Sophomore running back about to enter prime time

<b>PULLMAN -- Washington State tailback <b>Kevin McCall </b>, a gospel singer and keyboard wunderkind, looks to make some serious music on the football field this spring now that he's been elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart with injury-plagued Allen Thompson's decision to forgo his last year of eligibility. In fact, McCall and returning starter Jerome Harrison will be the only tailbacks in uniform when spring ball commences in eight weeks.

Unless fullbacks Brendon Asuega-Stark and Jed Collins suddenly develop speed to burn, or someone like defensive back Ian Bell changes positions, McCall is going to see more reps come March than a boot camp Marine who can't salute properly.

"Right now, I'm feeling like me and JC (Harrison) are the 1-2 punch. We're going to be WSU's version of Thunder and Lightning, like at USC with (Reggie) Bush and LenDale White," says McCall, a 5-11, 213-pound sophomore-to-be from Carson, Calif. "JC will be the Lightning. I'll be the Thunder."

As a redshirt freshman in 2004, McCall saw limited action as the No. 4 back behind Harrison, senior Chris Bruhn and Thompson. He played in nine games and carried the ball eight times for 40 yards.

While music is more than just an interest with McCall, he knows he has a unique opportunity this spring to make things happens on the football field. So the keyboard, he says, will have to take a backseat.

"Music is more natural for me," McCall says. "Football is something I have to work on. I've been around both (football and music) my whole life. I kind of see it as right now I'm taking a break from music while I focus on football. But I can't totally abandon (music)."

Of course, for a young man who aspires to both a music career and a job in the NFL, "taking a break" doesn't mean to him what it might to the average Joe.

McCall, you see, is all about the work ethic.

Pick a time of day -- maybe 4 a.m. on a Wednesday, perhaps 10 p.m. on a Saturday -- and there's a good chance McCall is at his keyboard, pumping bass-heavy hip-hop and R&B beats out of his campus apartment or singing gospel classics at the top of his lungs. In between, he's lifting weights or watching game film.

McCall comes from a remarkable line of Division I-A running backs. His father, Kevin Sr., played at Oregon in the early 80s. Cousin Patrick hauled the swine for Michigan and Oregon State in the late 90s. Two uncles lettered at New Mexico in the 70s, and two more played for Arizona and Arizona State in the disco decade.

"It's a lot of pressure. You have to duplicate, live up to the name," Kevin says of his family. "But I feel like I'm on the right path. My goal is to do better than any of them did."

Kevin was a football, track and classroom standout at Carson High. But after what he called a so-so senior football season in which he was named all-league for a second-straight time, he was not heavily recruited by major colleges. Ever the hustler, McCall made highlight tapes of himself that he sent to several schools, including WSU, Oregon and New Mexico. The tape eventually caught the attention of WSU running backs coach Kelly Skipper, who convinced head coach Bill Doba to give McCall a shot.

He redshirted in 2003 season and had a coming out party of sorts in Week 3 of this past season, carrying the ball eight times for 40 yards in a big win over Idaho.

While he saw action throughout the season, he didn't carry the ball again because of the depth in front of him and Harrison's surprising emergence as the campaign unfolded. That didn't leave many chances for McCall. But he still mixed things up on special teams, often serving as a deep man on kick returns -- although he never got a chance to run one back -- and registering one tackle on kick coverage.

"To be honest, I expected to play more at first, but after a while I accepted it; I didn't pout about it," McCall said. "When I came in, (junior cornerback) Alex Teems told me everyone has to wait their turn. So when my turn came, I tried to make the most of it.

"I realized (last year) that you have to make a good impression. You have to produce. I learned the value of production."

While it's obvious where his athletic genes come from, McCall says he got his musical talent from his mother, Linda, who sings in the church. When Kevin was eight years old, he went to the talent shows at nearby Locke High. One of the regular performers was a kid named Tyrese Gibson, now simply known as platinum-selling R&B artist Tyrese. Kevin says watching Tyrese succeed first inspired him to take his music seriously.

In McCall's pseudo-recording studio, several teammates come over for jam sessions where Kevin lays the beat and they bring the rhymes. McCall names Harrison, Thompson, defensive ends Reyshawn Bobo and Mkristo Bruce, linebackers Scott Davis and Steve Dildine, and safety Eric Frampton as some of his usual collaborators.

"By the time I leave here, my goal is to make a song for us to play (at Martin Stadium) when we come out before games," McCall said. "I mean, they had ‘Go Cougs,' but I wanna do something straight from us, from a player's perspective."

McCall won't guarantee that he'll make it to the NFL, but does confidently predict making his mark somewhere in the music business.

"People say I'm chasing two dreams," McCall says, "but I think I can make it in both."

Come fall, the Cougars will bolster their running back depth in a big way. Two high school standouts -- DeMaundray Woolridge and Dwight Tardy -- have committed verbally to the Cougars and fingers are crossed that they'll secure a third in the form of Lacey's Jonathan Stewart, the No. 1-rated prep RB prospect in the nation.

The Cougars will begin the spring practice session on March 22. Workouts will conclude April 16 with the annual Crimson and Gray game at Martin Stadium. Kickoff will be at 1 pm.

There's a chance three WSU starters will be sitting out the entire spring, the Spokesman-Review reports. Quarterback Josh Swogger (foot surgery), middle linebacker Will Derting (wrist surgery) and wide receiver Chris Jordan (arthroscopic knee surgery) are all recovering from injuries suffered during the 2004 season and could be held out of drills. All are expected back at full strength in the fall.

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