Play It Again, Sam

TACOMA --- <b>Mike Price</b> played movie producer in Tacoma the other night, treating a packed house of adoring fans to a montage of clips featuring his brand new class of recruits. Top to bottom, the viewing was fine. But there was no doubt at evening's end which player the audience would have penned in for an Oscar nomination.

Sammy Moore, the touted junior college receiver and kick returner, delivered a blockbuster performance in his 30 seconds of screen time at the Tacoma Sheraton on Friday.

Coupled with the grainy quality of the film footage, Moore's size (6-0, 175) and immense abilities conjured flashbacks to the 1970s when Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Roger Carr and Cliff Branch were permanent fixtures in NFL highlights.

When Greg Biggins, the national recruiting analyst, said last fall that Moore had serious NFL potential, he wasn't kidding. Price's game clips drove home the point in a big way.

Slashing and dashing, Moore is a game breaker. He is the type of player who can be the difference between a 10-2 record and a 12-0 mark.

Coach Price didn't mince his words in his assessment of the Bakersfield JC product whom he out-dueled Kansas State to get.

"This guy's special. Real, real, real special. Just look at his moves, " Price enthused as Moore worked his magic on screen in front of some 400 Cougar partisans gathered together by the Pierce County Cougar Club.

Of course, nothing is for sure in this world. And neither is Moore's playing status. He apparently has a ways to go academically before his presence at August workouts is guaranteed.

He has the spring and summer to wrap up the course work needed to secure his AA degree and, therefore, his ticket to play Division I ball.

I grew up in Texas watching the Longhorns battle the hated Sooners, and I have to say that this kid reminds me of Joe Washington, the old Oklahoma and Baltimore Colt star, because he looks like a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

In one of those requisite, good-natured jabs at the Huskies, Coach Price quipped in a funny story earlier in the evening that God was a card-carrying Cougar fan. After watching Friday's tapes, we'll only know for sure that the Divine One leans crimson if Moore is eligible come August.

Praise the Lord and pass the grades. Adding a talent like that to the arsenal of players WSU has returning in 2002 is a downright scary thought.

With 4.4 speed and soft hands, Moore came out of Westwood High in Mesa, Ariz., in 2000 as a consensus top 100 national prospect. A three-year starter, all-state pick and honorable mention USA Today All-American, he was recruited by virtually every major college and settled on hometown Arizona State over Nebraska and Washington.

But then academic hurdles stepped in and he headed to the JC ranks. In two years at Bakersfield JC, Moore caught 47 passes for 876 yards and 11 TDs. This past season alone he returned 29 punt returns and 10 kickoffs for a collective 540 yards and two TDs.

AS FOR WSU's incoming high school recruits, I was most intrigued by what I saw of one of the last guys Price landed in his 2002 class: Slotback/TE Odell Howard (6-4, 230) of Pomona, Calif..

Howard played quarterback as a prepster, but was moved to split end for one game this past season just so Price and his staff could get a look at him running routes and catching the ball. The film shown Friday was from that game, and the kid looked like a natural. He turned a short button hook into an 80-yard TD, and later made a marvelous acrobatic catch of a sideline floater.

Price, following the lead of assistant head coach Kasey Dunn who earlier had called Jermaine Green the Sandra Bullock of running backs, dubbed Howard the Julia Roberts of slotback/tight ends because he's so pretty to watch. He's big, runs like a deer and is athletic. Howard is the real deal. He originally committed to UNLV after passing for more than 1,000 yards scoring 20 TDs en route to earning league and region player of the year honors, but opted for the Cougars after a hard crimson charge late in the process.

HERE ARE a couple of other quick nuggets that struck me about the incoming class of freshmen:

* Defensive end Adam Braidwood (6-7, 255) of Delta, B.C., is earmarked for instant action, Price said . He'll see duty in 2002 behind sack-masters D.D. Acholonu, Fred Shavies and Issac Brown. A hard worker who has a bit of nasty in him, he's a standout pass rusher who was considered the fifth-best DE prospect in the West this past season. He runs the 40 in 4.8.

* Kennewick running back/linebacker Scott Davis (5-11, 210) reminds Price of another one-time RB/LB prospect from Kennewick: Cougar great -- and 1994 Alamo Bowl MVP -- Ron Childs. "He's fast and strong like Ron," Price said. Davis earned first-team all-state recognition three times and twice was named co-MVP of the Big Nine conference.

* Receiver Robert Franklin (6-3, 195) of Gainesville, Texas, is "awesome, real pretty to watch," Price said. Like Sammy Moore, Franklin has 4.4 speed and stars in track. His long jumping ability is reportedly Olympic caliber and his time in the 100 meters is 10.5 seconds. Despite limited football experience, he had offers from Arkansas, Texas A&M and others.

* Cornerback Don Turner (6-0, 170) of Spokane "is going to be as good as any big-time player you here about," said Price, marveling at the fact he had relatively little recruiting competition for Turner -- a two-time all-state pick with Marcus Trufant-type potential.


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