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The Cougar Haul

<b>UPDATED 4:15 p.m.</b> FOR THE SECOND straight year Cougar coaches took a different approach to recruiting. They started making scholarship offers early and often to top-flight prospects. And the result? In the immortal words of Walter Brennan, "Mighty fine, I reckon, might fine." In fact, the junior college haul is downright golden. </font>

Mike Price's fax machine in Bohler Gym started cranking this morning with the first letter of intent coming from long-snapping phenom Billy Petrick (6-6, 220) of Morris, Illinois. The fax continues to buzz and figures to keep on rolling through the afternoon with national LOIs signed by WSU's newest Crimson Soliders.

Price and his staff appear to have cornered the market on receiver and defensive back types, nabbed a stable of standout running backs, secured yet another standout quarterback, and landed some incredible JC talent, including two linebackers --- Kevin Sperry and Donnie Jackson --- who could help plug one of the few holes on the 2002 Cougar team.

College football's annual sweepstakes for the nation's top prep talent culminates today, and by all accounts Price & Co. acquitted themselves well.

"I think Wazzu did very well and I especially like their tight ends which are hands down the best in the Pac 10. Carl Bonnell is a very good quarterback and Sammy Moore has NFL potential at wide receiver. Spencer Hollison is an excellent offensive lineman and has very good upside. On defense, I like Adam Braidwood a lot and linebacker Kevin Sperry should play right away," says analyst Greg Biggins of PacWestFootball.com.

The Cougars signed 26 prep and JC players. Two of the JUCO athletes --- five-star running back Jermaine Green and Sperry --- are already enrolled in classes at WSU.

The class also technically includes three kids who signed a year ago but grayshirted, delaying their enrollment until last month in order to extend their eligibility. The three are QB Josh Swogger, TE Troy Bienemann; and OL/DL Charles Harris of Spokane.

It all adds up to a class of 29 --- four over the NCAA limit for scholarships in a single year. But grayshirting and academics should take care of it. Also, one lad is so smart that he earned an academic scholarship and won't need a football ride until 2003 (see related story, The Chosen One, on the CF.C front page).

As they did with their 2001 class of recruits, the Cougars did a great job of scouting the previous season's high school juniors, so they were able to make offers very early to a number of quality kids. The result was that Price had 90 percent of the class wrapped up before Christmas.

Most recruiting services are rating the Cougar class between the 30th and 40th best in the nation. UCLA, as usual, is widely seen as having the conference's top class and one of the tops in the nation as well.

On the prep front, the Cougars landed three players rated among the nation's top 25 at their respective positions: tight ends Cody Boyd of Ferndale and Jesse Taylor of West Hills, Calif., and the dual-threat quarterback Bonnell of Kent. Another five of the Cougars' prep signees have been rated top 100 prospects at their positions: DE Braidwood of Delta, BC; DB Eric Frampton of San Jose; RB/DB Steve Dildine of Spanaway; DB Don Turner of Spokane; and OL Hollison of San Margarita, Calif.

Boyd, Bonnell, Taylor and Frampton last week were named to the Tacoma News Tribune's Western 100 list. Boyd and Taylor also received several votes in the Long Beach Press-Telegram's Best in the West voting.

A trio of late pick ups for the Cougars offer some intrigue on offense: Three-time California all-state pick Flamingo Malone (6-5, 200) of Los Angeles' Banning High; Robert Franklin (6-3, 200), a speed merchant from Gainsville, Texas; and Odell Howard, a 6-4, 235-pound quarterback from Pomona, Calif., whom Price thinks can excel at tight end or slotback.

Malone is a standout receiver and all-state DB who also knocked a few heads from the defensive end position. Franklin has 4.4 speed and stars in track to the point he could become an Olympic-caliber long jumper. Like Dildine, he has only one year of prep football under his belt, but nonetheless drew offers from Arkansas, Texas A&M, LSU and others.

ON THE JC FRONT, the Cougars struck pure gold. Green, Smith, Sperry, Jackson (third-team JC All-American) and running back Jonathon Smith, a record-smashing first-team JC All-American, all have the potential to play immediately. Sperry, in fact, looks like he could be lock for a starting linebacker's spot. But there's also a high-upside tight end in Eddie Robinson as well as a guy with the potential to play on Sunday's: kicker returner/receiver Sammy Moore. Lionel Arnold, a JC back who had verballed with WSU, had yet to fax his LOI late yesterday so still could be in the fold, too, unless Lousiville convinced him otherwise.

With 4.4 speed and soft hands, Moore was as a consensus top 100 national prep prospect in Y2K. In two years at Bakersfield JC, he caught 47 passes for 876 yards and 11 TDs. And this season alone he returned 29 punt returns and 10 kickoffs for a collective 540 yards and two TDs --- stats that the Cougars could sorely avail themselves of.

It's Green, however, who may pay the most dividends in 2002. Rated a five-star, he racked up more than 1,000 yards this season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. A year ago he missed half the season with a sprained knee, but still accounted for 646 yards (108 per game) and 3 TDs despite splitting time with All-American Ronald McClendon. Widely considered one of the nation's top 20 JC prospects at any position, he chose WSU over Kansas State, Purdue, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. He runs the 40 in 4.5 flat and captured first in both the 100 meters (10.62 seconds) and 200 meters (21.72 seconds) last spring in the Missouri Southern JC track championships. He prepped in Florida, where he racked ten 100-yard games as as a senior and earned first-team Class 5A All-State honors.

Jonathon Smith, though, is not to be discounted. Playing in the toughest JC conference in the nation, he ran for more than 2,000 yards this past season to lead the nation and caught 46 passes for another 553 hashes. He scored a record 31 TDs and set a national JC record for single-game all-purpose yards (515). He runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds. In the classroom, he's on track to get his AA degree in the spring, so will enroll at WSU in August.

Robinson, the tight end, spent the past year at Compton CC but before that played as a true freshman at Tulane following a stellar prep career. He also could see immediate playing time in Pullman.

Eleven players from the state of Washington look to be casting their lot with WSU today --- an impressive volume and quality of talent.

In addition to the aforementioned Bonnell, Boyd, Turner and Dildine (the state's player of the year), the group includes two three-time all-state linebackers: Scott Davis of Kennewick and Brian Hall of Walla Walla; two stars from the Kent Valley: all-state DB/WR Chris Jordan and South Puget Sound League special teams player of the year Wes Rainwater; and three agile head-crackers: DE Aaron Ware (6-5, 230) of Lacey; LB/DE Matt Mullenix (6-3, 235) of Spangle; and DE/TE Mkristo Bruce (6-6, 210) of Issaquah.

For a third straight year, Price signed a modicum of true offensive linemen: Hollison, Nick Mihlhauser and the long-snapper Petrick.

But the lack of pure-bred offensive linemen is no reason to fret, says long-time Cougar watcher and former WSU All-American Paul Sorensen. "The Cougs always goes for agility. As Coach Price is fond of saying, ‘You can't teach speed and size.' They'll figure out where they all fit once they get to Pullman. Some of these guys will be defensive ends and tight ends, others will be defensive tackles and offensive linemen."

The plethora of TE and DE types that Sorensen is referring to is Robinson, Howard, Ware, Bruce, Braidwood, Mullenix, Taylor and Boyd. Moreover, former Cougar tight end Josh Shavies will be back in the fold in 2002 after geing booted from the program last summer by Price.

Be sure to click on the "CF.C Commit List" in the upper-right column of this site for a bio on each new Cougar player.

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