Cougs eye American Samoa 'backer

AFTER LANDING WHAT one insider calls the best Samoan prospect in years in Destiny Vaeao in the 2012 class, what's next for the Cougars in and around those islands this recruiting cycle? It starts with a 6-2, 220 pound linebacker – a guy who can cover a lot of space and who is being called at this early stage the best American Samoa prospect in the '13 class.

Earning that early distinction is Tafuna's Ben Waterhouse (6-2, 220), and he's squarely on the Washington State radar, along with other schools.

"He is by far right now, the best player we have… Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, they've all called on him. So has San Diego State and Houston," said Brandon Smart, the executive director of Field House 100, a non-profit organization in Samoa that works to help student-athletes go on to college.

NO ONE HAS their finger on the recruiting pulse of Samoa the way Smart does, and he says Waterhouse isn't only D-I prospect coming out of American Samoa this year.

"I don't feel I have that one big-time (prospect) yet, that stellar player like Destiny Vaeao. He was the best we'd had in 5-6 years. But once this class gets a little bigger, we have a lot -- a lot -- of hybrid players who can play a lot of different positions. I think top to bottom, it's going to be a really good class," said Smart.

As for Waterhouse, he does not have an offer yet, the recruiting process in America Samoa for '13 won't hit full speed for a while yet, (and the focus right now is still on finding potential new college homes for the D-II 2012 guys). But during and immediately after the May Evaluation wraps up, Waterhouse and others very well could hold some FBS offers. WSU is expected to send Joe S'alavea down during the six week May Eval period later this year.

"He's so long, he can cover a lot of space," said Smart of Waterhouse. "He can drop (into coverage) on third down or you can rush the QB with him. He just has such a long stride."

HE ALSO hits hard and goes through the ballcarrier or blocker. CF.C was able to view a highlight reel and his instincts, speed and tackling were noteworthy. Indeed, it was not just the flowing hair coming out the back of his helmet that was reminiscent of Sekope Kaufusi.

There's also that "potential" factor with Waterhouse, the one you're going to encounter with most any prospect coming out of American Samoa. Hardly any have played organized football for more than a season or two, they haven't been in a structured weight training program. In terms of facilities and such, it's night and day from many football programs you'll find in the States.

But you look at where they're at now in terms of playing ability despite all that, and project what might happen when they get into a college program -- that's what is driving WSU and other schools to make The Islands a dedicated recruiting stop.

Field House 100 has gotten tape out earlier and earlier each class and colleges have been able to get more information than they previously had been. Smart says they still clearly have a ways to go in that regard, but the difference between now and 5-6 years ago is pronounced.

"It's the high school coaches," said Smart. "They are doing a great job of identifying talent and developing it. We're not the be-all, know all, we're a support system. The coaches here have grown so much in the years we've been here. The situation is stacked against them monetary wise but they're doing a great job in coaching them and working to get their kids the opportunities to get off the island."

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