Hunt is on for Steak Eaters

BESTILL MY HEART. <b>Mike Price</b>, for the first time in recent years, appears to be going hog wild this recruiting season for tried-and-true hosses. At least six prep offensive linemen -- five from California -- have received offers from the Cougars so far and another dozen in-staters are drawing strong interest.

Those offered so far include:

Bobby Byrd (6-6. 250) of Oceanside Calif. He was in Pullman two weeks for an unofficial visit and was reported to have had a great time, courtesy in part to Jason Gesser. Byrd appears to be set on WSU, UW or Oregon, but USC and Colorado are still possibilities.

Hercules Satele (6-2, 248) of national powerhouse Long Beach Poly. He was one of seven Poly seniors-to-be who received scholarship offers from WSU in May and was absolutely dominant at the NorCal Nike Camp.

Travis Draper (6-4, 252) of Paso Robles, Calif. Get this, he runs the 40 in 4.79 second. His top five right now are WSU, UW, USC, UCLA and Fresno State, with Stanford lurking.

Ryan Kalil (6-4, 265) of Anaheim. He's committed verbally to USC, but you just never know when a kid may rethink his future.

Roy Scheuning (6-4, 275) of Pendleton, Ore. Big but very fleet of foot, he's considered one of the top hosses in the West. He had 38 pancake blocks as a junior. Said to like all four Northwest schools, but a slight lean to Oregon.

Drew Radovich (6-5, 275) of Mission Viejo, Calif. Named to the Calfornia junior class all-state team in 2001. Said to be leaning toward Colorado and USC, with WSU, UW and both Arizonas playing catch up.

AS MUCH AS I love the air game, my formative years in southcentral Texas, where Darrell Royal's smash-mouth wishbone and wing-T offenses piled up a heap of wins for the Longhorns, instilled in me an affinity for three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust. So my pulse quickens as I look at how Price is approaching his 2003 recruiting class.

The pursuit of full-fledged offensive steak eaters marks a departure for Price, who built last year's Sun Bowl team and this year's highly touted squad around the notion that you recruit lots of defensive end/tight end types and then farm out to the OL the ones who can't catch or prove a step slow.

To that end, the Cougars signed just two legitimate hosses in the 2002 recruiting class and one in 2001. Based on the fact this year's WSU offensive line, led by All-America candidate Derrick Roche, could be the finest on the Palouse since Mike Utley, John Husby & Co. helped produce two 1,000-yard rushers in 1988, there's no arguing the wisdom of Price's philosophy. So why the seeming change in course for the 2003 class?

Just guessing, I'd say two factors are at work.

First, the kids Price is looking to bring in next season may be bona-fide hosses, but their collective profile contains one attribute that Price demands: Agility and height. In other words, these are not lumbering potbellies.

And second, Price is looking ahead to 2004. While tackles Calvin Armstrong and Sam Lightbody will still be around then, along with up-and-comers Riley Fitt-Chappell and Norvell Holmes, the depth starts to get a little murky. Even if this year's pair of incoming offensive linemen --- Spencer Hollison (6-6, 270; named by SuperPrep Magazine as one of the top prospects in California/Hawaii/Nevada); and Nick Mihlhauser (6-3, 275, named by L.A. Times as lineman of the year in the coastal region) --- turn into shades of 1997's Fat Five, that's still not enough beef to weather the unexpected injuries or academic woes.

Of note is that none of the hoss prospects reported to have received offers from the Cougars is from the state of Washington. This, too, is a departure for Price, who until last year with Hollsion and Mihlauser, traditionally has looked inward for his trenchmen. In fact, the touted starting OLfor this year's Cougar team has nary an out-of-stater in the bunch.

That's not to say the Cougars aren't keeping a close eye on the in-state beef. Among the home grown offensive line prospects believed to be on WSU's watch list are:

Richy Mulcahy (6-4, 283), Henry M. Jackosn High in Mill Creek.

Brett Thielke (6-5, 285), Skyline High, Issaquah.

Drew Fowler (6-5, 258), Kentwood High, Kent.

Jacob Bouge (6-4, 260), University High, Spokane.

Elliott Sims (6-3, 290), Sealth High, Seattle.

Bobby Dockter (6-5, 275), Kamiak High, Mukilteo.

Vili Kuaea (6-4, 315) Lakes High, Lakewood.

Josh Tsechirgi (6-4, 275), Skyview High, Vancouver.

Aaron Gilbert (6-3, 305) Thomas Jefferson High, Auburn.

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