Prep coach: Russian export will shine

IF YOU THOUGHT WSU legend Reuben Mayes –- the Pride of North Battleford, Saskatchewan -– blazed a circuitous trail to Pullman, take a look at the recruiting class Cougar head coach Paul Wulff will unveil Wednesday. You'll find a 6-4, 225-pound project from tiny Meridian High. The Bellingham school is a rare stop for Pac-10 talent hunters. But that's far from what is most unique about the kid.

He's originally from St. Petersburg. As in Leningrad. And his prep line coach is certain this Russian export will be an American hit.

Andrei Lintz earned Class 1A All-State honors at both defensive end and punter in 2007. But his future, says Meridian assistant coach Webster Kurs, figures to be at tight end, where Lintz was an all-district selection.

"He has great hands – soft hands, and he's fast -- in the low 4.6 range. He can probably get down into the 4.5s with training," says Kurs.

Attitude and work ethic also set Lintz apart.

"He has what you want: an inner motor," said Kurs, who is a 1996 WSU graduate. "He is driven to get better. He always asks us (the coaches) what he can do to get better. ‘How's my footwork? Is my head positioned where it needs to be?'

"He's a great kid who works hard. And he's only been playing football for four years, so he's still learning, and shaking the soccer mentality of finesse as opposed to physical power," Kurs added.

Until Wulff came along with a scholarship in early January, Lintz had offers only from Idaho State and Montana. Boise State, Cal and UCLA expressed ongoing interest, and Arizona State came inquiring right after WSU made its offer.

"He's going to surprise a lot of people," said Kurs. "There are going to be some Saturdays down the road when the coaches from Cal and UCLA are wishing they'd recruited him harder."

Versatility has been Lintz's calling card since turning out for football as a freshman with the simple notion of using his skills in soccer to become a field goal kicker.

"In a program as small as ours, everybody has to play a bit of everything," said Kurs, chuckling at the thought of someone being strictly a specialist. As a freshman, Lintz did indeed kick, but he also played safety and receiver. As a sophomore, he added punting and tight end to his resume.

As a junior he became a standout tight end, hauling in 49 passes for 718 yards and 16 TDs. In 2007, he starred at punter, tight end (35 catches for 638 yards) and defensive end. He also dabbled a bit at running back, racking up 442 rushing yards.

And he returned kicks to the tune of 251 yards and one TD.

Did we already say versatile?

The results, personally and collectively, were impressive. Meridian won the state Class IA title over Connell in 2006 – with Lintz making the game-saving tackle after suggesting to coaches that he move to safety for the final snaps of the game. This past season, Meridian was a powerhouse again, finishing 11-1 after going down in the state quarter-finals.

Born on the Baltic in the fourth-largest city in Europe, Lintz' family moved to the U.S. when he was six. His grandfather was a professional soccer player in Russia.

Of Pullman and WSU, said Lintz when he announced his verbal commitment a couple of weeks ago, "it's the right fit … every time I thought about it, I just pictured myself going to Washington State. So I just finally realized, 'I've got to take this offer.'"

* Cougar walk on linebacker Brady Emmons is also a product of Meridian High.

* Kurs, a WSU grad, said he didn't have a chance to tell Lintz about the glory of Pullman. "He didn't even tell me he had an offer from the Cougs. I didn't know he was taking a trip over there. He just comes up to me in the hall one day and says he's headed to WSU. Really? Great!"

* CF.C will bring you wall-to-wall Signing Day coverage and insight tomorrow and on through the rest of the week -- including a lunch-time Chat Room session with WSU recruiting coordinator Rich Rasmussen that starts at 12:30 Wednesday.

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