DEREK MOORE (WSU photo)

Cougar head coach Mike Leach is effusive in his praise of rising sophomore end Derek Moore

IF DEREK MOORE’S ears haven’t been burning, the rising sophomore might want to get them checked. WSU coach Mike Leach was downright effusive Wednesday when talking with reporters about the rangy defensive end.

And two weeks earlier, in conversation with WSU fans gathered in Bellevue, WSU assistant coach Roy Manning gushed about Moore, likening him to Cougar sackmaster Hercules Mata’afa.

He’s going to blow up this year,” Manning said. “He’ll one day be the best defender on the team.”

As the Cougars open spring practices this week in preparation for the 2017 season, there is no missing the expectations on Moore.

The 6-2, 246-pounder from Crenshaw High in Los Angeles “had one of the best freshman years in the conference,” last season, Leach said. “He gets better and better as time goes on.”

In fact, when it comes to consistency and effort, Moore turned in a freshman campaign that ranks among the best he’s coached, Leach said.

Sometimes “you’ll have freshmen with flashes” of excellence but it’s not consistent, he said.

Moore, however, “came in ready to play – he was consistent, very impressive … he showed more consistency as a freshman than most I’ve ever coached with or been involved with.”

As a true freshman last season, Moore appeared in all 13 games for the Cougars and started two. He recorded 16 tackles, including one for loss in the win over UCLA.

Questions of whether he would line up this spring on the defensive line or rush linebacker appear settled, at least for now, according to WSU staffers. He’ll work up front at defensive end.

Moore was named the All-Los Angeles City Section I Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Crenshaw and was ranked the No. 81 outside linebacker prospect in the nation by Scout.com in the 2016 recruiting cycle. He chose WSU over Utah, Nevada and UNLV.

NOTABLE:

Leach said all of the team's new, January enrollees looked good in the weight room and in Midnight Manuevers -- especially the high school guys who are skipping proms and all their senior year activities. "They're just coming in ... and running with college kids who've been at it two, three, four years," the coach said. "They've adapted well, all of 'em."

Those early enrollees are JC transfers Robert Valencia, Sean Harper and Easop Winston, prepsters Zaire Webb and Anthony White, and 2016 class holdover Isaiah Love.

RELATED STORY: Leach fires up a pithy run down of his team ahead of spring ball


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