INSTANT IMPACT: '05 recruits uncommonly productive

IN BILL DOBA'S 17 campaigns at Washington State, the Cougars have never played as many rookies to start a season as they have this year. While it speaks to pressing needs, it also says volumes about the quality of the 2005 recruiting class. Nine true freshmen and three JC transfers took to the field against Idaho and Nevada. While their speed and talent bode well for the Cougs this season, what should really get the Crimson Nation excited is how good these guys are going to be down the line.

ARKELON HALL is shining on Cougar scout team.

Arkelon Hall and Fevaea'i Ahmu garnered most of the national press last February and for good reason -- Hall is a mobile, strong-armed talent who took home WSU's first weekly Offensive Scout Team award this season. With an embarrassment of riches at quarterback in Alex Brink, Josh Swogger and Gary Rogers, plus Cole Morgan, Hall will redshirt this season. Ahmu, however, is cracking heads now.

After Ropati Pitoitua went down late in training camp to a broken fibula, Ahmu assumed the starting role -- not bad for a true freshman. His first game's performance was hit and miss, but much of that can probably be attributed to his first game as a collegian. Against Nevada, he notched his first career sack among two tackles. It looks to be just a matter of time before he's wreaking havoc on a regular basis.

DeWayne Patterson was a force at safety against the Vandals, pressed into action due to Husain Abdullah's high ankle sprain. Abdullah will assume his starting spot when health allows, but expect to see plenty of Patterson this season. The 6-2, 200-pounder out of Chaffey College went airborne to force a fumble on the Cougs' first kickoff of the season -- leading to WSU's second TD before the game was two minutes old -- while recording five tackles on the night, including a sack. Patterson also showed plenty of big-hit ability.

Lorenzo Bursey and Lance Broadus are the two other JC transfers who already are in the mix. Doba said last week that the kickoff return team needs to get a few things ironed out because Bursey looks ready to break one. Doba also mentioned Broadus, who sprained the AC joint in his shoulder against Nevada, has some weight to gain but he sees him becoming a definite plus for the Cougs providing a speed rush off the end. Broadus's size might indicate linebacker rather than defensive end at most schools, but most schools don't have the trio of true freshmen the Cougs do at LB.

COURTNEY WILLIAMS was nominated for Pac-10 special teams player of the week following his first college game.

Courtney Williams was all over the field against the Vandals, just as he was during the WSU fall camp.

The speed merchant had five special teams tackles on his way to earning the Assassin and Game Breaker weekly awards, and was nominated for Pac-10 special teams player of the week.

Opponents, as evidenced by Nevada in Week Two, will put a big red X on him the rest of the way but with his speed -- his 47.28 over 400-meters was at one point the nation's fifth-best among high schoolers earlier this year -- WSU's special teams looks to have received an immediate upgrade.

Linebackers Cory Evans (6-2, 215), Jason Stripling (6-0, 215) and Greg Trent (5-10, 230) have the coaches very excited about what the future holds at Washington State -- the triumvirate already holds the No. 2 spots on the depth chart.

GREG TRENT led all rookies at Nevada with four tackles. All four were solo stops.

Ferocious hitters, they all have speed to thrill. Linebackers coach Leon Burtnett said the true freshmen have things to learn, but they're better by far than any group of freshmen 'backers he's had in his three years on the Palouse.

Trent led all first year players with four tackles against Nevada -- all solo. Evans had three and Stripling added one of his own.

Wide receiver Brandon Gibson had a remarkable fall camp. The Puyallup product runs exceptional routes and with his first TD catch against Nevada is making his presence felt sooner rather than later despite the depth at the position -- as should Benny Ward. Once thought to be a redshirt candidate, the Van Nuys, Calif., deep threat took the field Thursday and will likely cut his teeth on special teams this season. Ward was known as a tremendous blocker and a big hitter at Birmingham High.

As far as big hitters go, Michael Willis has also seen some playing time. Willis had some of the most vicious hits seen on a high school gridiron over his prep playing days at Tacoma's Lincoln High, and his hit on Marty Martin during the Cougars fall camp was a decaffeinator. Willis will probably need to shake a little more rust off after missing a year, and spring ball, while he got his academic house in order and the SAT board twiddled their thumbs. But he's making progress every day, and that's bad news for anyone coming over the middle.

DeMAUNDRAY WOOLRIDGE's combination of speed and power has earned him instant PT.

DeMaundray Woolridge got a handful of carries against Idaho and if Doba could have, he'd have liked to have gotten the 5-8.5, 221-pound bowling ball into the game sooner. Against Nevada, the Keller, Texas., speedster got 15 carries and churned out 133 yards, including the 70 yard romp to set up WSU's last score and Woolridge's first career touchdown.

Doba said Tuesday afternoon that Woolridge could remain the No. 2 running back even after Kevin McCall returns from injury. With speed, power and fearlessness, Woolridge's crimson future looks bright indeed.

MAKE NO MISTAKE, the speed and talent in this class looks to provide immediate benefits this season. But over the long haul, just wait till this group gets some time under their belts.

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