Leach offers perspective before JC signings

MIKE LEACH

WITH THE MIDYEAR JUCO signing period beginning in less than 24 hours, Cougar head man Mike Leach talks junior college and prep recruiting, what the departure of two assistants has meant to the Cougs' collective recruiting efforts and much more in this exclusive one-on-one interview with CF.C.

The Cougs are expected to sign a trio of mid-year junior college prospects. The JUCO additions are important and also part of something bigger, said Leach.

"We're thrilled about all of them and we got some good candidates, so we'll see what happens," Mike Leach said. "I think ultimately the class as a whole is going to be important for us in the future, but it starts with the first signing day. It's important for us, but the overall class is the key thing."

Per NCAA rules, Leach is not permitted to speak about specific recruits, but said he's been pleased with his staff's recruiting efforts and the class of 2013 is shaping up the way he was hoping it would.

He also said the recruiting points of emphasis between now and Feb. 6 remain on o-line and d-line. The Cougars have five known OL verbal commitments and four d-line commitments (although one of those, Malik Jenkins, may come to WSU as a BUCK linebacker.)

The three expected to sign tomorrow, enroll at WSU in January and participate in spring ball are: College of San Mateo DE/LB Lyman Faoliu, Riverside offensive lineman Jacob Seydel and El Camino linebacker Ivan McLennan. Another JUCO addition, Sierra wide receiver Vince Mayle, will graduate in May and head to Pullman this summer.

AT THIS POINT last season, having just come on board at Wazzu, Leach had 10 verbal commits with one coming from the JC ranks (RB Theron West). After his first campaign at WSU and a 3-9 mark, the need for some hole-filling through the JUCO market was apparent.

"It's certainly not over yet and this class is a work in progress," Leach said. "We're still grinding away and we expect to improve even more. We're off to a better start than we were last year and we have a really good class shaping up. There's still over a month left, but the effort of our staff has been tremendous and our players on campus have done a great job of making guys feel like part of a family at Washington State."

In addition to the four JUCO players, the Cougars have two grayshirt holdovers to go along with 17 known prep commits, with the most recent pledge coming from highly touted cornerback Daquawn Brown. The Los Angeles native chose Washington State over offers from five other Pac-12 schools and others.

TWO OF LEACH's recruiters, inside receivers coach Eric Morris and outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate, are no longer in the fold. Choate departed two weeks ago to take the defensive coordinator position at UTEP, Morris is headed to Texas Tech to join new coach Kliff Kingsbury's staff.

Morris was the primary recruiter on Texas product Demarcus Ayers, who cited the news of Morris' departure when he decommitted from WSU recently. Two others in Morris' recruiting area, future Coug RB Jamal Morrow and LB Malik Jenkins, both told CF.C they remain committed to playing for Leach in 2013.

"It really hasn't affected recruiting at all and they both did a good job," Leach said of Morris and Choate. "We wish them the best."

ONE THING THAT hasn't changed under Leach is the family atmosphere at Washington State.

"You definitely sell that, there's no question," Leach said on the family vibe in Pullman. "There's a great atmosphere between coaches and players here other than a couple of guys who had dissatisfaction that got blown way out of proportion. We have great kids out here and we have quality guys recruiting as well."

Coaches in both the JC and prep ranks have had nothing but great things to say when asked by CF.C how Leach and his assistant coaches develop quality relationships and strong bonds with their players.

"Coaches are great people and it's a passion," Leach said. "It's not just a profession, but a passion to be able to work with great people. That's kind of an important aspect to me. Every place has special things about it, but our reception has been really good. Depending on what guys are looking for and what is important to him, I think Washington State does a good job of selling itself.

"And kids get to see that first hand."

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