Seen & Heard 2/25

HERE'S A LITTLE nugget that should turn your crimson crank as you look to the Cougars' grid fortunes in 2003. The team returns nine guys who earned first-team or honorable mention all-conference recognition in 2002, plus three youngsters --- <b>Riley Fitt-Chappell</b>, <b>Adam Braidwood</b> and <b>Will Derting</b> --- who were named to <i>The Sporting News</i>' freshman all-Pac-10 team this past season.

On top of that, there's defensive end D.D. Acholonu, an honorable mention all-Pac-10 choice in 2001 and senior-to-be defensive tackle Tai Tupai, a potential All-America candidate in 2003.

For the record, the nine returning 2002 all-stars are Calvin Armstrong, Devard Darling, Jermaine Green, Erik Coleman, Jason David, Jeremey Williams, Kyle Basler and Drew Dunning.

The on-again, off-again game with Colorado is now officially on again. The Cougars and Buffs will square off in Boulder on Sept. 13. The game will cap a challenging two-week stretch for the Cougars, who play Notre Dame at South Bend on Sept. 6.

For the second straight season, WSU will open the campaign in Seattle's Seahawks Stadium, this time against Idaho on Aug. 30.

In all, the Cougars will play 12 regular-season games. New Mexico will be the fourth non-conference opponent on the list. In conference action, the Cougars won't play Cal. The season concludes Nov. 22 with the Apple Cup in Seattle.

Catching no one off guard, Jason Gesser and Marcus Trufant last week were named the WSU offensive and defensive players of the year at the team's annual awards banquet.

Trufant's stock in the upcoming NFL draft, by the way, continues to rise like a rocket. Pundits pretty well agree he'll be the second cornerback taken, behind Kansas State's Terrance Newman, and that he'll go within the first 14 picks of the first round.

Consensus on Gesser is that he'll go no sooner than the fourth round and likely won't be among the first ten QBs taken.

Outland Trophy winner Rien Long appears to be a lock to be drafted in the first round but there have been some dour-faced analysts of late opining that he ought to be a second- or even third-round pick.

Cougar guard Derrick Roche, a two-time all-conference pick and first-team Football Coaches Association All-American, isn't getting much pre-draft attention ostensibly because his weight --- 290 pounds --- is thought to be on the light side. Speculation is that the 6-foot-5 scrapper is about 30-35 pounds away from the NFL expectation. To me, that sounds like a recipe for a steal of a deal in the late rounds.

ONE OF MY ALL-TIME favorite Cougars, right up there with Billy Newman, Lee Harrison, Ron Childs and Brett Carolan, is graduating defensive end Fred Shavies. Fittingly, Fred was voted the 2002 Fred Bohler Award as the Cougars' most inspirational player. He was a true lunch-bucket player during his five years in crimson, giving it his all every down of every game. Word down Pullman way is that he'll be on the sidelines this spring as a graduate assistant for d-coordinator Robb Akey.

Another graduating kid whose grit and determination has been something to admire over the years is receiver (and stealth quarterback) Collin Henderson. He was just voted the 2002 Frank Butler Award for most spirited Cougar.

Spring drills on the Palouse begin April 1 and end with the annual Crimson and Gray Game on Saturday, April 26. Practices will be held each Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. No word yet on the locale of the C&G game, but I give a big endorsement to bringing it back to Spokane's Joe Albi Stadium a la 2001.

Space is limited, so don't wait to order your tickets to the Bill Doba season preview and recruiting retrospective dinner at the Tacoma Sheraton on Friday, March 14. Bill will be joined by his coaching staff, AD Jim Sterk and master of ceremonies Bob Robertson. The annual event is sponsored by WSU-West and the Pierce County Cougar Club. And CF.C is supporting it all with a special "Yabba Doba Doo" gift basket that will be auctioned off, so be sure to bring your checkbook.

Cost of the dinner is $50 per person or $400 for a table of eight. A no-host reception starts at 6 pm with dinner and program starting at 7 pm. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Leslie Kooy at (206) 448-1335 or .

Countering widely held speculation, The Spokesman-Review reports today that fourth-year Cougar mens basketball head coach Paul Graham will be given another year to turn around a program that went into the toilet under Graham's predecessor, Kevin Eastman. Graham is 30-70 since taking over, posting one of the five worst won-loss records among 323 Division I coaches over the last four years.

Ironically, news of Graham's employment security comes just days after the Cougars won their first conference game of the year, with walk-on sharp-shooter Randy Green going wild on Oregon State.

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