Ballard duo looking to make mark on the Palouse

THE PRIDE OF BALLARD was focused upon high school football this past year as the Beavers of Ballard HS went on a remarkable run in '03 that culminated in the 4A state title game. Wednesday, two seniors on that team, <b>Cole Morgan</b> and <b>J.T. Diederichs</b> reached another milestone, signing letters of intent to play college football at Washington State. Here's what they, and their coaches, had to say after putting their signatures on the dotted line..

Cole Morgan guided Ballard to the state playoffs for the first time in the school's history, all the way to the state title game. In the process, he's drawn a lofty comparison to another famed quarterback who starred in the state of Washington – Jason Gesser.

"It's high praise, but he's more of a Jason Gesser-quarterback than a Jack Thompson-type quarterback," said Doug Trainor, head coach at Ballard.

"And Jack should get credit for noticing that from an early age and developing him into the quarterback he should eventually become instead of a pocket-passer in his shadow."

Thompson, the All-America quarterback from Washington State, says he is partial when it comes to Morgan; He's been his quarterback coach throughout his high school career, and has known him since before that – and he knows what the Cougs have in Cole Morgan.

"He's got a head for the position. I'm jaded. I've been around him for 6 years now and he lives, breathes and eats quarterback. I'm biased. I know what he can do," said Thompson.

"He's proven it time and time again. He's an athlete and a real competitor. He's done a great job of leading this team. That should speak volumes."

Morgan will move from one standout Cougar quarterback, to another, in his position coach; former Cougar great Timm Rosenbach will be his coach at Washington State. And as Thompson pointed out, he isn't the only former Cougars quarterback who is high on Morgan's potential.

"I think Rosey said it best – that he's a taller Jason Gesser," said Thompson. "Jason wasn't a power QB, but he ended up being the greatest QB there because of his savvy, his competitive drive and leadership skills. Those are the same intangibles Cole brings to the table."

"He's not going to overwhelm you. He has a deceptively strong arm, and he's light. He's got twenty more pounds in him. And when packs it on, the right kind of pounds, he's going to be great."

"He's got a lot of potential and I'm tickled that Rosenbach is the one that's going to be coaching him."

What did Morgan think of the comparisons between himself and Gesser?

"That's what they think and it's a huge compliment, said Morgan. "He took them to a Rose Bowl and that's what I want to do. I want to play in the Rose Bowl."

One reason he might get there, coach Trainor explained, is that Morgan's value is found in his smarts for the game, and in his ability to improvise – two of the very traits Gesser exhibited in spades while at WSU.

"I'm just going to go with what Timm Rosenbach said to me," said Trainor. He doesn't like 'cookie cutter' quarterbacks, and Cole doesn't fit any mold of what you would think of as the Pac-10, big, strong, swashbuckling quarterback."

"He's a guy that is very athletic, very intelligent. He can make things happen when things break down. He's going to have a fine career, but he just needs to find his niche in that system."

Thompson believes Morgan will find that niche, noting the work ethic of the quarterback.

"He's made this his destiny," said Thompson. "Ever since he was a kid this has been his goal and he's paid the price to make it come true. He's a very gifted quarterback and one that Washington State will be proud to have."

And one person convinced of that was Washington State head coach Bill Doba.

"We fell in love with Cole Morgan as a leader and competitor," said Doba.

If Cougar fans are excited about Morgan, they should be absolutely thrilled with the potential of J.T. Diederichs, according to Trainor.

"He's a great tailback, but because we had four Division-1 kids, including a Division-1 quarterback and Division-1 receiver, he played in a real balanced offense, so people haven't seen the best of him yet," Trainor said.

He also mentioned Diederichs can not only carry a heavy workload, he might be somebody who will be able to contribute for the Cougs early in his career.

"He's a workhorse," said Trainor. "He's got just enough speed and just enough size to carry the ball all day long and he's going to do that over there."

"I'm excited for him to have that opportunity to finally break out and be 'the guy'. I think he's going to get early playing time over there."

For his own part, Diederichs knows the competition at Washington State will be fierce. Best of all, he seems to be relishing it.

"All I want is a chance (to play running back)," said Diederichs. "They don't have to guarantee me a spot. They can't do that. But it's fun to know that I'm going to get a shot, and that's all I want."

Reflecting on his high school career and that he now moves on to big-time college football at WSU, Diederichs said its gone by in the blink of an eye.

"It's been wild," said Diederichs. "It comes quicker than you think. I'm telling all the other guys now to play every game like it's your last and before you know it you'll be through your senior year. It feels like I was just a freshman yesterday and now we just got done playing in the state championship."

Diederichs also said the loyalty he found present at Washington State influenced his decision to sign with the Cougs.

"Yeah, once you see who really sticks by you..", he said. "Wazzu, they stuck by me no matter what. Even when they knew I wanted to take trips, they stuck with me. Then it was a no-brainer."

The city of Ballard certainly enjoyed watching their team's playoff run this past year. With Morgan and Diederichs now Cougars, and two other members of that team, Tyler Ashby and Keauntea Bankhead, signing with the UW, coach Doba suggested Ballard might take a special interest in another game, this one played in November.

"The Apple Cup will be even more interesting for the people of Ballard," said Doba.

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