THERE'S NO NEED TO wait until the clock strikes midnight. The Cougar Nation can put on the party hats, grab the whistles and start the celebration a few hours early. Highly sought San Diego receiver Anthony Houston has given Washington State an oral pledge here on the last day of 2005 -- He's a Cougar.

Houston, rated among the nation's Top 50 wide receivers, said he had been feeling Washington State more and more the last several weeks.

And the 6-foot-4, 200 pound gamebreaker nearly pulled the trigger earlier this week on the Cougs. Today, there was no longer reason to wait any longer and Houston grabbed the phone to call one very excited WSU assistant George Yarno.

"I talked to coach Yarno today from Washington State and I committed," said Houston.

HOUSTON SPENT A lot of time and effort on his college choice, pouring over every scrap of information he could get his hands on.

"It was my overall feeling about the school after doing my research -- I did my research on these schools," said Houston. "And I did my research on the players, and then where I would stand on the roster, the depth chart. It was just looking pretty good at Washington State.

"I just liked everything about Washington State," he said.

There's a lot to like about Houston as well, who could earn significant playing time as a true freshman for the Cougs. He said his commitment is solid. He won't be making a trip to Miami, nor anywhere else for that matter.

Houston chose WSU over a final four of offering schools that included Miami, Oregon State and Nebraska.

He went on to say it was a very tough decision because he has the utmost regard for the other schools, but that it had become increasingly clear Washington State was the best fit for him.

A QUINTESSENTIAL CASE where stats don't tell the story, Houston held more than a dozen offers all told.

Speaking to his athleticism, Miami saw the 6-foot-4 Houston as a cornerback. Yes, a corner.

Mission Bay went 3-to-1 in running plays to aerials this season, with the starting quarterback attempting only 130 passes all season and completing 79 of them. Despite double and triple teams, Houston had 28 receptions for 458 yards and four TDs, seven rushes for 66 more, plus seven kickoff returns for 144 yards. Defensively, he had 43 tackles with an interception.

BACK IN THE summer, shortly after Washington State looked at Houston's video, there was a scholarship offer from the Cougs waiting for him in his mailbox. And that was the way it went for Houston this recruiting year, with one school after the other lining up to compete for his services.

A couple of items to emphasize on Houston, information that Washington State and a populace of other schools obviously picked up on upon seeing his tape, and later when they scouted him in person. One: Houston was an excellent blocker with size for Mission Bay, something that can often make the difference on Saturday afternoons.

Two: Throw it up there in traffic. Because chances are Houston's going to come down with it.

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