EARLIER IN THE recruiting season, Washington State appeared pretty well set on offensive linemen this class but a steakeater appeared on the radar who was simply too good to pass up. The fact this junior college player has four years to play three is but one of the things that sets Derek Hunter apart.

Derek Hunter told CF.C Monday evening he was "sold on being a Coug" but his dad wanted to discuss it a bit more, and that he would make his decision Tuesday. That's exactly what enfolded as Hunter called coach George Yarno and gave him his verbal commitment today.

I talked to coach Yarno," Hunter told "He seemed real excited. They're excited to have me come up and he thinks it will be a great fit."

Hunter chose the Cougs over UCLA, Purdue and Northwestern among others.

Dan Rowlands was his player host this past weekend on his trip to Pullman. Hunter, who scored a 1200 on his SATs out of high school, said it was a memorable weekend. Making an impression on the 6-4.5, 285-pounder was the Engineering program at WSU and the college setting.

"I really like the campus and the feel of it there," said Hunter.

FULLERTON COACH GENE MURPHY is in his 42nd year in the profession. He's had 26 players selected in the NFL draft and another 22 have played in the Canadian Football League. In short, he knows talent.

"He's just a good kid," Murphy told of Hunter. "I think its an injustice for him to be here at a junior college."

The 6-4.5, 285-pound Hunter was selected first team All-Mission conference and all-state this season. Coming out of La Habra, Hunter was a full qualifier with UCLA, SDSU and Oregon all showing interest. Ultimately, though, he slipped through the cracks. Murphy said that was a damned shame because there is no question in his mind that Hunter is Division I left tackle material.

"He's one of the kids who slipped through the cracks -- there's so many of the kids out here who slip through the cracks. And when I say slipped through the cracks -- He's a division I football player. And he can play left tackle which is the main priority for a lot of people."

Murphy said Hunter is mild-mannered and quiet off the field but once they strap the pads on, he'll go out there and smack anybody in the mouth. Hunter also has very quick feet, which should serve him well in the Washington State system.

"He can move his feet, I'm not too sure he couldn't play defense. He's intelligent and he's got a semi-mean streak about him. He just turned 18 and his growth potential - he can be humongous."

When we called coach Murphy, Hunter was busy in the weight room, working on increasing his upper body strength. Because he's a tank down low.

"From the waist down, he's an NFL guy already," said Murphy. "And that's the good news because that's the toughest part of the body to build up. And he can't do anything but get bigger up top."

Murphy said once he gets in with strength coach Rob Oviatt and line coach George Yarno, he's going to be something to behold over the course of his career.

"George Yarno is as good as there is," said Murphy. "There are some good line coaches in the NCAA and he's among the top ones, he's a good one."

Hunter, a tireless worker who loves the weightroom and the extended filmwork that goes into being a top-notch offensive lineman, looks to get along very well with Yarno. The Cougs offensive line coach places a premium on a strong work ethic in his charges -- on the field and off.

"He's definitely a good guy," said Hunter of Yarno. "He holds in high value a strong work ethic. His "stats" are impressive, a lot of guys in the NFL."

Hunter will have 4 to play 3 at Washington State. He does not have to earn his AA degree as he was a full qualifier out of high school -- he just needs to transfer credits, which looks to be a snap. Murphy said he already brings a number of units out of high school because he took honors courses at La Habra.

Hunter becomes the 23rd known member of the 2005 class. The numbers can remain in flux all the way up to Signing Day but as it stands now, Washington State looks to take 21-23 players on Signing Day -- that number does not take into account any potential grayshirts.

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