In the moments after Washington State dispatched California last week, Vince Mayle was a target of writers, curious about a lot of things. Like, considering he weighs 229 pounds, had any coach ever envisioned him as a tight end instead of a wide receiver?
“Not really,” Mayle said. “Just the way I’ve always been able to run in the open field ... I can really do things like a little guy.”
Mayle (MAY-lee) is a paradox in WSU’s system — still a pup, yet listed as a senior. More on that later.
He arrived in the summer from Sierra Junior College in Rocklin, Calif., and he showed tantalizing promise against the Bears.
Mayle shed a Cal cornerback who committed pass interference on a 35-yard “go“ route for WSU’s first touchdown.
And then, during a three-minute period of the third quarter when the Cougars took firm control, he caught a deep pass in the seam and bowled over unfortunate 180-pound Cal defensive back Kameron Walker on his way to a 72-yard scoring play.
Two long touchdowns, but, says Dennis Simmons, WSU’s outside receivers coach, “Arguably, it could have been four.”
That’s the keep-pushing atmosphere of the WSU program around Mayle, but it’s also an indication of what the coaches see in him.
“He had a couple of other opportunities,” said coach Mike Leach, “which, in the future, I imagine he’ll capitalize on.”
Simmons talks about how receivers like Gabe Marks and his hunger for the ball have rubbed off on Mayle, and indeed, Leach says he has seen a more aggressive Mayle as the season has developed.
“He’s stronger than he realizes he is,” Leach said. “And when he plays strong, he’s pretty tough to stop.”
It’s a reflection of the lure of Leach’s passing offense that without a full recruiting season in 2012 it attracted Marks, a four-star recruit from Los Angeles, and the Cougars followed it up by landing Mayle last year.
“It’s kind of like God puts people in your life for a particular reason at a particular time,” said Simmons, who had a big hand in recruiting Mayle. “It was kind of like, we clicked.”
For Mayle, too. He visited WSU, and “I just really liked the feel of the team. I liked the area, and how it was a small town. I could really focus on my schoolwork. My mom wants me to get a degree, so that was the first option — school first and then football.
“And Mike Leach happened to be there, so that made it that much better.”
He committed to the Cougars without other visits, but the competition was fierce nonetheless.
“At the end,” says Simmons, “Ohio State was trying to get him to come there, Miami was trying to get him to come down there. West Virginia ... Houston was relentless about trying to get him to come down there as well.
“He stayed true to his word, which as a coach, you always appreciate.”
The 6-foot-3 Mayle didn’t arrive at WSU until the summer, and as big as he is now, there was more of him then.
“I’m not going to tell you what he weighed,” said Simmons. The media guide lists him at 240, and Simmons says lightly, “It was around 240, give or take four or five pounds.”
Mayle is leaner now, and says he can run about 4.5. And just as Marks has been a mentor with ball skills and Dom Williams sets an example with good vertical routes, Mayle has rubbed off on fellow wideouts with his blocking.
“If you look at us on film, our guys block a lot better now,” said Simmons. “When they (receivers) get their hands on people, they’re going to try to punish them.”
Mayle was a recruiting target even though he might have a single year of major-college eligibility. His five-year NCAA “clock“ started at Shasta JC in 2009 when he played basketball, and then he left school to tend to a family situation, resurfacing at Sierra in 2012.
Behind the scene, the Cougars are compiling information for an appeal to the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement committee to get him a sixth year of eligibility.
John Lucier, WSU’s compliance director, said “very specific documentation“ is required, and the threshold for a successful appeal is “circumstances beyond the athlete’s control.”
“Time is of the essence,” says Lucier, referring both to WSU’s recruiting priorities and Mayle’s future.
Judging from his day in Berkeley, it’s a future with possibilities.