The class that made its own stars: How WSU’s recruiting class of 2013 resurrected Cougar football

The WSU Cougars’ 2013 recruiting class might go down as one of the best in program history. Their singular goal: To turn the program around.

When Washington State first expressed interest in senior offensive tackle Cole Madison, the Burien native and longtime Husky fan almost didn’t bother taking a visit.

“I’ll be blunt, I thought (WSU football) was kind of a joke,” Madison says. “I had no drive to come here, to be honest.”

Kicker Erik Powell grew up in-state, in Vancouver, but sheepishly admits to not knowing where WSU’s campus was when the Cougars’ first approached him. Running back Gerard Wicks says he knew “next to nothing” about WSU football aside from the fact that when the Cougars were recruiting him they were dead last in the Pac-12.

That’s how relevant WSU football was in 2012, as Mike Leach’s staff painstakingly worked to compile a recruiting class that would serve as the keystone from which to rebuild a program that hadn’t had a winning season in almost a decade.

WSU’s 2013 recruiting class was the first full class Leach’s staff identified, scouted and lured to Pullman from start to finish.

This class was supposed to springboard the Cougars’ football program up from the depths of the Pac-12 basement it had languished in for years.

Four years later, as 24th-ranked WSU opens its 2017 season against Montana State this Saturday at Martin Stadium, expectations in Pullman are the highest they’ve been in 15 years, and it’s no coincidence that Madison, Powell and Wicks are just three of the 12 fifth-year seniors listed on the Cougars’ veteran-laden depth chart.

Nine of these fifth-year seniors joined the team on scholarship in 2013: Isaac Dotson, Daniel Ekuale, Robert Lewis, Madison, Jamal Morrow, Cody O’Connell, Peyton Pelluer, B.J. Salmonson and Wicks. Three more – Powell, quarterback Luke Falk and linebacker Nate DeRider – came to WSU as walk-ons that summer. Two others,…

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