Recruiting: New Jersey to Ol' Wazzu?

WASHINGTON STATE'S recruiting lifeblood flows out of California and Washington, with a growing pipeline out of Texas. So when the search for talent takes a turn to the East, where WSU recently became the first school to offer a shifty back from Tony Soprano's backyard, it takes on a certain head-turning quality. That wow factor grows bigger when you consider the lad's familiarity with Ol' Wazzu.

Nate Francisco (5-11, 175, 4.4) came out of Dwight Morrow High in Englewood, N.J., in 2006 and is now enrolled at Harmony Community, a prep school, in Cincinnati. The Cougs are hoping his trend toward the West takes him all the way across the country.

How does a guy more than 2,000 miles away come onto the radar of Washington State and earn a scholarship offer? Francisco is the cousin of Cougar senior cornerback B.T. Walker.

"I chat with him all the time," said Francisco. "He says that it's lovely out there at Washington State. If I go there, he'll have graduated by the time I get there but he says I'm going to like it out there, that all the coaches are nice, all the players are cool."

A quick look at video shows Francisco's somewhat unique running style, a player with the ability to make cuts while still moving forward. Cougar assistant Ken Greene is the recruiting point man for WSU and made the offer last month, said Francisco.

"He said 'I'm going to offer you because I want you on my team.' I'm the kind of person who will step up, not to tell people what to do, but I'm not scared to lead or to go down. Because when I go down, I know I'm going to pick myself back up," said Francisco.

Washington State is his lone offer, although Francisco said he has taken an unofficial visit to Cincinnati, been in in recent contact with Northwestern following a combine performance and received initial feelers from Cal, USC, UCLA and Tennessee.

"Northwestern texted my dad and we were talking to them for a little while. The University of Cincinnati, I went up and talked to the running backs coach two days ago and I showed him my tape. He said..I have the potential to help them win a league championship. He said he was going to show my tape to the head coach and see what they could do about a scholarship offer," said Francisco.

SPORTING 4.4 SPEED in the 40 and a 10.7 in the 100-meters, Francisco racked up 1,379 all-purpose yards his senior year in 2006. He received some exploratory interest from a handful of schools but that dried up when it became apparent he wasn't going to qualify.

"I knew I had to go to a prep school," said Francisco, who has been at Harmony since March.

Although he's been without his cell phone of late, he's still managed to keep in regular contact with the Washington State.

"I call coach Greene every week or every other week," said Francisco. "They said I would play receiver, punt return and kick return. I could play running back if I put on more weight but I think I'm better as a slot man and returning the ball.

"Coach Greene is a great person. If I go there, I think it would be like family out there. But I'm also going to base my decision on me, my father, my uncle and my mom and we'll talk about everything if I do end up getting a lot of offers. I think they want me to stay closer to home. But when it's all said and done, it's my decision, although I do want to hear their suggestions."

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