THE COUGARS THIS season haven't had the luxury of rotating players at defensive tackle. As a result, consistently stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback has suffered. Help is on the way. WSU this weekend received an oral pledge from a DT out of California who will compete -- beginning this spring -- for time up front. Joseph Townsend becomes the Cougs' seventh known verbal commitment. He has his eye on all four d-line spots and is already talks about "we" when referring to WSU.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Townsend doesn't really consider himself a new verbal, saying he never stopped being a Cougar commit.

"I'll pass my test and I'll be up to Washington State in January," said Townsend.

Still just 17 years old, Townsend's tantalizingly close to achieving a qualifying score, with two more attempts available -- later this month and in December.

The San Jose wrecking ball signed with Washington State as part of their 2005 class. When he failed to qualify, Townsend became eligible to be recruited again. But the Valley Christian Schools has a polite but firm message for schools contacting him: Don't bother.

"I tell them, 'Nah, I'll stick with Washington State,'" said Townsend.

BESIDES SPENDING HIS time with his nose stuck in the books, Townsend has added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame since his high school days. He's been diligently working out with his brother, former New Orleans and Nebraska defensive tackle Larry Townsend Jr..

"We're working on technique and we hit the gym most every night," says Townsend. "I've been working out with him ever since March."

By enrolling in January, Townsend will be eligible to participate in spring ball. He says he can't wait.

"When I go up there as a freshman, I want to be able to earn (playing time) right away," said Townsend. "I'm thinking about playing a little d-end myself, too. I'd love to play d-end and d-tackle, come off the edge and smack the quarterback."

A 285-pound defensive end? Townsend's already lobbying line coaches Mike Walker and Robb Akey for some playing time out wide.

"I talked to coach Walker a little bit about that and he's like, 'Ahhh, we'll see'," laughed Townsend. "I'll play d-tackle, d-end, wherever, it doesn't matter. And coach Akey said they might have me playing a little d-end. I'm going to (prepare to) play all four spots."

ON HIS OFFICIAL VISIT to Washington State this weekend, Townsend said everything was perfect except for one thing.

"It was pretty cool," said Townsend. "The only thing I'm disappointed in is that we lost the game. But oh man, it was so much fun to go see the fans, be in the locker room and head out with the players."

Townsend's player host was Xavier Hicks and the two got along famously.

"Xavier's a really cool guy," said Townsend.

The book on Townsend is he's a fast defensive tackle who clocked at a 4.9 in the 40 his senior year. An intense player with a motor to match, Townsend's style is to go full throttle whistle to whistle. He was all-league on both sides of the ball his senior year at Valley Christian.

Townsend joins offensive linemen Grady Maxwell and Micah Hannam, running back Skylar Jessen, safety Andy Mattingly, running back Marcus Richmond and wide receiver Keith Rosenberg in the WSU class of 2006.

Joseph Townsend

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