Cougar recruiting roundup

WITH 13 VERBAL commitments in hand and a host of talented undecideds penning the Cougs in among their top five, it's fairly safe to say WSU's recruiting efforts are in the downhill phase. It's too early to say they're cruisin' into the stretch run, but there certainly don't appear to be any speed bumps lurking.

Capitalizing on the momentum of back-to-back 10-win seasons and a 9-2 record heading into this weekend's Apple Cup, the Cougars have done a great job mining the talent on the home front and are now starting to see the fruits of their labor down south.

Two California prep standouts, lineman Dan Rowlands and defensive back Bernard Hicks, just gave firm verbal commitments to the Cougars, following on the heels of another Golden State product: three-star running back Ian Bell.

The game-day experience in Pullman offers a glimpse into the head of steam the Cougars have built. The group of prospects taking their official visits to Pullman on Saturdays includes undecided kids but also the guys who verballed with the Cougars earlier this year. By bringing verbal commits along for the proverbial ride, coaches are maximizing the game-day experience. Coupled with the team's winning ways on the field, the attitude and atmosphere permeating Pullman right now is infectious.

And it shows.

"It was so close-knit," Rowlands told Sunday after announcing his verbal commitment to the Cougars. "There weren't any cliques. Everybody hung out with everybody else."

"I just felt comfortable there," Hicks said. Hicks was a soft commit to WSU before Sunday. He called WSU secondary coach Ken Greene to seal the deal and make his pledge iron-clad. "It was like a home away from home."

Leo Talavou, another big-time OL prospect from California, hasn't been reached yet, but according to the youngster's father he had a great trip this past weekend. He still has three other visits planned. If Talavou, who checks in at 325 pounds, does choose the Cougs, it'll be with a twist of irony. Talavou's Fountain Valley team gave Los Alamitos its only loss so far this year. Los Alamitos is Dan Rowlands' team.

Mukilteo (Wash.) Kamiak QB Gary Rogers was the first player to get the ball rolling for the Cougars this recruiting season, verbally committing back in May. WSU added another signal-caller to the mix, Seattle's Cole Morgan of Ballard High. "There's going to be competition everywhere and I'm up for it," Rogers told Sunday after tripping to WSU. "I'm happy with everything."

Rogers wasn't the only early verbal to be gracing Martin Stadium and the WSU campus this past weekend. So was Bell, the touted running back from Woodland Hills, Calif. And it appears he brought a teammate. The best guess right now is that it was standout linebacker Wallace Bates.

Bell hasn't been reached yet for a comment. He's run for nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards this year, including an astounding 10.2 yards per rush. Expect Ian to be a future playmaker for the Cougs.

Bates is a linebacker who is a little on the smaller side (6-2, 200), but possesses outstanding burst (34.4-inch vertical jump) and natural strength (26 reps of 185 pounds on the bench). Expect Oregon State, Washington and Arizona State to also make a push for Bates' services, but having Bell in their corner definitely gives WSU an edge.

JUST WHEN IT couldn't get much brighter for WSU fans, look for some more good news sometime this week. Colin Donovan, the 6-4, 260-pound nephew of former Dallas Cowboy hoss Pat Donovan, is looking more and more like a lock for the Crimson and Gray. "There's a pretty good chance that's where I'm going to go," the western Montana native told last week. "We'll see how it goes. They have a good communications school. I want to check that out. And I already like the coaches, but they can come and go, so you can't really decide on that. I also like the proximity to home. It's definitely a great school." Colin visited WSU officially this past weekend, and news of his trip will be forthcoming in the next day or so.

Donovan's head coach at Superior (Mont.) high school, Dan Lucier, was effusive when talking about Colin's abilities. "Defensive end might be his best position because he can disrupt the passer," Lucier said. "But offenses like to line up away from him, so he'll ask to move inside to keep them honest."

And then there's Puyallup's Isaiah Barsh, a DE in the mold of D.D. Acholonu. He's chomping at the bit to become a Cougar. "I think Washington State is pretty much going to happen," he told a few weeks back. "And when I get it (the scholie offer) I'm going to commit on the spot."

Barsh was scheduled to visit Pullman this past weekend, but didn't make it. Rumors of his commitment surfaced over the weekend, but that was news to Isaiah. He is hoping, however, to set up an official visit to WSU this week, where he'll join up with current verbal commit (and teammate) Jacob McKinney, and Viking kicker Loren Langley.

Meanwhile, Ballard star Keauntea Bankhead appears closer than ever to deciding between Washington and Washington State. In an interview Sunday, the All-Everything DB/WR said his father is pushing him to make a decision sooner, rather than later so he can re-focus full time on his studies. This bodes well for both the Huskies and Cougars. With teammates J.T. Diederichs and Cole Morgan already sewn up for the Cougs, a Bankhead commitment to WSU would spell a sweet trifecta for recruiting coordinator Robin Pflugrad.

ANOTHER APPARENT bright spot for the Cougars is shaping up to highly recruited Bethel, Wash., lineman Aaron Klovas. With his Braves out of contention for the state title, look for the 300-pounder to focus like a laser beem on recruiting. Rumors abound that Klovas has eliminated Washington from his list of prospective colleges. If true, it opens up a Mack truck-sized hole for Oregon and Washington State to drive through. It's my opinion that Aaron is searching for a reason to stay close to home and that either the Ducks or Cougars will earn his letter of intent.

I'll be back next week with another wide-ranging Cougar recruiting update.

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