PULLMAN – The text came in late and long.
Washington State wide receiver River Cracraft’s text message to his coach, Mike Leach, was one of just scores of electronic communications received every day by a man who predicts cellphones will be the downfall of, if not civilization, at least dating.
Cracraft’s lengthy missive was the latest and perhaps definitive lobbying effort in the hopes that WSU’s coaches would offer a football scholarship to Kyle Sweet, Cracraft’s former high school teammate at Santa Margarita in southern California.
Sweet eventually got the scholarship and played for the Cougars as a true freshman last season. Leach said it was Sweet’s abilities, not Cracraft’s petitioning, that caused the Cougars to finally extend an offer. But Leach noted that Cracraft provided some clarity that was useful when coming to a final decision.
Why, for example, a 6-foot, 190-pound receiver recruit was playing quarterback. And punting.
“When their quarterback went down he played quarterback, he returned stuff,” Leach said. “We were impressed with his versatility and the fact that anything he did, he did well. Talk to (Cracraft) kind of clarified which positions (Sweet) played and why. Anywhere they needed it, he was the guy they could plug in.”
Although Sweet was lightly recruited, and only got his WSU offer relatively late in the recruiting game, he did not redshirt and made an impact during his first year on campus. His first start came in the Rose Bowl. His older brother, Logan, was a wide receiver for the UCLA Bruins who had his senior night before the game.
The younger Sweet played well, catching four passes for 53 yards in the WSU win. His best game came the previous week, when he made seven catches for 77 yards against Arizona State, including a critical 36-yard reception on third down in the fourth quarter to set up WSU’s go-ahead touchdown.
“He came off the bench against UCLA, where his whole family is and his brother’s playing for UCLA, he caught balls on three third-and-longs to convert them against UCLA,” Leach said. “That’s impressive. Freshman in the Rose Bowl, first time out and he did a good job.”
Sweet is the backup H-receiver on WSU’s Week 1 depth chart, behind junior Robert Lewis. With two seniors in the two-deeps at Y-receiver, the other inside spot, it’s more than likely Sweet will have a starting role in the near future.
Leach has long said that it is nearly impossible to tell which recruits will play their first year. The four-star players with many scholarship offers are physically ready, but how well a freshman adapts to new friends, teachers, classes and living away from home for the first time determines just as much whether they can contribute early.
Sweet’s quickness and intuitive route-running gave him the physical tools to make an impact on the field. His willingness to learn took care of the mental side.
“He’s a pretty savvy guy, a guy who understands the football field already really well,” inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said. “Typically, the thing I’m pushing Kyle more than anything else is just to compete, have that passion every day and understand why he’s here and what he’s trying to accomplish.”
Sweet had the single-minded focus to get on the field early. He also had some helpful brotherly advice.
“I told him I’ve seen a lot of kids come into college and get the opportunity to play as a freshman and completely blow the chance,” Logan Sweet said. “Either they feel like they don’t deserve to or they don’t step up to the challenge. I’ve always told him, ‘You can’t afford to do that. You don’t have the time.’ Yeah, WSU was his only offer, but he’s taken that so seriously and let everybody know he deserves to be there.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.