One in, one out

ON A DAY WHEN Washington State secured a commitment from a star defensive end it had been coveting all season, the smiles didn't last long. That's because news came that standout receiver <b>Devard Darling</b> has decided to leave early for the NFL draft.

Over the past two seasons Darling caught 104 passes for 1,630 yards and 18 TDs, and most certainly would have been touted for All-America honors in 2004.

"This is a lifelong dream for my brother and I," Darling said. "I see this opportunity right in front of my face and in this life you never know what is going to happen. I'm going to take it and run with it."

His trademark on the Palouse after each touchdown was a fist tap on over his heart and then a point to the heavens in honor of his deceased brother.

His announcement overshadowed the news that the Cougars had landed another blue chipper for its 2004 recruiting class in Riverside CC defensive end Letrell Myers, an all-league performer who concluded 2003 with 78 tackles, 4.5 sacks, recovered two fumbles and caused two more. "It was a personal fit. I've been a fan of the Cougars for a long time," he said.

THOUGH HIGHLY TALENTED and productive, Darling had yet to achieve the superstar status some had envisioned for him. The rap on him around the Pac-10 was that he didn't go up and fight for off-target balls.

Early chatter around NFL circles is that he's perhaps a fourth round draft pick, just below the elite level of the Reggie and Roy Williams types who tended to draw double coverage game after game. The Holiday Bowl was the only time in 2003 that Darling attracted double coverage.

One of the nation's top prep prospects coming out of Houston, Darling played a year at Florida State before tragedy struck down his twin brother and teammate Devaughn. Devard then transferred to Washington State in 2001. He sat out that season, but emerged as a game breaker on the Cougars' 2002 Pac-10 championship team.

Darling is the second Cougar in as many years to pass on his senior season and head to the NFL. A year ago, Outland Trophy winner Rien Long declared early. He was drafted in the fourth round and spent this past season with the Tennessee Titans.

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