NOTEBOOK: OL says Cougs' confidence is real

WADE JACOBSON

WASHINGTON STATE offensive guard Wade Jacobson had a number of reasons to be grateful when the NCAA granted him a medical hardship waiver so he can play as a fifth-year senior this fall. Also, Marquess Wilson touches on the subject of if he's thinking about leaving early for the NFL, plus news and notes on WSU hoops and baseball.

The extra year of eligiblity Jacobson received will help prove to NFL scouts that his surgically repaired back is ready for combat. Also, Jacobson, who never redshirted and came to WSU as a JUCO transfer, is convinced the extra year will result in his first winning season with the Cougars -- due in no small part to a huge boost in confidence among players.

"We've never felt this before," the gregarious Californian said last week. "I don't know if it's the coaches or the new people (players) coming in. I would say it's a fresh start. We feel confident. The confidence in everyone has changed."

Jacobson said he realizes WSU fans have heard similar talk in the past.

"Last year, we said the same thing," he admitted. "You know: ‘We're going to be good.' I think last year we just said it to (try to) change people's minds. But right now, we actually feel the team and individuals have changed. We're ready for the season. We feel more confident."

Jacobson said his back is "the strongest part of my body right now. I laugh myself to sleep every night."

Jacobson also had to laugh at media speculation that his back was bothering him when he missed two early practices. Mike Leach almost never comments on player absences, but Jacobson said he was serving as the best man at his brother's wedding. The wedding was cause for celebration, and Jacobson did not hesitate when asked if it's reasonable to expect that the Cougars will be celebrating their first bowl appearance in nine years at the end of this season.

"Oh, of course," he said.

If the Cougars enjoy success this year, Jacobson said the all-new coaching staff will deserve some credit. Jacobson said the new coaches are more "hands-on" than their predecessors.

"The coaches are out there getting fired up," he said. "These coaches' enthusiasm reminds me of my old high school days when you had guys out there yelling and jumping around. Half of these guys just got done playing ball not too long ago, so they're fresh and ready to go. Their enthusiasm and excitement (rubs) off on us, makes practice a lot better."

THERE'S BEEN PLENTY of media and fan speculation this offseason regarding the future of Wilson, who is being mentioned in 2013 NFL draft projections as a potential first-round pick if he chooses to bypass his senior year. Wilson is leaving the door open.

The gifted wide receiver said he's "not thinking about" next year.

"I just want to help the Cougars win more games this year," he said.

Wilson, a preseason All-America pick, set school records by wide margins with 82 catches and 1,388 receiving yards last year. The WSU career records in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches are all within reach this season for Wilson.

ALMOST $6,600 HAS been donated on the website site dedicated to raising $70,000 to help former Washington State and NFL star Gail Cogdill underdo a life-saving stem cell procedure on his heart.

"The outpouring of support, love, donation and prayers has blown us away," a Tuesday post from the family said on the website. "We will be forever grateful to everyone."

IN HOOPS NEWS, Faisal Aden, whose senior year at Washington State was cut short by knee surgery, has signed with the Leuven Bears in Belgium's top pro basketball league.

Aden, a wing, averaged 14.5 points per game in 17 games (six starts) with WSU last season. He is the second WSU senior off last season's team to sign a pro basketball contract. Earlier, Abe Lodwick hooked on with the Phoenix Hagen of Hagen, Germany, in that country's top league.

In other WSU basketball news out of Germany, SC Rist Wedel announced that Fabian Boeke will not return to the team due to a job conflict. Boeke, whose Cougar career was cut short due to back trouble, averaged 13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds last season in Germany's bottom-level (No. 3) pro league.

OUT ON THE DIAMOND, Rusty Shellhorn is rising up the Seattle Mariners' farm system. Shellhorn was ineffective in limited action in his two seasons at WSU before transferring to Texas Tech in search of more playing time -- something he hoped would propel him to a pro career. So far, so good.

Shellhorn, a left-hander with a big curveball, has been promoted by the Mariners for the second time in his first two months in pro ball. He made his debut with Clinton (Iowa) in the Class A Midwest League on Sunday, pitching seven innings of five-hit ball in the LumberKings' 6-3 victory. In 11 games with Clinton, short-season Class A Everett (Wash.) in the Northwest League and Rookie-class Peoria (Ariz.) in the Arizona League, Shellhorn has posted a 5-2 record, 2.57 earned run average, 61 strikeouts and 42 hits allowed in 57 1-3 innings.

FORMER WSU first baseman Taylor Ard, one of Shellhorn's teammates in Everett, leads the Northwest League with 48 RBIs, 20 doubles and 124 total bases in 64 games. He's second in slugging percentage at .490, tied for fourth in home runs with nine and ninth in hitting at .281.

Derek Jones, another rookie pro out of WSU, continues to struggle with Tri-City, Colorado's farm club in the Northwest League. The Cougars' all-time leading home run hitter has no homers, 15 RBIs and a .197 batting average in 57 games.

Former WSU star Jared Prince is batting .364 in August for the Frisco (Texas) RoughRiders in the Class AA Texas League. A right fielder in the Texas Rangers organization, Prince owns a .231 average with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in 94 games.

WSU's 64-year streak of having at least one former baseball player in the major leagues – the third-longest streak in college baseball history – will likely end this season. Mark Hendrickson only wishes he could extend that streak.

Hendrickson, who appeared in eight games with Baltimore last season as the lone Cougar in the majors, went unsigned this year. The 38-year-old lefty kept in shape by pitching for York Township, Pa., in a semipro league. He compiled a 3-1 record and 0.96 ERA.

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