Recruiting: A second dynamic duo in store?

COUGAR COACHES pulled off a recruiting double-whammy last week when they secured verbal commitments from two of the West's top prep tight end prospects. But guess what? There's a chance <b>Mike Price</b> & Co. might land a similarly dynamic duo at wide receiver.

James Finley (6-3, 196), the No. 3-ranked prep wideout on the West Coast, was scheduled to be in Pullman this past weekend but rescheduled for January 11 so as not to miss a senior class getaway. He's narrowed his list to WSU, Oregon, Oregon State and Oklahoma. He concluded 2001 at Manual Arts High in Los Angeles with 85 receptions for 1,504 yards and 14 TDs. Look for the run-oriented Sooners to drop out of the running next month.

The other huge wideout prospect who's looking long and hard at WSU is one whom many observers had written off the Cougar dance card back in September. It's Blake Mackay (6-3, 185), a 4.38 speed burner from Bakersfield who's rated the No. 5 receiving prospect in the West. Credit Price and staff, not to mention WSU's impressive '01 air attack, for getting Mackay back into the fold. He was at Price's football camp over the summer and then tripped to WSU last month for that electric game against UCLA. He told Greg Biggins at PacWest Football that the trip went very well. His final five is made up of WSU, Arizona State, BYU, Colorado and Washington. He says he has no leader and won't start paring the list until all his trips are done.

Yet another intriguing prep receiving prospect, Joel Filani (6-4, 205) of Paradise Valley High in Phoenix, is also in the Cougar orbit this recruiting season. He plays in a run-oriented offense so didn't turn any heads with his catching numbers, but his 4.47 speed and incredible work returning kicks -- 46.2 yards per return -- has WSU, Texas Tech, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado giving him hard looks. Some analysts are beginning to think he could be a national top 20 pick up.

HAVE YOU NOTICED a common theme among WSU's last three verbal commitments? DB Reggie Grigsby and tight ends Jesse Taylor and Cody Boyd all mentioned that they were impressed with the family feel of WSU and the caring attitude of the coaching staff. A year ago it was West Patterson and others saying the same thing. That tells me that Price is turning the long-lamented geography of the Palouse into the advantage that it can be.

And speaking of Taylor, don't be surprised to see him in action in 2002. He has the size (6-4, 238), speed (4.72), strength and maturity to contribute right away -- especially since the Cougars' top two TEs, Jeremy Thilebahr and Mark Baldwin, will wrap up their crimson careers Dec. 31 against Purdue. Look for Mark Ahlberg to be the leader at that spot in spring ball, with redshirt freshmen Tim Burnette and perhaps Troy Bienemann lurking.

Besides WSU, Taylor tripped to ASU, Coloardo, OSU and Washington. He narrowed his list to WSU and ASU.

The other top-flight TE prospect that the Cougs just landed is Boyd from up north in Ferndale. He has the frame and athleticism to develop into a big-time player but needs to bulk up. He's 6-8, 220. Also a standout in hoops, he plans to suit up for Paul Graham as well -- an opportunity that sold him on WSU.

Both Taylor and Boy are considered national top 20 TE prospects.

LAST WEEK BOYD was tabbed by the Seattle Times as a first-team all-classes All-State pick. He was joined on that team by fellow future Cougars Carl Bonnell, Steve Dildine and Chris Jordan. At least two others on the Times' team are thought to be prime Cougar prospects: Kennewick LB/RB Scott Davis, the Big 9's defensive player of the year, and Federal Way OL Nate VanderPol. VanderPol (6-6, 295) tripped to WSU this weekend

Another Kennewick lad, DE Adam Carriker (6-7, 235) tripped to WSU a week ago. He's got tremendous athleticsm and runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds. Word down Tri-City way was that both Dennis Erickson and a Nebraska assistant paid him an in-home visit last week. He was believed to be in Lincoln this weekend. Oregon is his other finalist.

WSU HAS 12 publicly known verbal commitments so far. Expect at least  few more names to surface before Christmas when JC players enrolling in January are announced. The Cougars are looking for at least one JC running back, a couple of JC linebackers and perhaps a tight end as well.


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