O'Connell part of 'big' changes in Pullman
Posted on May 3, 2013 at 6:51 PM
Updated Friday, Dec 6 at 2:30 PM
At age eight, Cody O’Connell wasn’t allowed to play with kids his age – he was too big. Brand new to the game, the 135-pound youngster was forced to play with 12- and 13-year-olds.
“We had a big argument with the coaches and the league,” said O’Connell’s father, Jay. “They wouldn’t let him play with the 8-year-olds, but they would let him play the next league up.”
At 6-foot-8 and 350 pounds, the 18-year-old offensive tackle is the biggest recruit in the history of Washington State University football. The native of Wenatchee, Wash., is ready to play with the older “kids” at WSU.
“He’s big and likes to hit things,” Coach Mike Leach said. “He’s our kind of guy.”
This spring, Leach closed the books on his second recruiting class with the Cougars, landing 24 high school recruits for the 2013 season. While other recruits may be more highly touted, none is physically bigger than O’Connell, who comes to Pullman as the Cougars’ largest signee in the program’s 120-year history. With his first two recruiting classes, Leach has proved he does indeed like big offensive linemen. In the past two years combined, Leach has brought in a total of 14 offensive linemen, six of whom were part of the 2013 recruiting class – all brought in to compete for a spot on the starting line of five.
That size is evident in the six new linemen coming to Pullman starting in June. In addition to O’Connell, the other five recruits all weigh in at more than 285 pounds while all but one stands 6-foot-5 or taller. One notable recruit that comes close to O’Connell’s size is Riley Sorensen, who stands 6-foot-5, weighing 320 pounds.
That doesn't mean O'Connell or any other of the freshmen will move into the starting lineup. But it's part of Leach's plan to build a massive offensive line for his pass-happy offense.
“Like any freshman, there’s definitely going to be things he’s got to learn and things to develop on,” Leach said, speaking on O’Connell’s chances of starting next season. “I do think there’s going to be some shuffling in that lineup – it’ll just be based on performance and who plays well.”
Scott Devereaux, who coached O’Connell for four years at Wenatchee High School, said the recruit would rely use his strength and athleticism to block opponents, often several at a time.
“I think he’s a good fit,” Devereaux said. “I know Leach likes really big tackles. Well, he’s got a skyscraper for one now.”
That’s been the case for O’Connell since he was a youngster, his father said.
“Cody was always bigger than the rest of the kids,” Jay said. “The doctors always told us he was going to be 6-5 plus, so it was no shock to us that he got that size.”
While Cody’s size came as no surprise to some, consider the fact the second tallest member of his immediate family is his father, who stands 6-feet tall. His mother and sister stand 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-4, respectively.
“It was just kind of the luck of the draw for me,” O’Connell said of his size. “I work out a lot and just eat a lot of meals.”
But this Wenatchee boy is not just another “big belly” guy, according to Leach and Devereaux. Deveraux said the high school senior would regularly bench press 225 pounds at 25 repetitions per set, once maxing out at 390 pounds. By comparison, the strongest athletes at the 2013 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., recorded 38 repetitions.
“People would be surprised going into the weight room – it’s not just the big size, he’s got the incredible strength,” Deveraux said. “He’s got incredible feet for a guy his size and the strength to go with it.”
O’Connell said the choice was simple in choosing Washington State. The lineman said, once he got the offer to play for the Cougars, nothing else mattered.
“I didn’t really pay attention to my recruiting stock or other teams once I committed to WSU,” said O’Connell, who was drawn to the small-town nature of Pullman, much like his hometown.
Regardless of the size of the town, O’Connell has big things in mind for the Cougars and his own football career.
“That’s the reason I chose WSU,” he said. “Everything about it seems like it’s going to be big, and we’re going to go to Rose Bowls and we’re going to go win a lot of games. It’s just going to take some time to get to that level.”
The Murrow News Service provides stories written by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.