Cougs' leading tackler Frampton is all smiles

PULLMAN -- No matter where his football career takes him, Eric Frampton will always have a future in politics. Washington State's junior safety greets strangers with a handshake and a big smile, and makes a point to get their names correct. He parts company with another handshake, another big smile and a "Have a nice day." But as Reggie Bush can attest, Frampton only brings the lumber when greeting opposing receivers and running backs.

"He's a tough, physical player," attests WSU tailback Jerome Harrison. "He'll hit the big (running) backs that other guys don't want to hit."

In a self-evaluation, the 6-foot, 208-pound Frampton says his strength on the field is his tackling. "When I want to get a running back down, I get him down," he said after practice this week.

Last week against USC he made two of his signature sticks. One was an open-field thing of beauty on Bush. The other came when he leveled Trojans star receiver Dwayne Jarrett across the middle, causing a fumble. That the big hit came in the third quarter of a 55-13 blowout loss shows Frampton's never-say-die attitude.

"I play as hard as I can on every play," Frampton said. "I just try to run everywhere all the time and make tackles."

In this, his first season as s starter, Frampton leads the Cougars with 57 tackles (36 solo) from his strong safety position, including three tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception, which he returned 36 yards for a touchdown against Nevada.

But according to Frampton, at least one of those statistics could be higher.

"I've dropped four or five interceptions this year. I had the one against Nevada, but there have been four or five that I could've had,' he said. ‘I don't know what it is. I have this thing where I clap before I catch the ball. I need to stop doing that. This offseason I need to get out there and do ball drills, just like the receivers do."

Frampton came to WSU from Oak Grove High in San Jose, where he was an all-league running back and safety. After redshirting his first season with the Cougars, Frampton played mostly special teams in 2003 and ‘04. When last season's starting safeties, Hamza Abdullah and Jeremy Bohannon, graduated, Frampton was an obvious choice to start alongside Hamza's younger brother, Husain.

Ask any player or coach affiliated with WSU about Frampton, and they're quick to praise his personality before they get into his talent on the field.

"He's a great individual, first off. He's a humble, spiritual guy," Harrison said. "He's always there to lift you up and show you that it's okay to just be yourself."

As part of a defense that has given up 41.8 points per game in five Pac-10 losses, Frampton readily shoulders some of the responsibility for WSU's losing record (3-5 overall, 0-5 in the Pac-10) and whisker-thin bowl hopes. The Cougars have to win each of their remaining three games --- against Arizona State, Oregon and at Washington --- to play in the postseason.

"There are games that we should have won that we didn't win," he said. "But if we can win these last three, not only would we get to a bowl game, it sets the tone for next year.

"We know what we can do, and it starts with Arizona State."

NOTES FROM THURSDAY'S PRACTICE:

It was rainy, cold and windy on Thursday, and with the players in helmets and no pads for a walk-through workout, WSU coaches decided to start practice 30 minutes early so the team could get on and off the field asap.

There were no changes in the starting lineups, and none of the previously injured players returned to the field, including Ropati Pitoitua and Will Derting.

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