JASON HILL AND MKRISTO Bruce are the marquee crimson names floating around 2007 NFL draft boards, but seven other Cougs also look to have legitimate shots at playing on Sundays. Most of them will have a chance next month to improve their prospects when the college all-star games are played. Hill and Bruce, though, are the ones with the persistent buzz -- including hints about the first round.
NFLdraftnotebook.com rates Jason Hill one of the top five receivers, while NFLdraftnews.org pegs him to be the No. 14 overall pick. NFL draft consultant Conor Dowley projects Mkristo Bruce going in the first round as well, at No. 21. NFLdraftnotebook.com rates him the No. 6 DE in the draft with a teaser that his trajectory his definitely pointed upward.
James Alder of About Football slots Charles Harris as one of the top six offensive tackles. NFL Draft Tracker rates Tyron Brackenridge a top 10 corner prospect and Great Blue North Draft Report lists Eric Frampton as one of the top 20 safeties.
Brackenridge, who sat out the 2005 season, came on strong in 2006 and started turning heads. He could dramatially improve his draft value with a solid performance in the Hula Bowl. He'll be joined in that Jan. 14 all-star game by Frampton.
The following day, Jan. 15, will see two Cougar linebackers trying to make a mark for NFL scouts. Scott Davis and Steve Dildine will be playing in the Las Vegas All-Star Classic. Bruce and Harris will be in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 20 and Hill will be in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 27.
Two other outgoing seniors who figure to get looks on the free agent market are 6-8, 262-pound tight end Cody Boyd and offensive lineman Sean O'Connor. Boyd's got the size and tools but has a woeful injury history. O'Connor is 6-6, 290 pounds and athletic -- just the type of hoss that would fit well with Denver or the New York Giants.
Looking way ahead, to the 2008 draft, the folks at Fantasy Football Toolbox are predicting big things for Cougar receiver and punt returner Michael Bumpus. They have him rated the No. 5 wideout in the class of 2008.
A FINAL NOTE ON Mkristo Bruce. He's been named second-team All-America by two of the most prestigious panels out there: the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Foundation. That's a huge testament to his talent, given the fact he played on a tweaked knee for part of the season and that the Cougs were forced into a 3-4 alignment that torpedoed his assault on the WSU career record for sacks. But talk about consistent: Bruce had 67 total tackles this season -- the same number he had in 2005. He also had 16 tackles for loss, compared with 15 a year ago, and 11 sacks, up one from 2005.
JEROME HARRISON, THE most prolific rusher in Cougar history, launched a personal website earlier this year at www.jerome-harrison.com. Either Jerome is humble to a fault or he needs new publicity agents, because the site says he was an honorable mention All-American. For the record, he was a consensus first-team All-American, earning top honors from seven different organizations in 2005, including AP and The Sporting News. The site also fails to mention that he was a top 10 finisher for the Heisman Trophy.
One interesting nugget the site originally contained, but does no longer, was Jerome's rate for making personal appearances: Up to $5,000 per hour. Dropping that lofty dollar figure seems prudent -- Jerome has seen limited action for the Browns this year. So far he's carried the ball 19 times for 62 yards and caught nine passes for 47 yards.
IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season, head to www.LegendsOfThePalouse.com. Part I of the three-part feature film on the great teams and characters in Cougar football history is on sale for $39.95 --- and a limited number of early edition copies of Part 2 (autographed by WSU legend Jack Thompson) are available for $24.95. I have yet to see Part 2, but if it's anything like Part I you won't want to miss a minute of the incredible work done by producer-director Jeff McQuarrie, a WSU alum who spent the last four years putting this work of art together. Whether young or old, rabid fan or casual, you'll find Legends of the Palouse a riveting, goose-bump-inducing hit of the highest order.
PLENTY OF GOOD SEATS remain for the Cougar baskerballers' Dec. 21 game in Seattle at Key Arena. The second annual Cougar Hardwood Classic tips off at 7:30 pm. The Cougs will take on defending Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State. Click to www.cougarsinseattle.com for more details and to order tickets. Now 10-1 following Saturday's win over Cal State-Northridge, the Cougs are off to their finest start since 1991. The San Diego State contest will be the Cougs' last non-conference game before starting Pac-10 play at UCLA and USC on Dec. 28 and 30.