NEW CAMP ENERGY EVIDENT, SAYS PREP COACH
WASHINGTON STATE's summer youth camp last week was more energized and informative than in years past, according to a sampling of high school coaches who brought their players to Pullman. One Spokane coach who has been coming to WSU for years spoke at length with CF.C about the new Wazzu camp experience under Cougars' first-year head man Paul Wulff.
Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna had rave reviews for Wulff and staff. While previous Wazzu summer camps were solid, said McKenna, Wulff's first camp at WSU was a different animal.
"I personally liked it a lot more," said McKenna. "There was much more energy from the Washington State staff. Not that there wasn't instruction before from the Washington State coaches, but this year it seemed like they truly, truly wanted to be there. They were having fun.
"It just seemed very energetic, coaches were so willing to help in any way they could. The competition was great and overall, I just thought the whole camp was great."
Soaring gas prices limited the overall number of participants that Wulff and recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen had hoped to bring in this year. And it would also seem probable fuel costs precluded at least some of the big name type prospects WSU likely invited -- but it looks like the Cougars still brought in around 575-600 campers. WSU's camp the last two years hosted roughly 450 to 500 players.
So it was bigger...just not as big as Wulff and crew were aiming for. But more than the attendance increase, the big difference, said McKenna, was the coaching staff.
"Chris Ball was our host/liaison -- he was even on the floor when we were checking out, which was the first time ever I can remember a coach being there to check us out," said McKenna. "They has always been around... but this was on our floor at checkout, talking to us.
"He's a great, great guy, as is their whole staff. Malik (Roberson) was very open with our kids. And anything we wanted on defense, d-line stuff, we would get as coaches. Chris Ball, Travis Niekamp, (Mike) Levenseller, I mean they all were great. Rich (Rasmussen) was great -- they're just a great staff."
BACK IN FEBRUARY, Rasmussen told CF.C the Cougar staff would be putting in a lot of work to ensure all participants received individual instruction, with the goal to have them come away feeling the WSU camp was a great experience.
It seems they took the same approach with the prep coaches.
"I would say personally, (a big) benefit was to our coaches," said McKenna. "I wouldn't say schematically so much, but to be able to go and sit down with coach Ball or Malik and ask; 'Why do you do what you do with this technique, or that technique?' And he'd demonstrate or show us on video why they do it and how it works. And that's probably much more important to us (coaches).
"The individual time for our coaches to be able to talk to their coaches was very important. And the competition, the 9-on-7s, 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s, that was a great experience for our kids."
AMONG THE CAMP participants was WSU offeree and Gonzaga Prep DE/TE Travis Long, who had an MVP type of outing in Pullman.
"Travis did real well," said McKenna. "We put his hand on the ground. He was a camp MVP on their defensive line. He got after it, did real well. And as a deep snapper too he did great."
Note: Look for an article Tuesday on Long, as he talks Washington State camp experience, recruiting and more.
Anthony Luna also had a very solid showing, said McKenna. Washington State has not offered Luna but he might be one to watch over the course of the upcoming season.
THE 2009 CLASS is front and center but recruiting is also about future classes, the ones beyond the current cycle.
With Wulff and staff having a full year at WSU to also work on the 2010 class, building those relationships and talking about next year's WSU summer camp over the course of the year, there might well be another increase in quantity, and quality, next summer -- if the "generosity and expertise" McKenna said he experienced this year out on the Palouse is any indication.
"They did an amazing job...we could not have left happier and the kids had a great, great experience," said McKenna.
ONE TO WATCH:
Keep an eye out for Gonzaga Prep sophomore-to-be Bishop Sankey -- he earned one of the running back MVP awards at Washington State's camp. There are a few brief clips of him at youtube.com.