Cougs in tie at top for local playmaker

THERE IS NO DOUBT Washington State wants Kellen Kiilsgaard, the 6-2, 215-pound two-sport star from Auburn. The Cougs offered him a baseball scholarship a year ago and a football scholie a little over a week ago. Bill Doba sees him as a receiver, Don Marbut as a hard-throwing lefty. Which sport, or both, will he choose? And if it's baseball, is it college or pro? Regardless, the goal is to make an early decision and he says on the football front the Cougs are tied at the top of his list.

Much has already been made this early recruiting season about Kiilsgaard's prospects on the baseball diamond. But that might not end up being the factor some think it will be. And it's also not necessarily a negative that Oregon doesn't have a baseball program.

"As much as I'd love to play both sports, I also know how much of a challenge it would be," said Kiilsgaard. "So if I really fell in love with Oregon, it would make it that much easier on me...My priority is definitely to play college football."

Kiilsgaard, a lefty with an upper 80s fastball, could also end up being a MLB draft pick next June but Auburn High coach Gordon Elliot said that while much would depend on how high he might go, education is a priority in the Kiilsgaard family. Kiilsgaard's father is a teacher and his mother is a counselor.

KIILSGAARD'S BASEBALL OFFERS are too numerous to list but Washington State, Oregon and Idaho have made early football offers.

"Oregon and Washington State are my early frontrunners, those two are definitely at the top of my list right now," said Kiilsgaard. "After that in no particular order would be Washington, USC, Oregon State and Stanford."

An early decision might also be in the cards for the football and baseball prospect.

"I think my goal would be to make a decision by the summer," he said.

Assistant coach Mile Levenseller is recruiting Kiilsgaard for the Cougs, who have offered him as a receiver.

"I really like him -- met him a couple summers ago at a team camp at Washington State and he's just a real easy guy to talk to," said Kiilsgaard, who is familiar with the Pullman-Moscow area with dad Kjel an All-State lineman at Spokane's Ferris High who went on to star at Idaho in the early 70s.

Elliot said most are looking at Kiilsgaard as a QB/ATH with their evaluations not yet complete. Oregon offered as a QB, the Huskies are still deciding if they'll offer but they are looking at him first at QB, too. UCLA's looking at Kiilsgaard for defense, the Bruins see him putting on 25 pounds and playing linebacker.

"The Cougars are the only ones I think who are looking at him at another offensive position," said Elliot. "I think that speaks to his athleticism and the things he does when he carries the football...I think he'd be a great receiver if that's what he decides he wants to do and it's the best school for him."

AS FAR AS the local colleges, Kiilsgaard grew up rooting for the purple and gold but said he's a fan of both WSU and UW now.

"I'm neutral now between the two in-state schools," said Kiilsgaard. "It's kind of exciting, actually, as far as playing receiver. I'm honored they respect my athleticism that much...It took a couple days to sick in and really think about it but it's intriguing to me and it's not a negative at all."

Elliot said Kiilsgaard has the whole package -- good football instincts, fast, strong and very athletic. Academically, Kiilsgaard is in the top 10 of his class at Auburn with a near-4.0 GPA and from what Elliot says, those smarts carry over to the football field and baseball diamond as well.

"He's just one of those guys that does everything really well," said Elliot. "He's able to take over a game when he needs to."

Kiilsgaard has been on unofficial visits to UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington but may have difficulty hitting many more because of his summer baseball schedule. He does plan on trying to fit in at least one day at some of the school's youth football camps.

LAST SEASON WAS Kiilsgaard's first as Auburn's starting quarterback, and they don't throw it a whole lot. He's also started at free safety since his sophomore year.

"He's a really excellent defensive football player," said Elliot.

Offensively in Auburn's Wing-T, Kiilsgaard rushed for 885 yards and 14 TDs on 142 carries. Through the air, he completed 46 of 89 passes for 743 yards and four scores. At free safety, Kiilsgaard racked up 62 tackles (45 solo) with four INTs. He's also been named all-league as a punter the last two seasons.

Kellen Kiilsgaard profile

There are three other potential D-I prospects at Auburn in the process of being evaluated by schools:

LB Kevin Jeffery (6-2, 210)
OL Ben Brown (6-3, 245)
WR/DB Aaron Johnson (5-10, 165)

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