Lots of faces coming and going

PULLMAN -- Touted Tacoma safety Michael Willis practiced Sunday for the first time with the Cougars, capping one of the longest-in-coming –-- and highly anticipated --- arrivals on the Palouse since the John Deere tractor. Meanwhile, three new recruits look to be late arrivals, two more are academic casualties, three veterans have left the program and a few Cougs are nursing injuries.

Originally a member of the 2004 recruiting class, the 6-3, 205-pound Willis grayshirted last season en route to finally landing in Pullman after taking the SAT exam five times. The fourth time, Willis prepared with a tutor and earned such a high mark, the SAT Board questioned the score, setting off a long, arduous process that took months to resolve.

After taking the test again at the SAT Board's request, and once again passing it with flying colors, the SAT Board finally approved his score and passed him along to the NCAA Clearinghouse, who cleared him in short order.

"That adversity builds your character," said Willis. "It's a blessing (to join the team.)" He enrolled at WSU this past January, but wasn't allowed to practice in the spring pending that final paperwork --- a circumstance that technically made him eligible to still be recruited by other schools, although Willis left no doubt he was always going to be a Coug.

An All-State performer at Lincoln High where he starred on both sides of the ball, Willis is considered as blue chip a prospect as they come. Given the Cougars' thinness at safety, he is expected to compete for playing time right away, but said he'd be happy with any opportunity to get on the gridiron.

JUNIOR COLLEGE TRANSFERS DeWayne Patterson (a 6-2, 195-pound safety) and Bryan Tarkington (a 6-5, 280, defensive tackle) have been slowed in suiting up, but could be on the field as early as Monday. Both, along with freshman linebacker Greg Trent, are waiting on paperwork technicalities.

Lance Broadus, (DE, 6-2, 211) a fleet footed defenseman from Woodland Hills, Calif., who displayed sideline to sideline coverage as a prep linebacker before originally signing with Oregon, is now wearing No. 97 for Washington State. For more on the newest Cougar, see the story on our front page.

Two other members of the new recruiting class, James Bradley (defensive back) and Joseph Townsend (lineman), as expected, are academic casualties and will be headed the junior college route.

Another member of the 2005 recruiting class, lineman Joey Eppele of Vancouver, B.C., will grayshirt in 2005, Bill Doba said.

THREE VETERAN MEMBERS of the program have left the team. Jon Conlin, a defensive tackle from Vancouver, B.C., who blew his knee shortly after arriving on campus in 2003 and never returned to form; defensive end Jason Roberts, one of the most touted members of the 2004 recruiting class who left the team for personal reasons; and walk on linebacker Alexis Alexander.

ON THE INJURY FRONT, receiver Thomas Ostrander sat out practice Sunday, walking with a visible limp. He is said to have a back injury. Offensive lineman Dan Rowlands was not in attendance due to a gall bladder ailment. Receiver Greg Prator has a broken bone in his hand, but sported a cast on his hand and wrist and was out on the field throughout practice, taking part in most of the drills. Colin Donovan, a second-year defensive end from Superior, Mont., looks to be out for the year with a knee injury.

Cornerback Tyron Brackenridge and defensive end Reyshawn Bobo, who failed to meet NCAA eligibility requirements, are still practicing with the team, but will not suit up on Saturdays for WSU this season.

Junior defensive end Mkristo Bruce, who is expected to contend for post-season honors in 2005, said he was so excited for camp to start that he was unable to sleep Saturday night. "I'm kind of tired," he said.

For more from the first day of fall camp, including some running backs and defensive backs who were turning heads on Sunday, use this link: Fall camp: Day One

Cougfan Top Stories