makes the changes implemented by Coach Wulff and Coach Rasmussen to upgrade recruiting for Washington State can be summarized as follows:
"If you're somebody that wants the total college atmosphere on a traditional college campus where you are surrounded by 20,000 people your own age which is going to give you a chance to focus both academically and athletically, we're the best place in the West." -Coach Rasmussen
When it comes to the Washington State Cougar football program, the philosophy of Coach Wulff is one of an open door.
Prospective student/athletes are always welcome to come on unofficial visits to watch practice and be around the coaching staff. Similarly, high school coaches are more than welcome to stop in to see the WSU football program first hand.
They are invited to sit in on meetings before practice, after practice when video is studied.
If they want to get on the grease board and talk 'x's and 'o's, the Cougar staff is more than willing to do so. That's just one of the ways the WSU football program gives back to the community.
This summer, 15 student/athletes will already be on campus to begin their college experience at Washington State. That is the most ever for WSU. The incoming Class of 2009 are excited about attending WSU and playing Cougar football.
Having so many incoming freshman on campus early also is an indicator of their academic qualifications. So often there's a waiting game for final transcripts to get posted before being cleared academically.
The Class of 2009 is champing at the bit to go to work and begin their collegiate careers at Washington State. They will develop as individuals while becoming part of a new tradition of Washington State Cougar football.
Originally published on Examiner.com