WSU verbal from Bellevue has boffo beginning

SEATTLE -- Bellevue High defensive tackle Marcus Griffin smiled late Saturday night when he was told that the Cougars were tied with USC late in the fourth quarter. Granted, he was already happy before the news broke. He was walking off the field at Husky Stadium, still reveling in 3A Bellevue's 45-7 win against 4A Skyline at the Emerald City Kickoff Classic.

The game was billed as a clash of titans, pitting the two most dominant programs in the state over recent years. But Griffin's night played out more like a light scrimmage than a tough matchup with a perennial powerhouse.

Skyline's second play on offense proved an ominous indicator for how the rest of its night would unfold. Griffin, who is verbally committed to WSU, shed two defenders, busted through the middle of the Spartans' offensive front and threw quarterback Kilton Anderson to the ground. It was the first of many one-sided plays in a game that was decided by the second quarter.

The matchup many pegged as an epic clash was nothing more than a methodical beat-down: Bellevue led 35-0 by halftime.

Griffin anchored the Wolverines on the offensive and defensive lines.

"I think he's got good quickness," Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff said of Griffin. "He's learning. At the end of last year he really came on. It was awesome. He worked really hard through the spring. I think his pad level was high tonight, but he made a lot of good plays."

Listed at 6-3, 290-pounds, Griffin barely played in the second half. It got so lopsided in the second quarter that the Bellevue coach pulled him, along with most of his starters, before allowing all to re-enter at the start of the second half.

Griffin played both ways, lining up at center and defensive tackle. Goncharoff said he could play either spot in college, though a short conversation with Griffin revealed his preference for tackling rather than blocking.

"I'm a defensive tackle," he said. "Some people want me for offense, but I think I'm a defensive-oriented player."

On a night of lopsided stats there was one that proved especially telling: Bellevue gained 324 rushing yards on the ground. Griffin was a big part of that.

What else stood out about his performance?

"I just think his first step and his ability to get off the ball so quickly," said Brandon Huffman,'s national recruiting analyst. "He's not as tall as a lot of d-tackles. He's short and more compact. He's able to get that leverage and play pretty low."

Whether lining up at defensive tackle or center, Griffin routinely pushed his opponent backward a few yards – minimum. He also showed a knack for engaging, then using his arms to rip through offensive linemen. Before Goncharoff subbed him out, he faced mostly double teams but was nonetheless able to penetrate. Also telling is the fact that Griffin wasn't facing lowly competition: Skyline has won state championships in five out of the last six seasons. Four of those came in the 4A classification, one in 3A.

"He said this is the first time he realized he is going to spend the whole year getting double and triple teamed," Huffman said. "It wasn't until tonight when he realized this is what it's going to be like."

Though he didn't seem to have trouble adjusting. Griffin helped clog Skyline's running lanes and opened up some big ones of his own. However, Huffman said it's pretty clear what position he will play at the next level.

"I think he's a much better d-lineman than he is an offensive lineman. I think he's a perfect d-tackle, three-technique, whatever you want to use him at," Huffman said. "I don't think his heart is on offense. His heart is on defense."

The Cougars think so too, which is why they began recruiting him well before other big-name programs showed interest. Griffin said he's been overwhelmed by the attention from Mike Leach's coaching staff – in a good way.

"I have a plethora of coaches who are recruiting me," he said. "I'm talking to Coach Leach, Coach Yost, Coach Salave'a, Coach Wilson, the defensive coordinator (Mike Breske). I'm talking to everyone."

Griffin, who seemed quiet but confident, detailed easily what first drew him to Pullman. He said he doesn't plan to take any of his official visits until his senior season is finished, but is already plenty familiar with the area.

"I went out to (Pullman) two or three times and liked the atmosphere," he said. "I got around players, got around coaches, and I loved it. My family loved it."

He said the Cougars are looking at him at defensive end or defensive tackle and that he has a few more things to work on before he makes the step from high school to college.

"I can stop the run but I think stopping the pass is another thing I need to add to my tools before I get to college," he said. ranks Griffin three-stars and the No. 28 defensive tackle in the country. In addition to WSU, he holds offers from Arizona, California, Colorado, Colorado State, Idaho, Nevada, Washington and Wyoming. Huffman thinks he would be a huge get for a Cougars defensive line that has gradually improved during the past three seasons.

"I think right now he's the headliner of their class," Huffman said. "He's got the best relationship with them. He feels slighted by some schools who took so long to offer. That's where I think WSU has the advantage is that they were the first, and they made him a priority."

How loaded with talent is Bellevue? Five of their starters have FBS scholarship offers. Besides Griffin, there's DE Shane Bowman (Oregon State verbal); RB Budda Baker (deciding between Oregon, Texas A&M, UW, ASU and UCLA); OG Morgan Richey (offers from Colorado State, Air Force, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota); and S Tim Haehl (offers from Idaho, Nevada, UNLV and Yale).

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