Future Cougs dominate state's blue chip list

FUTURE COUGARS Marshall Lobbestael and Kevin Freitag today were picked as two of the state's four "blue chip" college football prospects by the Seattle Times in its annual rating of the top 100 high school seniors across the state. Three other WSU verbal commitments earned "red chip" status. The newspaper's assessments are based largely on interviews with college and high school coaches.

The Times defines a blue chipper as someone who is capable of Division I stardom. A red chip selection – of which the paper picked 20 -- is considered capable of starting in a major conference or starring at the Division I-AA level. And a white chip pick is thought to have the potential to play college ball.

The 6-2, 210-pound Lobbestael, the state's Class 4A Player of the Year, quarterbacked Oak Harbor to its first-ever state title this season. He passed for 34 touchdowns and 2,776 yards. His prep coach, Dave Ward, says that from the time Lobbestael started as a sophomore he knew the kid was a Pac-10-caliber quarterback. "Marshall is the best quarterback, the best leader, the best passer, the best player I've ever coached," he says. Lobbestael burst onto the cyberspace recruiting radar early in the season when he completed 18 of 22 passes and a school-record six touchdowns passes against Meadowdale.

Freitag, a 6-4, 286-pound first-team Associated Press All-State selection, led Kennedy and its high-powered ground game to the state finals. His coach, Bob Bourgette, says Freitag is farther along at this stage than one of the most celebrated linemen ever to come out of the Seattle area: former Kennedy standout, WSU first-team All-American, and Detroit Lions starter Mike Utley. Freitag was named Seamount League Offensive and Defensive Lineman of the Year. He will play center or guard at Washington State. He squats 545 pounds holds a 3.8 GPA.

The other two players in the state named blue chippers by the Times are Freitag's teammate at Kennedy, running back Nate Williams, and Auburn defensive back/quarterback Kellen Kiilsgaard. Williams is headed to Washington and Kielsgaard to Stanford.

THE FUTURE COUGARS on the Times' red chip list are defensive tackle B.J. Guerra (6-4, 300) of Moses Lake, offensive lineman Steven Ayers (6-4, 275) of Bellingham (Sehome) and fullback Logwone Mitz (6-2, 220) of Redmond.

Guerra was a first-team AP All-State pick and the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year in the 4A Columbia Basin League. The Tri-City Herald calls Guerra "the most dominating force in the Columbia Basin 4A League" and says "the soft-spoken Guerra has tormented and beat up offensive lines, garnering the attention of two, sometimes three blockers trying to keep him under wraps. And sometimes that isn't even enough." He also is a standout basketball player.

Mitz, the son of former Seattle Seahawk Alonzo Mitz, is the No. 11-rated prep fullback in the nation by Scout.com. He averaged 104 rushing yards per game in 2006 and was on track for a 1,000-yard-year before an ankle sprain shelved him late in the season. He wa named first-team all-Kingco Class 4A. He is a punishing runner who has been timed in the 40 at 4.55 seconds. He also is a league champion discus thrower.

Ayers, a first-team all-classifications All-State pick by the Seattle Times and AP Class 2A all-state choice, was a two-way star at Sehome High. Scout.com rates him No. 33 nationally among prep offensive guards. He is a favorite to win the state Class 2A state heavyweight wrestling title in 2007, and also is a standout in track and field.

Two other red chip prospects –- Bellevue safety Eric Block and Pullman athlete J.T. Levenseller -– hold scholarship offers from the Cougars but have yet to make a decision on where they'll play college ball.

AS COUGARS GO, the Times' blue chip choices over the years have panned out nicely. A year ago, linebacker Andy Mattingly of Spokane made the blue chip list and wound up playing considerably for the Cougars as true freshman this past season. Gig Harbor lineman Kenny Alfred, a 2005 blue chipper, started eight games at center for WSU in 2006 as a second-year freshman and recently was named second-team Freshman All-American by Scout.com. Cody Boyd and Jeremy Williams are other successful Cougars of recent vintage who were dubbed blue chippers.

THE TIMES' ASSESSMENT of talent is grounded in extensive interviews with high school and college coaches, and indirectly supports the belief that the rating systems of Scout.com and Rivals.com are fatally flawed. Among the drawbacks is the fact none of the people making the ratings have coached in high school or college, and that they can only realisitically secure first-hand observations of a fraction of the prospect pool.

Perhaps the biggest flaw, however, is the fact these cyber rating systems are built almost entirely on an athlete's junior season. That's why quarterback prospects Jason Munns of Kennewick and Jake Gelakoska of Mill Creek have four stars next to their names, but only are rated red chip prospects, while the late-blooming Lobbestael is considered a blue chipper but has only two stars by his name. Similarly, which the Times actually noted, Lake Washington tight end Chris Izbicki is rated by Scout as one of the top 100 overall prospects in the entire nation and the No. 4 tight end, but earned only red chip status in the state of Washington after area prep and college coaches were consulted.

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