Seen & Heard 2/23

WE INTERRUPT THE hand-wringing over the Cougar basketball team's unfortunate decision in Eugene Thursday to start playing like favorites rather than underdogs with news from the football front. Spring practices commence in Pullman on March 22. And the intrigue abounds, especially at corner, where two new starters must be found, and placekicker, where an old and new starter will battle it out.

The spring session will conclude with the Crimson & Gray Game on April 14 (Mom's Weekend). By then, Bill Doba hopes to decide on a pair of lockdown corners to replace Don Turner and NFL-bound Tyron Brackenridge -- though whomever comes out No. 1 on the depth chart will have to fend off four new corner challengers who will be arriving on campus in August.

Kicking also will hold intrigue, as three-year starter Loren Langley tries to re-win the job he lost to Romeen Abdollmohammadi in the final three games of 2006.

Three members of the Cougars' just-signed recruiting class are already enrolled in school and will be making their crimson debuts during the spring session: JC offensive lineman Vaughn Lesuma, freshman safety Cornorris Atkins and JC tight end Devin Frischknecht. All three look to have a chance at serious playing time in 2007, with the 6-5, 340-pound Lesuma perhaps being an instant answer for departed Charles Harris at right tackle.

Three notables won't be suiting up this spring. Safety-turned-receiver Michael Willis is recovering from shoulder surgery (but is expected to be fully healthy for the season opener); defensive tackle Fevaea'i Ahmu is nursing the broken foot that ruined his 2006 season and threatens to shelve him for all of 2007; and running back DeMaundray Woolridge is at a community college working to get his grades up so he can rejoin the team in August.


LEGENDARY LOGO.

WASHINGTON STATE AND Cougar athletics just lost a dear friend with the passing of Randall Johnson, the creator of WSU's famed Cougar-head logo. He was 91. He designed the logo as a WSC student in the 1930s and reshaped it years later when the school became WSU rather than WSC. In 1979 he "sold" the license for the logo to WSU for $1.

What people may not know was that he was a devout follower of Cougar sports -- and one of the first people, right after Bob Robertson and Dick Fry, that CF.C called years ago when picking a team of the all-time greatest players ever to wear crimson and gray.

Our executive editor, Greg Witter, first met Johnson in the late 70s. "He was gracious and thoughtful -- a true ambassador for WSU," Witter said, adding that he received an unexpected package from Johnson in the mail just before graduating from high school in 1980. "My dad worked with Randall and told him I was headed to Washington State -- the next thing I know, I'm in possession of a Cougar-head logo that's hand-painted on a gray leather canvas, inscribed 'To Greg, Best Wishes, Randall Johnson.' Can you believe that? I'm looking at it on my office wall right now."

A wonderful salute to Johnson appeared in The Daily Evergreen the other day: WSU loses face behind icon.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED IS out with its list of the top 25 college baseball prospects pro scouts will be eyeing on draft day. Checking in at No. 23 was WSU sophomore outfielder-pitcher Jared Prince – the only underclassman on the entire list.

The story at CnnSI.com says of the North Kitsap High product: "Prince comes from the same athletic mold that kept scouts interested in Matt Antonelli a year ago -- he starred at quarterback, forward, slugger and pitcher while in high school. Prince hit an amazing .401/.492/.618 while pitching 60 innings in his first Pac-10 season a year ago. With the arm and athleticism needed for pro ball, Prince will need to show an increase in power to gain first round interest."

The Cougar baseball team opens its home season March 1 and 2 with games against Utah Valley State, Southern Utah and Air Force. On March 3, they head down the road to Lewiston for the annual battle with Lewis-Clark State.

In addition last year to turning in the best record for a WSU baseball team since 1991, the Cougs starred in the classroom, with a team GPA of 2.84 -- the highest yearly GPA in Cougar baseball history.

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