Future Coug WR has freshman goal in mind

IF FUTURE COUGAR River Cracraft is anything like the last Santa Margarita High player who earned his league's offensive player of the year award before embarking on a football career at Washington State, then the crimson faithful should be grinning from ear to ear right now.

Cracraft had an unforgettable senior season.

The 6-2, 205-pound receiver hauled in 51 receptions for 935 yards and nine touchdowns, helping his team advance to the second round of the league playoffs despite the early-season loss of four star quarterback and Nebraska commit Johnny Stanton.

On Monday, Cracraft's efforts were recognized as he was named the Trinity League Offensive Player of the Year.

The last Santa Margarita player who headed to WSU after earning league offensive player of the year honors was Billy Newman, back in 1996. Newman was a star running back at Santa Margarita who then became one of the great WSU defensive backs of his era and starred on WSU's 10-win team of 2001.

"It wasn't really a goal of mine, but it's definitely nice to be recognized like that," a humble Cracraft said of his league's recognition. "It was great to receive the award because Trinity is supposedly one of the hardest leagues in the country. The competition is extreme and I'll be seeing a lot of players from our league in the Pac-12 next year."

Some of those players include a trio of Cracraft's teammates. Linebacker Connor O'Brien and center Dane Crane are both headed to the Washington, while defensive end Nick Begg is headed to Arizona State.

Meanwhile, Stanton is headed to Nebraska and is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in week four during the Eagles' 35-27 win over St. Bonaventure. The team played the rest of the year with sophomore QB Kyle Sweet.

"I think that experience prepared me a lot," Cracraft said. "We had a lot of adversity and it was more than most people can imagine. Washington State had some adversity themselves recently with the coaching change, but they've been able to push through it. I did this season as well."

NOW THAT HIS high school career has come to a close, Cracraft's primary focus is getting his body ready to compete at the Pac-12 level. Running backs coach and area recruiter Jim Mastro paid Cracraft an in home visit on Sunday and the message was clear to the prep standout: Get in WSU shape.

"I want to play as a freshman next season and Coach Mastro told me I need to be both mentally and physically prepared to arrive to Pullman," Cracraft said. "I talk with him and Coach Eric Morris (inside receivers) at least once a week.

"They've told me the biggest problem with their freshmen this season was that they weren't in shape to make it through the season. It was a huge issue for them because they lost a lot of players due to injury, so it's important for me to be in great shape and physically strong."

Cracraft said he's already taken that advice to heart and is hard at work in the weight room to get his body Pac-12 ready. Cracraft and several of his high school teammates (including Stanton and Begg) are working out at the Sports Performance Academy based out of Rancho Santa Margarita.

"There are a lot of other guys who are taking a few weeks off, but I've already started getting ready," Cracraft said. "I want to play next year, so I have to get my body ready. Right now I'm doing more explosive lifts and doing less weight, but for more reps. My main focus is to get stronger. I don't want to put on a lot of weight, but I want to build muscle and retain my quickness."

Cracraft is hoping to take his transformed body to the Palouse and was scheduled to graduate from Santa Margarita in late May. But Cracraft said he is now in the process of going through a bridge program at his prep school that would allow him to arrive to Pullman the first week of May, just in time to register for the first WSU summer session and begin working out with the team.

"My commitment is 100 percent solid to Washington State," Cracraft said. "I haven't talked to coaches from other schools in months, but it wouldn't matter because I wouldn't go anywhere else. I'm so excited to get out there. I can't stop thinking about it and my whole family is pumped to watch some games next season."

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