Pac-12: Asante Cleveland

Signing day a 'double-standard'?

February, 5, 2010
2/05/10
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When coaches bolt a program for a better, higher paying job, the media rants -- fairly or unfairly -- about mercenary, duplicitous men showing no loyalty to their players.

During their signing day news conferences, Arizona coach Mike Stoops and Washington State coach Paul Wulff pointed out that sometimes players are just as Machiavellian.

Both saw their recruiting classes suffer because of late decommitments.

"I just think it's getting out of control. If we would do things players did -- there's such a double standard involved," Stoops said. "If we started pulling scholarships -- that to me is wrong. Some teams just sign the best guys them cut them at the end -- or grayshirt them. That to me is not right. It's not how we do things."

Stoops main frustration was losing quarterback Matt Brown to TCU late in recruiting after Wildcats offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes left to become head coach at Louisiana Tech, but it was obvious he was unhappy with a number of behind-the-scenes issues.

"Recruiting has gotten to be pretty cut-throat here," he said. "That's just kind of the business it is. You don't have a whole lot of friends in recruiting. You find that out as you go."

Meanwhile, Washington State lost two players, tight end Asante Cleveland (Miami) and offensive lineman Maxx Forde (Idaho), and Wulff seemed particularly bothered by the loss of Forde, whose father is an former standout linebacker for the Cougars.

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

Forde's father fired back to the Seattle Times.

"You can't fault an 18-year-old kid if he has a change of heart on something," Brian Forde told the newspaper. "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."

Obviously, the word "commitment" is nearly always said with a wink in college football.

But as a guy who believes coaches should always do what's best for themselves and their families because they work in a ruthless business, my feeling with players "decommitting" is mostly that it's part of the game.

Players should be 100-percent self-interested during recruiting. It will be the only time in their careers they have such control.

For example, say your son is a high school senior living in the Bay Area and he's a solid but unspectacular talent. In November, he gets one scholarship offer: San Jose State. He commits.

Then he records 17 sacks and posts a spectacular season. He gets an offer from Stanford.

Gosh, what should he do?

Yes, recruiting is an ugly game. But, really, what business isn't, other than missionary work?

Stoops did point out something that could help: An early signing period.

"I'm all in favor of early signing periods," he said. "If coaches leave, then obviously scholarships are null and void."

There are complications with an early signing period, but it would simplify recruiting because players who wanted to opt-out of the mind games could use their signature to do so.

Coaches would know that a "committed" player who isn't willing to sign early isn't really "committed." And players could lock in a scholarship to their dream school early and eliminate the possibility of a coach shuffling in later with talk of a "grayshirt."

Would it be perfect? No. But what in college football is?

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: Washington State

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
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Washington State signed a class of 22 that ranked at or near the bottom of the Pac-10.

Still, coach Paul Wulff was satisfied. He said the class upgraded the Cougars size and speed.

"I think this is as good a class as has come here," he said.

Top prospects: Linebacker C.J. Mizell, a former Florida State signee, sort of came out of nowhere. You can read about him here. Offensive linemen David Gonzales and Wade Jacobson, both junior college transfers, should compete immediately for playing time. Bobby Ratliff will upgrade the Cougars receiving corps. Tight end Aaron Dunn will play next year.

Under the radar: There's a lot of that with this class, but it's notable that there were plenty of "under the radar" guys playing their way into the NFL when Washington State was winning. More than a few people think quarterback Connor Halliday is underrated.

Issues? The Cougars took a big hit when tight end Asante Cleveland backed out of his commitment and signed with Miami. Also, Wulff was clearly miffed that committed lineman Maxx Forde -- son of a former Cougar player -- decided to sign with Idaho. It's also a bit worrisome that the class only had one defensive lineman and, of the three offensive linemen, only one is a high school player.

Notes: One of the Cougars best new players may be JC defensive end Brandon Rankin, a 2009 signee who's already enrolled. ... The class features five wide receivers, which should help Wulff run the shotgun, no-huddle spread offense that he brought from Eastern Washington. ... Running back James Montgomery, who missed last season after major surgery on his calf, may be ready to return for the 2010 season. The California transfer was the Cougars No. 1 running back before getting hurt. ... Wulff said told reporters he may still sign a couple of JC players. ... The Cougars signed players from four states, including eight from the Bay Area and three from the Spokane area.

Pac-10 recruiting: Checking in with Tom Luginbill

February, 2, 2010
2/02/10
9:57
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It's signing day eve!

That means a lot of you will be spending more time here than doing your work tomorrow.

Over at ESPN.com, we like to encourage such behavior. It's healthy!

While most conference classes are close to complete, there seems to be plenty of last-minute intrigue with elite recruits, and you'll notice California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington are all still in on a number of guys.

ESPN recruiting guru Tom Luginbill might be the busiest man on the planet right now, but he still stopped by for a quick Q&A on Pac-10 recruiting.

How is the Pac-10 doing overall? It seems as though there are more teams in the top 25 than usual.

Tom Luginbill: Overall the conference is very strong on the recruiting front because of the resurgence of Stanford, UCLA and Washington. As per usual, Oregon State gets a certain type of player that fits their mold and it works tremendously despite a lack of star power -- and I love their QB Sean Mannion. Cal and Oregon have a chance to finish really strong, especially Oregon.

Do you expect USC recruiting to be as strong under Lane Kiffin as it was with Pete Carroll?

TL: Yes, as long as they don’t lose their stranglehold on the state of California. Also, when they go national, they need to hit on those guys with the same level of success they have had in the past with the Dwayne Jarretts, Joe McKnights and Taylor Mays of the world.

Which Pac-10 team is having a better than usual or expected recruiting season?

TL: I would not call it unexpected, but what Stanford has been able to do on a national level has been extraordinary, and they have really upgraded in terms of speed and athleticism. To steal away QB Brett Nottingham from UCLA this late and DE Blake Leuders from Notre Dame was key. Going back to the spring, they were a team that seemed to be everywhere in terms of where good players were.

Give me a couple of names of guys who you think will make an immediate impact next year.

TL: WR Robert Woods, USC; TE Asante Cleveland, Washington State; RB Deonte Cooper, Washington.

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