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There’s a Real Catch to These Cougars

Times Staff Writer

They don’t number as many as the Fab Five receivers from the 1997 Washington State team that played in the Rose Bowl, but this Cougar team has a trio of receivers that is almost as difficult to cover.

Devard Darling, Mike Bush and Jerome Riley have combined for 145 receptions, 2,216 yards and 23 touchdowns.

“There’s nothing more you can ask for than three big-play receivers,” quarterback Jason Gesser said.

“Big” is the key word. Bush is 6 feet 6. Darling is 6-3, and Riley is 6-2.

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Each of them has at least 48 receptions, and all of them average more than 14 yards a catch.

One of the remarkable things about the group is how the receivers are willing to share the receptions, when any one of them would have bigger numbers if one of the others weren’t around.

“You know, I felt like I came in from Florida State and didn’t know what to expect,” said Darling, who has tied the school record for receiving touchdowns in a season with 11 in his first season after transferring.

“It didn’t really matter. They accepted me. The whole team accepted me.

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“It’s really a family atmosphere.”

The way Bush sees it, having each other around is an advantage.

“It’s real hard for them to double team one of us and leave the others open,” he said.

Washington State cornerback Jason David figures the Oklahoma secondary, led by Andre Woolfolk, will be kept busy.

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“We go against each other all the time, and I get a look at a guy who’s 6-6 like Bush, as good as Devard, or runs routes like Riley,” David said.

“It’s kind of hard on a defense to stop all our receivers.”

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With the coaching staff in transition, new Coach Bill Doba must try to keep the recruiting class from splintering because of Mike Price’s departure for Alabama.

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Price can no longer urge recruits to stick with Washington State because of NCAA rules that a coach can’t represent two institutions, and Doba is limited by the designated recruiting period surrounding the bowls that allows only one phone call to a recruit a week.

“I think we’ll hold on to most of them, but you never really know until signing day,” Doba said.

The Seattle Times reported Carl Bonnell, a quarterback from Kentwood, Wash., who was expected to enter Washington State in January, paused to consider the University of Washington.

Doba already has taken care of a couple of other issues in the coaching transition, retaining Mike Levenseller as offensive coordinator and promoting defensive line coach Robb Akey to defensive coordinator, a position Doba held under Price.

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Selected players from both teams visited cancer patients Sunday at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte.

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Honest truth: The name of a Washington State reserve right tackle who is 6-9 and 310 pounds: Sam Lightbody.

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