Mirkiest Bruce: A steal of a deal for WSU

Published August 8, 2002 PULLMAN --- It's not as if he played in the likes of Delta or Spangle --- obscure football outposts that produced two of his mates in WSU's newest class of football recruits. But Mkristo Bruce nonetheless passed under the serious radar of Pac-10 recruiters this past year and today looks like one of the great steals in the Pac-10.

Along with fellow rookie defensive end Adam Braidwood, Bruce's agility and fire are turning heads in Pullman this week. With his quickness and a little more bulk on his body, he could be the second-coming of D.D. Acholonu and Issac Brown.

Bruce hails from Liberty High in Renton where he was a mainstay on both sides of the ball --- quarterback and linebacker --- for two seasons. He runs like the wind and is athletic enough to have starred in basketball and track as well football. Bruce is a 6-foot-6, 210-pound package of nitro-burnin' agility with the greatest first name --- it's Swahili for "Christian" --- this side of Shaumbe Wright-Fair. Yet he managed to go virtually unnoticed this past recruiting season. Not one of the so-called experts had him anywhere on the D-I prospect list.

An all-conference honorable mention pick as a junior and a first-teamer as a senior, he still had everyone this side of South Bend asking who the heck he was after verbally committing to WSU during his official trip to Pullman in December.

Everyone, that is, except Mike Price, Bill Doba and Mike Walker.

When Mkristo left Price's annual summer football camp for aspiring gridders last June, the coaches had visions of Acholonu dancing in their heads. D.D. as you may recall, was a lightly recruited Seattle-area product in whom Price & Co. saw massive untapped potential. In 2001, that potential turned into a monster season in which Acholonu, a second-year freshman defensive end, posted 14 tackles for loss and led the Pac-10 in sacks with 9.5.

Bruce is three inches taller than Acholonu and can easily pack on another 20 pounds, which would bring him to an Acholonu-like 230.

"I love this guy," Price gushed last March at his annual dinner with the Pierce County Cougar Club.

Bruce is going to turn into a standout defensive end or outside linebacker for the Cougars, Price enthused. And if not on D, he might have what it takes to excel at tight end or receiver.

Bruce earned first-team all-league honors at linebacker last season and was a second-team choice at quarterback, where he piled up 1,300 yards of total offense and scored six TDs.

Bruce's physique, athleticism, work ethic and attitude --- especially attitude, willing to try virtually any position besides his native QB at Price's camp --- make him the ideal recruit.

To put his potential into truly proper perspective, consider that he doesn't turn 18 until this fall.

BRUCE ISN'T THE only member of WSU's new class to come out of nowhere. Price termed 6-2, 205-pound Steve Dildine, a running back/linebacker from Spanaway's Bethel High, "a gift from heaven." A gift, mind you, that runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and loves to hit.

Dildine hadn't played organized football since eighth grade but emerged on WSU's watch list at the same time Mkristo Bruce did --- at Price's football camp last summer.

After Dildine had a few of games under his belt at Bethel, proving he was a real deal, the Cougars made their move before this diamond in the rough was uncovered by others.

Dildine, who projects as a linebacker or perhaps safety, took the South Puget Sound League by storm in 2001, scoring a state record 44 TDs and rushing for nearly 2,300 yards. He is only the 27th player in state history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.

He helped lead Bethel to a 12-1 record, losing only to Carl Bonnell's Kentwood High in the playoff semifinals. He was a unanimous all-state selection and was picked by the Tacoma News Tribune as the state player of the year.

NOTABLE NOTES

* New recruit Nick Mihlhaueser (6-4, 268) of Arrroyo Grande, Calif., is the likely heir apparent at center after Tyler Hunt concludes his stellar crimson career at this season's end. Mihlhauser was voted lineman of the year in the Northern League, a conference of schools located near the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. He played tackle as a junior and center and guard this past season.

* Freshman tight end Jesse Taylor (6-4, 242) of West Hills, Calif., won't have a chance to catch a pass from Jason Gesser or Matt Kegel until Saturday, but if looks are any indication this kid is a huge pick up for the Cougars. He weighed in this week looking like Hercules. He's sculpted himself into a true specimen. One of the top 10 prep tight end prospects in the nation this past recruiting season, he has a sister who plays soccer at the University of Washington --- a fact that had Cougar coaches a little worried as letter of intent signing day approached. Alas, it turns out that Jesse is brainy as well as athletic, choosing to matriculate on the right side of the mountains. He has the size, speed (4.72), strength and maturity to contribute early --- perhaps now more than ever with news that Russell Mizin failed to qualify academically again this season.

* Another tight end in WSU's rookie class, JC transfer Eddie Robinson, is expected to be in uniform earlier than expected. He wraps up his final transfer class this week.


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