Not most coveted but maybe most valuable

ANDY MATTINGLY, ANTHONY HOUSTON and Trevor Mooney are the marquee prep pick ups of Washington State's new recruiting class while Charles Dillon, J.T. Diederichs and Derrell Hutsona are the big names coming in from the junior college ranks. But if you had to go with the Most Valuable Pickups in the '06 class you'd be hard pressed to find two better candidates than cornerbacks Brian Williams and Kerry Maddox.

They're valuable commodities at a position where the Cougars need big-time help. WSU returns only four scholarship corners from last season.

To say the Cougars are thin on experience out on the island is an understatement of titanic proportion.

And, indeed, the plain fact is that the Cougars' pass defense is in serious need of assistance. WSU's historically stout stop corps took a pounding in 2005, ranking eighth in the Pac-10 in total defense and ninth in passing D. In conference action, WSU surrendered an average of 318 passing yards per game. The Cougars also gave up 23 TD passes while intercepting only eight balls.

Which is why the signings of Maddox (5-10, 175) and Williams (6-2, 180) are, at least in the near term, perhaps the most crucial of the '06 class.

Williams and Maddox have a shot not just at immediate playing time but the starting lineup as well. Cornerback is one of the few positions conducive to a rookie earning a starting job, although he needs to be a special player.

Senior-to-be Tyron Brackenridge will be a lock at one corner, but the other side figures to be a free-for-all. Williams and Maddox will join a group of contenders there that includes senior Don Turner, junior Lorenzo Bursey (provided he doesn't move to offense) and sophomore Ian Bell.

WILLIAMS, OUT OF Long Beach City College by way of Desert Pines High in Las Vegas, chose Washington State over offers from BYU, Hawaii and TCU as well as interest from USC and others. He will graduate this spring and have two to play two in Pullman.

Because of his speed, particularly his make-up speed, Williams would seem the ideal cover corner. His JC coach, Jerry Jaso, says he's a bona fide 4.4 speedster with good footwork and – as any evaluator of corners will tell you is key – the type of hips that can turn on a dime.

In 2005, Williams registered 48 tackles, intercepted two passes and notched double digit pass breakups. He also posted 615 yards on 20 kickoff returns.

"He's got great catch up speed, he can really turn and run," said Jaso. "He elevates well and at 6-foot-2 ... he's got the height everyone is looking for."

MADDOX, A TEXAS native with a drawl reminiscent of molasses in wintertime, is anything but slow on the field, sporting a time of 4.43 in the 40. After the eleventh hour hesitation on trekking to the Northwest, he was the first to sign with WSU on Feb. 1, choosing the crimson and gray over offers from Texas State, Baylor, Utah plus increasing interest from Michigan State, Oklahoma State, UTEP and others.

His self-assessment tells you why he's a corner:

"They call me 'The General' down here," he told CF.C. "Because I lead everyone."

The opportunity to play early for a coaching staff he clicked with were key factors in his decision. He also said it was hard to ignore the fact one-time Washington State corners Jason David, Marcus Trufant, Erik Coleman, Lamont Thompson and Karl Paymah are all playing in the NFL right now.

Maddox didn't play defense his senior season because of his QB duties, leading John Tyler High to the playoffs for the first time in five years with 1,900 passing yards and another 670 on the ground. But as a junior, he was a first-team all-league selection at defensive back, racking up an eye opening 80 tackles.

ANOTHER ARRIVAL WHO could be at WSU as early as May is B.T. Walker. See's front page for a story published this week for more on Walker.

On track to earn his AA degree in the spring, Walker will have two to play two and says his paperwork is in order and he can't wait to get to Washington State. Despite the fact teams shied away from his size, Walker concluded 2005 with 13 pass breakups, three interceptions and 25 tackles, helping COC post a 12-1 record.

Walker has been timed at 4.4 in the 40 and, like Williams, has excellent closing speed. An all-around athlete, he also could contend for time returning kicks.

Kerry Maddox profile
Brian Williams profile
B.T. Walker profile

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the annual Bill Doba dinner in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area. It's Feb. 17 at Emerald Downs in Auburn. To order your spot, call WSU-West at 206-448-1330.

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