A recruiting battle for Texas defenseman

WASHINGTON STATE coaches -- present and past -- are waging a recruiting battle to convince a 6-1, 235-pound, defensive playmaker from Arlington, Texas that their respective schools would be the best fit. He's narrowed his choices down to Washington State and one other finalist, and the coach recruiting him at the other school was a Cougar coach two months ago.

Mohammed Usman (6-1, 235, 4.71) was convinced to come to the Palouse for his college education and playing career following his official visit to Washington State back in early November. A few weeks later, the coaching change at WSU happened and the matter for Usman became less of a sure thing.

There are now a pair of finalists, and both will be getting some face time with Usman over the final days before the Feb. 6 Signing Day.

"It's Houston and Washington State right now," said Usman. "..I've been really trying to think about where is it best for me to go get an education and play football. And Washington State is real good and Houston is real good. So we're trying to sort that out. And so I ask myself, where do I want to play, Conference USA or Pac-10?

"And I'm sort of leaning towards Pac-10 right now," said Usman.

USMAN SAID Houston came by for an in-home visit on Tuesday, and he has a mid-week official trip scheduled for Jan. 29 to UH. Washington State, to whom Usman has already taken his official trip, is countering by sending co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball down for an in-home visit with Usman next week.

"I mean, (Houston's) an up and coming programming. They're really trying to recruit people they want to play -- they're telling me they're not going to be bringing me in, bringing in anybody, just to redshirt them. So there's good things about them and I like all the coaches in Houston," said Usman.

ONE OF THOSE coaches recruiting Usman for Houston is Leon Burtnett, who joined the UH staff after he was not among those from the previous regime (Mike Levenseller, Steve Broussard) to be retained by new WSU head man Paul Wulff.

"I like both programs, it's just hard right now. I'm trying to sort out everything," said Usman.

WHATEVER HIS CHOICE, be it WSU or Houston, it sounds like it won't be known until sometime after 7 a.m. on Feb. 6 -- that is when prep prospects can first send in their signed Letter of Intent.

"I'm just looking forward to college. I'm not going to make a verbal agreement, I'm just going to sign on Signing Day," said Usman.

And so for Wazzu fans, it would appear this recruiting season will hold intrigue right up until the very end.

THE ALWAYS UPBEAT Usman played with his hand down on Bowie High's defensive line -- and he would also make a fine college linebacker, says his prep coach.

"He makes plays all over the place. He's a good pass rusher," says Bowie's Kenny Perry.

Mohammed Usman profile

Usman's Bowie teammate Marcus McGraw was also offered by WSU under the previous staff. But the linebacker said once Burtnett left WSU, he was also headed elsewhere. McGraw is scheduled to visit Tulsa this weekend. Following that, he may take a mid-week trip to Boise State. Baylor and Colorado State are also showing increasing interest. Tulsa's coaching staff, said McGraw, is one he's formed a bond with and have been letting him know "how much they really want me."

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