Recruiting: Who will get WSU's final DT slot?

IT'S LOOKING LIKE IT MAY be time to make touted prep defensive lineman Derek Simmons a soft verbal commitment for USC rather than a solid. The 6-5, 272-pound wrecking machine from the same Fairfield, Calif., high school that produced WSU defensive tackle Aaron Johnson is weighing his options. He took an official trip to Washington State in November and this week has an in-home visit with the Cougars. In addition, Oregon and UNLV appear to be looming large.

WSU figures to take only two defensive tackles in this recruiting class and one of those slots already is set to be filled by 6-4, 285-pound Joseph Townsend, a holdover from the Cougars' 2005 recruiting class.

Clearly, the Cougars are being selective in who will fill that second slot. Their top two candidates appear to be Simmons and Elk Grove, Calif., prospect De'Shon Matthews, a 6-4, 253 pound four-star talent believed to have narrowed his list to Washington State, Arizona, Fresno State, Oregon and Washington.

As for Simmons, he has in-home visits set up with Oregon and UNLV in addition to WSU. Curiously, USC is not yet on that dance card. He's also in the process of setting up an official visit to Eugene.

Of his official trip to Pullman, the weekend of that nailbiter of a game with Oregon, he said things went very well and that he got a good feel for the campus and the coaching staff. He also said he clicked with Johnson, a fellow product of Northern California's Armijo High, and freshman quarterback Arkelon Hall of Fresno.

Simmons, who verbaled with USC last summer, stresses that the Trojans remain No. 1 but that he wants to weigh all his options before making things final.

The Trojans continue to stay in frequent contact, with assistant coach Pat Golden Ruel, a one-time Washington State assistant under Jim Walden, calling every Monday.

WITH HIS SIZE, SIMMONS will likely end up at defensive tackle but his athleticism, quickness and speed is uncommon -- he was the league MVP in basketball this past season.

He put up virtually identical numbers in 2005 compared to his junior campaign when he earned league lineman of the year honors. This season Simmons had 10 sacks amongst his 69 tackles (47 solo).

He also played some situational offense this season, hauling in seven catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns in limited turns as a tight end -- obviously retaining some of that speed and quickness from back when he was around 250 pounds and would play a little 'backer in Armijo's passing leagues.

"He has a lot of ways that he can improve, college-wise, but he's just got such great feet," says Mike Singer, his prep coach. "He can actually play linebacker -- he's just that quick. When he goes to our passing leagues, he actually plays linebacker."

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