Cougs' early football offers nearing 10

<b>Extending early offers in college football recruiting was pioneered by the legendary Joe Paterno back in the early 90s. Every school has had no choice but to follow suit if they want a chance at signing the top prospects. Increasingly, more and more players are receiving offers before they ever take the field for their senior season in high school. Here in early March, Washington State has seven known offers on the table. Here's a rundown of each of them.

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The early offer is a bit of a gamble. One that coach Bill Doba would rather not take for the most part -- but you have to keep up with the Joneses. Arizona had 12 verbals before the end of August last year, let alone how many offers they had on the table. Not quite five weeks removed from this past Signing Day, Texas already has five players who've verbally committed to play for the 'Horns.

Projecting high school talent at the next level is tough enough, but having to do it without ever seeing a senior season is downright arduous. What if he doesn't continue to progress at the same rate. What if his peers not only catch up over their senior year..but surpass him.

Only the most elite of prospects hold an offer at this point from WSU. And it in no way means another prospect won't become just as coveted late into his senior season. Just ask the coaching staff what they think of Lorenzo Bursey, Courtney Williams and a few other "late" WSU verbals.

But for the few who've displayed such lofty promise prior to their final prep campaign, here are seven of the elite:

WR Jeremy Brent (6-5, 200, Haltom City, TX)
First year playing football since 6th grade, caught 61 passes for nearly 1,200 yards and that primarily came in 8 games Still learning the game and with continued attention to detail, his potential is off the charts.

LB Anthony Lewis (6-2.5, 220, Haltom City, TX)
In first year playing defense, displayed great motor, tremendous hitting ability. Strong character and a wrecking machine on the field, he holds double digit offers. An intense player who goes full out on every play and on special teams.

QB/DB Jake Locker (6-2, 200, Ferndale, WA)
Great athlete accomplished at both QB and DB -- prep coach believes he can play either in college. Strong-armed, running quarterback throws very well on the run. Runs a 4.5 in the 40. WSU was first school to offer.

RB James Montgomery (5-11,195, Rancho Cordova, CA)
Speed, excellent field vision and instincts galore. As good a blocker as a runner, has the ability to simply take over a game. Impressive on the field with character to match, his prep coach says he's one of the very best he's coached in a 40-year plus career.

WR,DB Keith Rosenberg (6-1,180, Bellevue, WA)
Broke out from JR Hasty's shadow in a big way in state title game, rushing 11 times for 189 yards and 3 TDs. Has soft hands and very athletic, great field coverage on defense. Timed at 4.5 in the 40. Washington State was the first to offer.

RB Tracy Slocum (5-11,195, Clovis, CA)
Top flight combination of breakaway speed, power and improbable cuts that leave defenders grasping at air. Likely to have eclipsed 2,000 yard mark had he not broken his ankle -- completing only 8 games, he gained 1800-plus yards. Extremely gifted, prep coach says there is no ceiling, if he works at his craft.

OL Ryan Tolar (6-6,320, Pasco, WA)
Early nod for top o-lineman in the state, a tenacious player who by his coach's count, threw 5-10 pancake blocks a game. Great lower body strength with a squat of 565-pounds. The Cougs were the first to offer.

JUST HOW MUCH of a connection between early offers and a team's future success, or demise, is anyone's guess. But there's no doubt that evaluation is more important than ever before.

In 1997, Paterno received early commitments before the football season began from 60-percent of his signing class. Those players' senior year at Penn State, their record was 5-7. It was the most losses by a Nittany Lions team in over 100 years of playing football.

In three of the following four years, 2001-04, Penn State has lost 6 or more games.

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