Rookie 'backers bolster special teams

TALK TO A COLLEGE football coach about recruiting and you'll often be told that you can't have enough good linebackers. ‘Backers, you see, are multi-dimensional weapons. They're big enough to knock heads, swift enough to run sideline to sideline and get into coverage. They also make great special teamers. And so on a Cougar team where health is going to be critical, the crop of rookie LBs looks like it's going to give Bill Doba the luxury of keeping his starting ‘backers off of special teams.

Coaches are waiting to see who among the returnees and incoming freshmen will back up the Killer Ds threesome.

But it's clear through three days of camp that freshmen linebackers Greg Trent, Cory Evans, Lamar Brumfield and Jason Stripling have what it takes to make some hay on special teams. Another newcomer who could see time on special teams is Courtney Williams, a linebacker from Los Angeles who's now getting a look at safety.

What it all means is that the Killer Ds -– starting linebackers Will Derting, Steve Dildine and Scott Davis --- can concentrate solely on playing linebacker, says WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey.

Brumfield, the Carson, Calif., product once thought to be a redshirt candidate, weighs in at 224 pounds – up from 200 at the time of his recruiting visit, Akey said.

Evans, the Bayou Bomber from rural Louisiana, is turning heads so far. "He's going to knock the dog around," Akey enthused. Evans already has been penned into WSU's three-deep roster at outside linebacker.

Trent, from Keller, Texas, built a reputation in high school as a tenacious and fearless special teams performer. And Stripling, from Tyler, Texas, comes with similar credentials.

IN THE SECONDARY, coach Ken Greene has identified his four starters, at least for now, but it looks like the competition at cornerback is going to be very spirited. Running No. 1 are seniors Alex Teems and Omawale Dada. Teems started a year ago and Dada's great spring is continuing into the fall, Akey said, adding that the others are coming on. Junior Don Turner, speedy sophomore transfer Lorenzo Bursey and redshirt freshman Ian Bell all are making a case for themselves.

Bursey, originally targeted to play slotback, has speed and agility that is undeniable, be it on defense or offense. "I like him a lot," Akey said. "That's a real good thing you want in a corner."

At safety, freshman Michael Willis is showing why WSU was willing to wait for his passing test score. Willis has a saucy blend of size, speed and hitting ability.

"He hasn't played football in over a year, but I'm real excited about his future," Akey said.

Projected safety starter Husain Abdullah may move to corner if the need arises and particularly if Willis and junior college transfer DeWayne Patterson make a push, but right now Abdullah and junior Eric Frampton are looking very good, Akey said.

Courtney Williams, the freshman once thought to be a lightning-fast linebacking prospect, is turning heads at safety, at least during agility drills.

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