An Oscar for recruiting?

<b>ROBIN PFLUGRAD</b>, WSU's football recruiting coordinator for the last two years and assistant head coach for the last two months, may have missed his calling. Based on the enthusiastic reaction of a packed house of Cougar fans Friday night, Pflugrad also has a future in film-making. He put together and narrated an Oscar-worthy highlight reel of WSU's newest class of football recruits.

Using a laser-pointer like a symphony conductor, Pflugrad had the 260 crimson faithful at the Pierce County Cougar Club's annual head coach's dinner ooing and awing over four offensive linemen --- Patrick Afif, Keola Loo, Bobby Byrd and Russell Foster --- who were driving defenders seven- and eight-yards off the line of scrimmage.

Clips of Byrd, the son of a Marine Corps officer, were especially impressive. His efforts more aptly could be described as crushing blows than blocks.

Afif, Foster and Byrd are all tall and rangy, whereas Loo is more of a wide load. He likely will compete with Mike Shelford and perhaps Nick Mihlhauser for the starting center's spot in place of graduating three-year starter Tyler Hunt.

Two stars of Pflugrad's film -- prep defensive backs Christian Bass and Husain Abdullah -- could get a shot at playing time in 2003, WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey told CF.C before the dinner. The Cougar D is loaded at safety but a little light on cornerback depth, Akey said, so those two big and athletic youngsters could have shots at immediate action. Both are 6-1, weigh about 190 and run the 40 in 4.5 or less.

Of Bass and Abdullah, Pflugrad gushed about each, "He hits with his face!"

That's short-hand for this: Great technique, hits like a truck and is tough-as-nails. And by the way, 6-6, 240-pound DL/TE recruit Aaron Johnson earned the same label.

Ironically, one of the Abdullah highlights showed him playing receiver as a junior at Pomona High and catching a long ball from an athletic quarterback by the name of Odell Howard. Yep. That's the very same Odell Howard whom Akey thinks could make some serious hay at defensive end next month in spring practices.

Among the other notable comments Pflugrad made during his film fest were:

  • Receiver Jason Hill could be the sleeper of the class. "He's unafraid to run over or through tacklers. He's also one of the most articulate young men you'll ever meet."

  • Defensive end Reyshawn Bobo looks a lot like D.D. Acholonu and Isaac Brown when they first came to Pullman --- great frame, tremendous speed, just in need of a little bulk. In fact, Pflugrad says Bobo also reminds him of a lad he recruited when he was at Arizona State: Terrell Suggs!

  • Defensive lineman Jon Conlin played every single down --- offense, defense, special teams --- at Vancouver (B.C.) Prep this past season. He has exceptional acceleration -- so much so that he was so quick getting to the QB in one video clip that he and the QB actually ran out of the frame.

  • Defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua of Clover Park High near Tacoma could be another big-time sleeper. He's big (6-7), athletic and gets his pads way down low when he's in his three-point stance. Clover Park teammate Paul Stevens, a linebacker, also has a very exciting future, Pflugrad said.

  • Quarterback Alex Brink of Eugene showed incredible touch and accuracy in each of the clips shown of him. One out route he tossed from shotgun formation against Beaverton was a thing of beauty that drew some WHOA's from the audience.

Pflugrad noted that because the class is small --- only 12 prep seniors not counting planned grayshirt Scott Selby and baseball pitcher Kyle Kendrick --- it didn't gain much national attention. But rest assured, he said, it is nonetheless one fine class. The three JC signees -- Afif, Loo and running back Chris Bruhn --- are all top-flight picks ups and the prep kids are outstanding. "With a class that small, we couldn't afford to make even one mistake."

From the looks of the video highlights, they didn't.


The Cougars are awaiting academic clearance for Bruhn and prep defensive lineman Tolifili Liufau. Bruhn is expected to wrap up his AA degree this spring or summer. Liufau, though, may be headed to the JC ranks.

The average size of the new class is 6-4, 240 pounds.

The Cougars aren't sure yet where grayshirt Scott Selby will play when he enrolls next January. That's because the kids is so athletic. During one play on his video highlights he hurdled a tackler, beautifully stiff armed another and then turned on the acceleration to out-run others. Right now he projects as a tight end.

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