Cougs remain No. 1 choice for Diederichs

J.T. DIEDERICHS, one of the stars of Washington State's recruiting class a year ago, looks to have his academic house in order and says the Cougars remain the "No. 1 choice" when his junior college detour is over. But after ripping off 1,700 yards and earning JC All-America honors as a freshman this past season, recruiters from around the land will likely be wooing the one-time Ballard High sensation in a big way between now and next February.

Diederichs told he plans on attending Washington State after earning his AA degree. Yet while he said the Cougs are his top choice and has no other schools in mind, the running back also said a year is a long time -- it's too early for him to definitively close the book on other options.

"It's my plan to attend Washington State," he said. "It's my No. 1 choice. But at the same time, all my options are open."

Diederichs went on to say no other schools have yet been in contact with him.

Diederichs hopes to finish his degree by December, which would make him eligible to enroll in January and participate in spring ball 2006. If not, he'd wrap things up early next year and be ready to roll when fall camp opens.

He has added 10 pounds of muscle to his now 6-2 frame since helping lead Ballard to the Washington state Class 4A title game a year ago, checking in at 230. Better yet, his 4.4 speed hasn't suffered.

Diederichs said he keeps in touch with the Washington State staff, periodically ringing up running backs coach Kelly Skipper.

"Oh, I like coach Skip," said Diederichs. "He's a good guy."

AN OLD SEATTLE FRIEND -- who also looks to be wearing crimson and gray one day -- just joined Diederichs at Dixie College. Keauntea Bankhead, the top prep defensive prospect in Washington a year ago, enrolled at the Utah school last month and lives a couple doors down from Diederichs.

Bankhead, who starred with Diederichs at Ballard High, signed with Washington a year ago but opted to head the JC route this winter when he fell short of an SAT qualifying score. The safety/receiver said disagreement with UW coaches over whether to continue taking the test vs. going to junior college prompted him to rethink his long-term plans, and announced two weeks ago that he will attend Washington State after he gets his AA degree.

He said he plans to accelerate his class load in the hopes of graduating early, so he can enroll at WSU in time for the 2006 season.

Right now, WSU is starting to shape up as Ballard East. While Bankhead and Diederichs are looming, two of their teammates will be suiting up for the Cougars this spring -- quarterback Cole Morgan, who grayshirted over the fall, and tight end Tony Thompson, an invited walk on who also sat out the fall in order to bulk up.

DIEDERICHS SAID THERE was a short period of adjustment in going from high school to junior college ball -- namely the speed. He rushed for 1,740 yards and 22 TDs and was selected first team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association.

"The thing you have to do is be aggressive," said Diederichs.

The season of JC ball has made him a much better player than he was coming out of Ballard with some 4,000 career rushing yards and All-State honors as a senior.

"Oh, I feel like I'm way different," said Diederichs. "I feel I'm a lot better. Everything was faster coming in, but now, everything is slower. I can see so much easier the moves I'm going to make -- every move comes to me so much clearer, so much easier."

And like any back worth his salt, Diederichs is quick to share the limelight with his offensive line. "They were great. And we all get along really well -- one of my best friends is our center, Ryan Wright. The line was great, they got the job done."

Those linemen were on Diederichs' mind during Dixie's championship showdown against Grand Rapids Community College. He broke a bone in his foot early in the first quarter and could barely put weight on it over on the sidelines.

"I knew it right away," Diederichs said with a chuckle. "I heard it snap. Looking at the guys, my offensive linemen, I knew they wouldn't let me down -- so I didn't want to let them down."

Diederichs gutted it out and went on to earn MVP honors in the Dixie Rotary Bowl, running for 187 yards to help Dixie capture it's 13th championship and finish the season at 10-2. Well on his way to complete health, Diederichs should be 100 percent well before the start of fall camp.

This offseason, the junior college All-American said he'll be working on improving his pass catching as well as every aspect of his game.

"I'm going to be working on my hands, and then just keep working on everything -- the full package, said Diederichs. "I think everything is 'OK' on me, but every single part of my game can get so much better."

J.T. Diederichs profile

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