Recruiting: WSU gets stud athlete, waits on James

THE COUGARS have secured a verbal commitment from a prep scoring machine from California. And no, it's not touted Dos Palos running back <b>Kenny James</b>, the 4.4 speedster who is believed to be debating among WSU, Washington and Arizona.

It's Odell Howard, a 6-4, 235-pound quarterback from Pomona whom Mike Price thinks has what it takes to excel at tight end or slotback. And if he doesn't, he has the size, athleticism and experience to knock some heads from the linebacking spot.

Howard de-committed from UNLV after a full-court press from WSU during his official visit to Pullman this past weekend. He committed to Price on Sunday before heading home. I just felt Washington State was a better opportunity for me on and off the field," Howard told Greg Biggins of PacWest Recruiting. "Pullman is more of a college town and Vegas has a lot of distractions. They don't call it sin city for nothing and knowing me, I could have some problems there so I just think Pullman is a better environment for me."

Howard passed for more than 1,000 yards this past season and threw or rushed for a combined 20 TDs en route to earning league and region player of the year honors. He told Biggins that WSU wants to try him at TE and slotback. "They want to put the ball in my hands and see what I can do which is great by me because I wanted to play offense," he said.

Besides UNLV and WSU, he was getting attention from USC and San Jose State.

James, meanwhile, has been reported in recent weeks to have decided alternately on Washington and Washington State. Widely considered one of the top 25 prep running back prospects in the nation, James told the other day he's still undecided and won't announce his plans until Wednesday when national letters of intent can be signed. This past season he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 30 TDs. He stands 5-11, 206 and has the moves to take it outside and the muscle to punish on the inside.

If he does cast his lot with WSU, he will be the proverbial frosting on cake of running backs unlike any in Cougar recruiting history. The Cougars already have verbal commitments from three standout JC backs --- five-star Jermaine Green, who already is enrolled at WSU; record-smashing Jonathon Smith; and fleet Lionel Arnold --- as well as high school phenom Steve Dildine of Spanaway, Wash., who scored a state record 44 TDs and rushed for nearly 2,300 yards in 2001 in his only season of prep football.

Smith and Arnold still need to clear some JC course work before they can enroll at WSU in August.

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