Cougs' CB depth would cushion possible loss

CORNERBACK AIRE JUSTIN has been reported to be in the appeals process for failing an NCAA test for banned substances, though that has not been confirmed by WSU due to the Family Education and Privacy Act. If the report turns out to be accurate, and the appeal fails, what does it mean for the Cougs at corner and for Justin, a redshirt senior?

For Justin, the result would be fairly clear cut. Based on how the NCAA has ruled in previous cases, he would almost certainly be suspended for 12 months by the NCAA from the date he tested positive and, being a fifth year senior, his college career would be over.

A word here about the NCAA's banned substance list. A few years back, Oregon State o-lineman Tavita Thompson was trying to drop a few pounds. He took a diet supplement, purchased over the counter, that he didn't know contained an NCAA banned ingredient. The NCAA suspended him for a year and flatly denied his appeal.

Yes, a legal, over-the-counter product that can be picked up at Wal-mart can cost an NCAA student-athlete an entire year of eligibility.

The point here is that it's too early to jump to conclusions about what Justin may have allegedly tested positive for -- for all anyone knows, it could have been a protein shake at GNC that contained an ingredient banned by the NCAA.

AS FOR THE Cougs, if Justin were to be suspended, they have some depth on the corner that will help cushion the blow. That doesn't mean WSU wouldn't take a hit -- Justin is having a solid spring and the Cougs aren't as flush at CB as they are at, say, wide receiver.

Daniel Simmons has been out this spring while rehabbing a shoulder injury. He's likely your No. 1 starter at the cornerback position when healthy.

On the other island, Justin and Nolan Washington were two of the prime candidates expected to duke it out on into the fall for the other starting corner job, assuming a healthy Simmons. But Damante Horton has played a lot with the 1s this spring and is the wildcard to the starting mix. He was running with the 1s alongside Washington, much of the time and he turned in play that was at times solid, other times excellent. Tracy Clark is also in the mix, as is Brandon Golden.

If the report about Justin is true and if it turns out he is suspended for the year, an outcome that fan site in its report said was "likely", the Cougs at corner look to be fairly stout with Simmons and Washington or Horton as the starters, and then with either Washington or Horton at the ready and in rotation. But if a run on injury were to hit, that's where things could get tenuous.

As for when something definitive will be known on Justin's future, that's anyone's guess. The NCAA generally takes their sweet time. And they generally take an extraordinarily rigid stance. Kentucky's Jeremy Jarmon two years ago said he took a supplement purchased over-the-counter from a nutrition store for 15 days while trying to rehab from an injury. The NCAA suspended him for a year and denied his appeal, effectively ending his college career.

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