Seen & Heard

I CAN'T TELL YOU how gratifying it is to see kids from small towns ---- the kids largely ignored by the so-called national recruiting experts --- get shots at and then succeed in the Pac-10. There are no better examples than Cougar linemen Calvin Armstrong of Centralia and Rien Long of Anacortes.

The 6-foot-6, 287-pound Long will be starting at left defensive tackle this season and already is on the radar screen of NFL draft guru Mel Kiper. He's only a redshirt freshman. A fitting testament to his tremendous athleticism was found in last week's final scrimmage before the Idaho game. Long not only picked off a pass, an unusual feat for a DT, but he returned it for a TD.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-7, 315-pound Armstrong has worked his way up to No. 2 left offensive tackle behind another small town kid, Chewelah sophomore Josh Parrish (6-6, 296). Moreover, Armstrong has been installed as the Cougars' second tight end in the two-tight-end-formations the Cougs occasionally deploy. He's a redshirt freshman.

The starting tight end, of course, is yet another small town kid who was ignored by the recruiting experts: Fifth-year-senior and converted running back Jeremy Thilebahr (6-2, 233) of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Thielbahr, who figures to line up this week across from his brother-in-law (Idaho DE Ryan Knowles), could be fending off a serious challenge for the starting nod next week against Boise State or Colorado the week after. That's because senior Mark Baldwin (6-5, 248) the would-be starter coming into the season after Russell Mizin failed to make grades, is rapidly recovering from the knee injury that has sidelined him for most of August. Baldwin has been back in action for about a week and his said to be earmarked for as many as 25 plays against Idaho.

IN THE NATIONAL EYE

THREE YOUNG COUGARS who weren't ignored by the national recruiting types are showing that the hype around them was deserved: True freshmen Trandon Harvey, Jimmy Wilson and Allen Thompson. All are on track to play this season. Harvey, a weight-lifting fiend with great wheels, nabbed a 56-yard TD in the final scrimmage a week ago. He offers depth at a position sorely in need of it. Wilson and Thompson offer similar depth at the already-thin running back spot where back up John Tippins' knee injury has made the situation downright scary. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Where's Brad Philley when you need him?

IN THIS CORNER

ERIK COLEMAN MAY have been edged out by tenacious Jason David for the starting cornerback spot alongside Marcus Trufant in the Cougar secondary, but dollars to donuts you'll hear Coleman's name called early and often this season by Bob Robertson.

Coleman, a true sophomore from Spokane, is just too good an athlete to keep off the field. He'll see a ton of action in a variety of capacities. Look for him deep as a kickoff return specialist; as the nickel in the nickel package, which the Cougs plan to run more of this year; and as the cornerback alongside Trufant. That's right --- as the corner opposite Trufant. As much as the scrappy David is the starter, defensive coordinator Bill Doba said he basically plans to rotate the two talented youngsters, perhaps as frequently as every series. David has a slight edge, so that's why the starting spot goes to him. It's as simple as that, and a development that bodes very well for the future of the WSU secondary.

David's ascension is no surprise to anyone on hand for last April's Crimson & Gray game in Spokane. There, he showed that his ability to close on the ball is as honed as anyone on the team. Moreover, he's a natural corner (i.e. cover) guy, whereas Coleman is a more natural safety (a position he'll likely play again in 2002 when Lamont Thompson and Billy Newman are in NFL camps).

NOTABLE NOTES

Freshman Norvell Holmes has been moved from defensive line to offensive line ... Broadcast legend Bob Robertson will soon be inducted into the Inland Empire (Spokane) Sports Hall of Fame, where he will join, among others, Palouse country native Stan Witter Sr., the grandfather of CF.C editors Greg, John and Steve Witter. If there's any sense in Pullman, Robertson also will be inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame when the next class is unveiled in October.


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