Bump, Gibby, Dillon to rate among WSU elite?

WASHINGTON STATE offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller, entering his 17th season as the Cougars' receivers coach, said last year's catching corps of Jason Hill, Michael Bumpus, Brandon Gibson and Chris Jordan may have been the best foursome he's had on the Palouse. And if Charles Dillon steps up this season the way he expects, 2007 could deliver the best pass-catching threesome in Levy's tenure.

"Bumpus is THE MAN," Levenseller said of the senior co-captain who led the Pac-10 in receiving most of last year before a late season leg injury. "And Gibson is the other man. Those guys are special. If Dillon can elevate his game to their level, and I believe he can, they -- as a group -- are as good as any I've had."

And that's saying a ton.

As groups go, the Cougs have had some breathtaking amounts of talent lining up side by side on the flanks during the Levenseller years.

In 1992 there was C.J. Davis, Deron Pointer, Philip Bobo and Calvin Schexnayder. The 1998 Rose Bowl team featured the fabled Fab Five of Chris Jackson, Kevin McKenzie, Shawn McWashington, Shawn Tims and Nian Taylor. The 2003 Rose Bowl team included Devard Darling, Mike Bush, Jerome Riley, Sammy Moore and Scott Lunde.

Bumpus caught 60 passes last season -- seventh on WSU's single-season list -- and has 125 career catches. His work in the Apple Cup, on a bad leg, was the stuff of lore. He hadn't practiced in two weeks, didn't warm up before the game and then went out and caught five balls for 43 yards. That performance illustrates the heart and talent he brings to the field, Levenseller said.

Gibson, a junior from Puyallup, was sixth in the Pac-10 in receiving yards last season. He caught 49 passes for 731 hashes and four TDs. Dillon came to WSU a year ago from Oxnard Community College and caught 15 balls for 119 yards -- 12 of those catches coming in the final three weeks of the season when he replaced injured Jason Hill. In terms of pure athleticism, he's as gifted as any player on the team, say Cougar coaches.

The big question at receiver when fall camp opens August 3 is which players will be joining Bumpus, Gibson and Dillon in the Cougars' five-man rotation.

"We have three very good receivers and then a group of guys who need to elevate their play from the spring," Levenseller said at the recent King County Cougar Golf Classic co-sponsored by CF.C. Second-year freshman Keith Rosenberg and senior Finas Rabb probably had the best spring seasons of the crowd vying for the two open spots, but the competition will be wide open, Levenseller said.

The other contenders are juniors Benny Ward, Scott Selby and Michael Willis, sophomore Greg Walker and second-year freshman Anthony Houston. None has caught a ball in a Pac-10 game. In addition, two incoming prep speed burners -- Jeshua Anderson and Daniel Blackledge -- will join the fray.

Anderson, from Woodland Hills, Calif., last month established a new national high school record in the 300 meter hurdles, breaking the previous mark set in 1985.

ASKED WHAT STRIKES HIM most about incoming new Cougar quarterback Marshall Lobbestael of Oak Harbor, Levenseller cited athleticism, quick decision making and a strong arm. But above all, there's the scrapper factor. "Hell, the guy long snaps, which means he's a football player," Levenseller enthused.

Lobbestael was named the 2006 state Class 4A Player of the Year after leading Oak Harbor to its first-ever state championship game. He passed for 34 touchdowns and 2,776 yards -- and he served as the long snapper on special teams.

Another quarterback in the Cougs' new recruiting class is proving this summer that the life of a star prep athlete isn't as glamorous as the movies make it out. Three-sport Pullman High standout J.T. Levenseller is working this summer at Les Schwab Tires. J.T. will grayshirt this fall and spend the time working out and possibly serving as an assistant coach at Pullman High before enrolling at WSU in January, his dad reports. In his two years as PHS' starting QB, he threw for more than 3,000 yards and led the Greyhounds to a 23-2 record.

Speaking of the children of Cougar assistant football coaches, George Yarno's son George is a returning all-league center and team captain at Idaho State and Mike Walker's son, Marcus, will be a starting linebacker at Eastern Washington this season. Former Cougar assistant Robin Pflugrad's son Aaron, one of J.T. Levenseller's favorite targets at PHS in 2005, will be joining pappy this fall at Oregon.

Huge numbers of great seats remain for the Cougars' Sept. 8 game vs. San Diego State at Seattle's Qwest Field. Call 1-800-GO-COUGS or go online at wsucougars.com to get tickets. Prices range from $7 to $50. Game time has yet to be determined.

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