Coug secondary gets double boost this spring

WASHINGTON STATE'S secondary is going to be deeper this spring than expected. Safety Xavier Hicks, suspended from the team earlier this year, will be reinstated and in uniform when the Cougs open spring football workouts on March 17. In addition, first-year coach Paul Wulff will welcome a veteran corner who is asking the NCAA for a medical redshirt and another season of eligibility.

Whether Markus Dawes is granted the extra year of eligibility remains to be seen, but until a decision is made he's allowed to practice and will be knocking heads in spring ball, WSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball told CF.C Friday at the annual "Night with Cougar Football" dinner in Seattle.

Dawes, an All-State receiver at Bayshore High in Bradenton, Fla., came to WSU in 2006 from College of the Sequoias near Fresno after initially committing to Purdue. At College of the Sequoias in 2005 he earned second-team All-Central Valley Conference honors and developed a reputation as a big-time hitter.

At WSU, a high ankle sprain in the 2006 opener at Auburn shelved him for much of that season. And then in 2007, after earning a starting spot in spring workouts, injuries to both shoulders limited his participation to the San Diego State and Idaho games.

HICKS, A THIRD-year junior-to-be, was suspended from the team in early January after being charged with second-degree assault. He was accused of putting rubbing alcohol in the contact lens case of his roommate, WSU offensive lineman Grady Maxwell, following a dispute.

With Husain Abdullah's graduation, Hicks is the likely heir-apparent to start at safety opposite Alfonso Jackson in 2008. This past season, Hicks collected 51 tackles and one interception. He started three games, but played starter's minutes in five. He became a fan favorite for his hard hits and heady play after Jackson was injured.

Hicks' tackle on Washington's Cory Williams late in the fourth quarter of the Apple Cup forced a fumble that killed a UW drive at the WSU 28-yard line.

BESIDES HICKS, Dawes and Jackson, the Cougars' secondary contenders this spring will include corners Chima Nwachukwu, Romeo Pellum and Tyrone Justin, and safeties Eric Block and Deon Ford.

The recruiting class arriving this fall includes seven defensive backs. Ball said the aim would be to redshirt them all, but depth issues may require one or two to play right away.

Wulff said in his recruiting run-down at the Friday event that two incoming freshmen corners from California -- Kevin Frank of Elk Grove and Daniel Simmons of Ontario -- could be immediate contributors. Frank is the nephew of former Cougar and NFL standout Ricky Reynolds.

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