Updated Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 01:26 PM
PULLMAN — Mike Leach stood behind a podium a year ago and said more than a few nice things about the first class of football players to sign at Washington State during his tenure as coach.
But there will be one key difference between those players and the ones expected to sign with the Cougars on Wednesday.
"It's a better group, and we've had a full year to recruit them, which I think is really important," Leach said. "They're more thoroughly evaluated, plus we've invested more time recruiting them, so it's shaping up as a really good class."
As Scout.com national recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman puts it: "Last year ... they couldn't put a class together of needs, but more of bodies. This year, they can get needs and wants."
At least 21 players are expected to sign binding national letters of intent Wednesday to play at WSU. Three junior-college transfers signed scholarship papers in January and already are enrolled at the school, and two players who signed last February — grayshirt offensive lineman B.J. Salmonson and receiver Robert Lewis — also have enrolled as part of the recruiting class for this year.
Leach's stated emphasis on recruiting linemen appears to have been fulfilled. The Cougars' recruiting class is expected to include six offensive linemen and five defensive linemen, including JC transfer Jacob Seydel, who is already on campus.
Seydel, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive tackle from Riverside Community College, almost played at UCLA in 2012 and "may have started this year" if he had, Huffman said.
The volume of offensive-line recruits — four of whom are rated as three-stars by Scout.com — should help create depth at a position that grew woefully thin last season. And the Cougars also are bringing in three receivers and three running backs to replenish the skill positions so essential to Leach's offense.
But the gem of the class is four-star quarterback prospect Tyler Bruggman, a Phoenix product who chose WSU over several offers from other BCS schools. Scout.com rates Bruggman as the 25th-best quarterback in this class, and he's the only player committed to WSU with a four-star Scout ranking.
And while the major recruiting news outlets generally view WSU's class as rating in the lower tier of the Pac-12, a strong showing by the conference means the Cougars could still rank among the nation's top 40.
Scout.com ranked WSU's 2012 class at 53rd nationally. Rivals.com slotted it 55th. The Cougars haven't had a top-40 class since 2010.
Leach said he thinks the Cougars made decent headway in the state of Washington — six players expected to sign are in-state prospects — as well as in Southern California.
He expects to play quite a few freshmen again in 2013. The Cougars played 17 freshmen last year.