Seen & Heard 7/16

I WAS DELIGHTED TO read last week that Cougar senior corner <b>Jason David</b> is one of four Pac-10 players on the 2003 watch list for the Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive back. As much as I love Jason, though, there's another Cougar DB I'd have put on the list instead: free safety <b>Erik Coleman</b>.

I think Coleman, the fourth-year senior-to-be and scrappy pride of Spokane's Lewis & Clark High, is one of the most underrated defensemen to come out of Pullman in years. Last season he led the team in tackles with 86 -- 58 of them unassisted. And get this: He played with a separated right shoulder for virtually the entire second half of the campaign! Surgery to repair it is why he missed spring workouts.

Erik hits like a truck (just ask Rich Alexis) and always seems to me in the right place at the right time. Last season, for instance, he scored three TDs -- one via interception, one via fumble return and another following a blocked punt -- and produced seven pass deflections/break ups.

He's also steady as they come returning kickoffs. Last season he returned eight for 154 yards. For his career, he's fielded 25 balls for 556 yards --- that's 22.2 hashes per return.

Another thing about Erik is that he's a marvelous team leader. In fact, word out of Pullman is that he's been elected defensive captain for 2003, with Matt Kegel voted lead cat on offense.

In many ways, Erik reminds me of one of his mentors and one of my all-time favorite Cougars: Billy Newman.

All summer I've been waiting for one of the pre-season magazines to recognize Coleman's immense talent. And finally I've been rewarded -- twice, no less. Athlon's picked him for its preseason All-Pac-10 first team and Lindy's put him on its second team along with DE Isaac Brown and punter Kyle Basler.

On that same note, another Spokane kid who I've been hoping would get some props in a national magazine --- senior defensive tackle Jeremey Williams --- finally broke through with a much-deserved nod from Street & Smith's on its All-Pac-10 preseason second team. Basler and kicker Drew Dunning joined Jeremey on that second unit.

Other Cougars who have received preseason all-conference plaudits in one form or another by one magazine or another include DB Jason David, OL Calvin Armstrong, RB Jermaine Green and WR Devard Darling.

Four more Cougs who I think will make a run for all-conference recognition this season are DE D.D. Acholonu, DT Tai Tupai, LB Will Derting and OL Josh Parrish.

* Besides David, who led the nation in INTs last season with seven in ten games, the other Pac-10 players who are on the Thorpe Award watch list are Oregon safety Keith Lewis, and Arizona State's dynamic duo of cornerback R.J. Oliver and safety Jason Shivers.

* Erik Coleman, by the way, could still get into the running for the Thorpe Award as the season unfolds. A year ago, Rien Long wasn't on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, yet we all know who was holding the hardware at year's end.

* One final note about young Mr. Coleman. Barring injury, when all is said and done on his Cougar career, he will have started 29 games in crimson and played in 11 others. That makes him a walking testament to how random the recruiting game is. Erik garnered but a one-star rating coming out of high school and received scholie offers from only two Pac-10 schools: WSU and Oregon State. Yet he played as a true freshman and has been a starter since his sophomore year.

* WSU leg-men Dunning and Basler have teamed up with return man Sammy Moore to win high praise from College Football News, which rates WSU's special teams unit the fifth-best in the nation for 2003. Dunning, by the way, needs 109 points to pass Jason Hanson's WSU career scoring record of 328 points.

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