Cougs look to JC ranks for RBs

WHILE LINEBACKER is WSU's biggest recruiting need on the defensive side of the ball, depth at running back is a pressing concern on offense. So <b>Mike Price</b> & Co. are working hard in the junior college ranks to snare one or more top-fight runners. At least SIX of the backs on the JC Hot 100 list are getting serious attention and/or offers from WSU.

Heading up the list is 6-4, 215-pound Chris Bruhn, who signed with the Cougars after a star-studded high school career in Riverside but failed to qualify academically. He's been tearing apart the NorCal Conference for the last two seasons at Butte College and is widely considered one of the top 10 overall JC prospects in the nation.

He still needs to hit the books, however, and figures to be a summer, rather than January enrollee, if he secures his AA degree. WSU and USC are believed to have the inside track with him.

The Cougars also have offered a scholarship to Muhammed Abdulqaadr, a 5-8, 205-pounder from Coffeyville CC in Kansas. He went down with a knee injury in week seven of this season, but up to then was averaging two TDs and 110 yards per game (5.3 per carry). In all, he toted the ball for 771 yards.

Another JC product from Kansas who is in the Cougars' sights is 6-1, 220-pound Jermaine Green of Butler CC. He racked up more than 1,000 yards this season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. WSU and South Carolina are among those most interested in him.

Back in California, Pasadena CC's Jonathan Smith (5-9, 180) is another running back on the crimson list. He set a league record with 28 TDs this season and piled up more than 800 yards in just his last three games. The folks at JCFootball.com say his running style --- agile, hard charging and quick to the hole -- reminds them of former UCLA and Miami Dolphins standout Karim Abdul-Jabbar. He also has great hands, which helped him run for and catch a record six TDs in one game this year. Besides WSU, USC and San Jose State are known to be after him.

Two other JC backs in the Cougar orbit are New Mexico Military Institute teammates Jamil Porter (6-1, 190) and Preston Portee (5-10, 220). Despite playing for a league cellar dweller, both rushed for about 1,300 yards this season, with Porter averaging 130 per game and Portee 126. Porter, from Rochester, NY, earned first-team all-league honors and Portee, from South Carolina, earned second-team plaudits. Given the tremendous contribution Dave Minnich's military background brought to the Cougars the last two years you have to wonder if one of these guys might be tailor-made to carry on that proud torch.

Another JC prospect whose name pops up occasionally is San Francisco City College cornerback Ronnie Nunn. You may remember him being part of the WSU recruiting class that included Bruhn. Like Bruhn, Nunn failed to qualify academically. Earlier this season he was thought to be high on USC's list, but word on his status has been quiet of late.

NOTEABLE NOTES:

While the graduation loss of Minnich is a severe blow to WSU's running game for 2002, the fact the former Marine missed so many games this year with injury allows the Cougs to enter spring ball with a youthful, but surprisingly experienced group of backs.

John Tippins will be the lone senior and the most seasoned of the returnees. He has 71 carries for 268 yards this year. Sophomore-to-be Allen Thompson was looking like the real deal this season until he went down with an injury in the Stanford game, gaining 150 yards on 40 carries. There's also junior-to-be LaVell Anderson (seven carries, 66 yards) and Jimmy Wilson (five carries, 32 yards). Wilson played this season as a true freshman but went down early with an injury so there could be a chance he'll count this year as a redshirt.

If Price can add one or two JC backs to the mix, not to mention last year's plum prep prospect whose status I have no clue about (Dwayne Wright of San Diego), then the one-back attack should be a great shape come the '02 season opener against Nevada-Reno.

* Besides running back, the Cougs also are looking for JC help at linebacker (see related story posted on the CF.C front page) and tight end.


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