Leach: This Coug class will be off to races

KENNEWICK -- There are so many fast players in WSU's new recruiting class that Washington State's new head coach Mike Leach says they're going to have to schedule a race to see exactly who is the fastest. That was one of a number of interesting nuggets he shared Friday evening with more than 300 Cougar fans at A Night with Cougar Football event at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

Leach's first trek to the Tri-Cities was a warm one. He was greeted by two standing ovations during the evening.

He introduced his new coaching staff, talked about his new class of recruits and touched on the challenges he faced as he pulled together both a coaching staff and a recruiting class in less than six weeks.

When talking about the 28 strong in the 2012 recruiting class, Leach said he couldn't be happier with the players the Cougs were able to sign. He said when looking for athletes to sign he wanted to look at more than just how big they were.

"One of the things at the top of my list is how good of a football player they are," Leach said.

Among the fast players Leach talked about Friday night was California's Culver City High School wide receiver Alex Jackson.

"He's one of the fastest guys in our recruiting class," Leach said. "He's explosive."

The crowd appeared to be wowed by Jackson's highlight reel as it showed him avoiding tackles and sprinting down field.

Robert Lewis, a wide receiver from South East High School in South Gate, Calif., is another swift one. "His nickname is the human joystick," Leach said. "He's very quick. He's a guy that it's hard to put a hand on." Leach said while his position is receiver, Lewis is also able to play defensive back.

Taylor Taliulu, a safety from Aiea High School in Hawaii is another fast player. "He's a very smooth athlete," Leach said. "He's very quick, has a nose for the ball and looks effortless when he runs."

Theron West, a running back from Centennial High School in Compton, Calif., by way of Los Angeles Harbor College, rounds out the speed merchnats in WSU's new class. "He's fast, really fast," Leach said. "He's a fast guy and he's very fired up."

LEACH ALSO TALKED ABOUT other members of the class. He pointed out Jeremiah Allison, a linebacker from Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, saying that he's quick and good at making receivers miss. He described quarterback Austin Apodaca, from Silver Creek High School in Longmont, Colorado, as "one of the most athletic guys I've ever been involved with."

He said Robert Barber, a defensive tackle from Pago Pago in American Samoa, is a player who can do some damage at the scrimmage line. Brett Bartolone, a wide receiver from La Habra High School in California, Leach said is a really versatile player and "one of those guys who has the ability to break tackle."

He said with Mike Bowlin, a JC kicker from Aliso Niguel High School in California who once toiled Oregon, they were looking for a guy who could kick the ball into the endzone.

Leach said Teondray Caldwell, a running back from Venice High School in Los Angeles, is a player who has good vision out of the field. He said David Bucannon, a safety from Vanden High School in California, isn't afraid to hit anybody. Leach said Feddie Davey, a safety from Miami Norland High School, is a big hitter. "He's a big hit guy," Leach said.

Tacoma's Rahmel Dockery, a bounce back wide receiver from last year's class, is someone Leach said is a smooth runner. He said Denzell Dotson, an offensive lineman from Cactus High School in Arizona, is aggressive. "When he hits someone, he hits them so they remember it the next day," Leach said.

Keith Ewing, an outside linebacker from Bellaire High School, is a traditional linebacker who is good at eluding backs. He said Sam Flor, an offensive lineman from O'Dea High School in Seattle, is a guy who is passionate about playing football. "He's a guy who's disappointed when the game is over," Leach said.

Ioane Gauta, a nose tackle from Valencia High School and Fullerton Junior College in California, has been a captain on every team he's ever played on. Leach said Sam Jones, an offensive lineman from Fuquay-Varina High School and Pima Community College in Delaware, is currently set to play for the Cougs as an offensive lineman.

Leach said Gabriel Marks, a wide receiver from Venice High School in California, is a player who is great with the ball in his hands. Eduardo Middleton, an offensive lineman from Oceanside High School in California is someone Leach described as moving around really well. He said Alex Mitchell, an offensive lineman from Jefferson High School in Oregon, is a player who borders on mean.

Leach described linebacker Kache Palacio, from Serra High School in California, as a big guy who is just getting bigger. He said Khalil Pettway, an outside linebacker from Culver City High School in California, has muscles you didn't even know were possible. Niu Sale, an offensive lineman from Los Alamitos High School and L.A. Harbor Community College in California, is a player Leach described as just flattening one guy after the next.

He said B.J. Salmonson, an offensive lineman from Nooksack Valley High School in Everson, Wash. is a player who plays both sides of the ball. Leach said Jacob Tuivaiave, an outside linebacker from Washington High School in Tacoma, is someone who could be a defensive end for the Cougs. Destiny Vaeao, from Tafuna High School in Pago Pago, American Samoa, is a player who is light on his feet with great coordination. And Leach said Pierson Villarrubia, an offensive lineman from Lakeshore High School in Mandeville, La., is a player who is good on his feet.

Overall Leach said he's very proud of what his new coaching staff was able to accomplish during the six weeks they were out recruiting players for the 2012 season.

"I think we have a class that's comparable to any in the conference," Leach said. "We did in a month and a half what a lot of staffs did in a year and a half."

While looking for players for the 2012 recruiting class, Leach said it was important to get offensive linemen and defensive linemen. He said he thinks the Cougs did a good job picking up players to fill the defensive line and he's hoping to focus on getting more offensive linemen as the recruiting season continues into April.

He said it was also important for his coaching staff to really open up the southern California market for WSU, as well as the islands. But, most important, is for the Cougs to lock down the state of Washington.

"We got a few guys, but with such a short time frame…that's what we'll be looking for in the spring," Leach said.

LEACH ALSO TOOK THE TIME to introduce the new members of his staff who were in attendance at the dinner. Those included:

  • Mike Breske, defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach – Leach said he couldn't be happier to get to work with.

  • Jeff Choate, linebackers coach, was there – Leach described him as "a true western guy."

  • Joe Salave'a, defensive line coach – Leach said Salave'a did a tremendous job recruiting and helped the Cougs get a foothold in the islands.

  • Paul Volero, outside linebackers coach – Leach credited him with helping sign safety Feddie Davey from Norland High School in Miami.

  • Eric Russell, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator – from the University of Tennessee.

  • Jim Mastro, running backs coach – Leach said when Mastro was still at Nevada he invited him down to Texas Tech to lecture the coaching team on their running game. "We copied everything he did and had a huge year rushing the ball. So when I got this job I hired him," Leach said.

  • Dennis Simmons, outside receivers coach – Leach said he worked with him for 10 years at Texas Tech.

  • Clay McGuire, offensive line coach – he came to WSU after serving as the offensive line coach for East Carolina University.

  • Eric Morris, inside receivers coach – he played for Leach at the Texas Tech.

  • Dave Emerick, association athletic director and chief of staff for football – Leach said he's known Emerick since he was 18 years old.

  • Antonio Huffman, director of football operations – Leach said Huffman was director of football operations at East Carolina University before coming to work with Leach at Texas Tech.

    "Everybody we brought iN ... we looked for people who are familiar with winning," Leach said.

    He said he wants this staff and coaches to be familiar with what it feels like to win and to bring that energy to Cougar football. He said while looking for people to join his coaching staff it was also important to look at more than their records and stats.

    "You want to look at their body of work as a whole," Leach said. "And make sure that shows their good in their traits as coaches."
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