Seen & Heard 8/17

ERIK COLEMAN

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN Chris Bush is a first. In all my years of crimson watching, I can't remember a time when the Cougs snared a prospect from another school because WSU's entrance requirements were lower. Two years ago, you may recall, incoming freshman Lawrence Ball failed to gain admission on the eve of August workouts, yet was in uniform for Arizona a week later.

But now comes a little karma, in the form of Bush – a would-be Vanderbilt Commodore -- that's flowing in the right direction.

The 6-5, 285-pound Bush, a standout at Puyallup's Rogers High over the last two seasons, signed with Vanderbilt on Letter of Intent day back in February. But he and Vandy recently discovered he was a half credit short in math of earning admission to the Nashville school, which is widely considered one of the strongest academically in the south.

Bush's prep coach made a call to WSU offensive coordinator Mike Levenseller and Bush subsequently made a quick trip to Pullman.

His move to WSU will make family dinners rather interesting -- older brother Ryan is a sophomore center for the Huskies.

Once Bush gets the green light from the NCAA clearinghouse, he'll join two other offensive linemen in the Cougars' new class of freshmen -- Micah Hannam and Grady Maxwell. All three are from the south Puget Sound area. Maxwell, reportedly out 4-6 weeks after knee surgery, will definitely redshirt this season, as will the other two barring a rash of team injuries.

JOHN RUSHING, THE OLD Palouse Posse mainstay who still ranks No. 4 on WSU's career tackles list, was rarely late to the action in his four years as a starting safety. Last week, though, he just missed the deadline for one of our stories asking people in the know what they see unfolding for the Cougs this season. While John had a great reason for being late –- he and his fellow coaches at Utah State were opening fall camp -– he still came through. Here's what he had to say about the 2006 Cougar season:

"I definitely believe the Cougs are bowl bound. They are in the perfect position to upset the pre-season predictions. I think the 2006 Cougars have enough weapons to be this year's Pac-10 party crashers. The offense will be solid with another year of "Brink to Hill for a touchdown" and the addition of JC running back Derrell Hutsona. Robb Akey and Bill Doba will have the defense swarming to the ball as usual, with future NFL pass rusher Mkristo Bruce leading the way. And the off-season loss of a great Cougar in Judy Doba will provide plenty of motivation for the team to win for a true players' coach."

WHILE ON THE SUBJECT OF old Cougar safeties, 1981 All-American Paul Sorensen is the new secondary coach at Ferris High in Spokane after 17 seasons at Lewis & Clark, where he mentored Cougar star Erik Coleman and worked for a pair of head coaches with Cougar pedigrees – John Hook, a WSU center in the early 70s, and Tom Yearout, a receiver from the 1980s. The move is understandable -- one of Paul's sons will be suiting up for the Saxons in the next couple of years. Ferris also has added one of Paul's teammates from the Cougars' 1981 Holiday Bowl team, Matt Elisara, who will be coaching the defensive line.

Speaking of Coleman, the two-year starter for the New York Jets recently underwent an appendectomy. Barring something unforeseen, he's not expected to miss any of the regular season. That's great news for the Jets. Over the last two seasons Coleman has recorded 221 tackles and intercepted six passes.

One of Coleman's Cougar teammates who also makes his living in the NFL doesn't have such a rosy prognosis. Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Rien Long, the 2002 Outland Trophy winner, tore an Achilles tendon in practice this month and will miss the entire season.

There's better NFL Cougar news farther north, however. The Cleveland Browns this week traded veteran backup running back Lee Suggs to the Jets – a sure sign that the Browns like what they're seeing from Jerome Harrison - although the deal was later negated when Suggs failed a Jets' physical. Jerome, by the way, was installed earlier this year by Sportsbook.com as a 35-1 pick to win the 2006 Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Reggie Bush is the favorite at 2-1.

HARRISON's OLD COUGAR jersey number now belongs to a guy who has the credentials to continue the proud tradition. JC transfer Derrell Hutsona is wearing No. 1 this season. Hutsona, a close friend and one-time prep teammate of Reggie Bush's, was a JC All-American last season at Grossmont College, where he racked up a whopping 2,534 all-purpose yards. Word out of Pullman over the last two weeks is that he's running, catching and returning well so far.

Four Cougars have been named to The Sporting News' preseason All-Pac-10 teams. Seniors Mkristo Bruce, Jason Hill and Scott Davis were first-team selections while junior Alex Brink was a second-team pick. All four players were elected co-captains for the upcoming season. Bruce is also on the watch list for the Nagurski Award, which goes annually to the nation's best defensive player. Erik Coleman was a quarter-finalist for that award in 2003.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, the Cougars' Sept. 9 game with Idaho, originally scheduled for a 4 p.m. start, has been changed to a 12:45 kickoff. The contest will be the Cougars' first home game of 2006 and the second of three non-conference games to open the season. The Cougs open the year at Auburn on Sept. 2 and take on Baylor in Seattle on Sept. 16.

DOUBLE KUDOS TO TWO Cougar quarterbacking legends, Jack Thompson and Jason Gesser. For one, their joint appearance at the recent Cougfan.com Night at The Village Pub in Seattle was the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae for the 150 Cougar fans who were there. They were talking, autographing, picture posing machines. In addition, they're two great coaches. My son has been attending their quarterback camps this summer and the instruction and mentoring is downright incredible. To top it off, one session gave me the chance to chat at length with former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps. His grandson, Jamie Moyer's son, was also attending the camp.

AND FINALLY, BECAUSE I know our Executive Editor is heading out for a few days of vacation and won't be proof-reading this column, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and make my annual prediction on the Cougars' season. I do this every year and every year the boss says I'm being too much of a homer. So with him out of the way, my prediction this year is the same as it has been every year (prior to editing, that is) since 1998: The Cougars will go undefeated. Period.


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