Cougars Picked No. 15 By Athlon

June 19, 2002

PULLMAN, Wash. --- After being picked to finish last in the Pac-10 by many publications in 2001, the Washington State Cougars are enjoying widespread popularity this preseason, including a No. 15 ranking by Athlon.

The Nashville-based magazine predicts that WSU will battle cross-state rival Washington and USC for the conference crown behind offensive and defensive lines that 'are the class of the conference.' One of those linemen, guard Derrick Roche was included in Athlon's All-America second team.

Athlon also made their picks for the All-Pac-10 team. Roche made that list along with quarterback Jason Gesser, who they say is the 'prototype college quarterback.' WSU's quarterbacks, offensive line, and defensive line were named the conferences' best at their respective positions.

Those same three units were also ranked in the national top 10. Cougar signal callers Gesser and junior Matt Kegel are rated the No. 3 quarterback tandem in the country, while the defensive line, which returns seven of its top eight from last season, is tabbed No. 5 in the land, and the offensive line No. 8.

The preseason annual also includes a three-page team breakdown, featuring a roster, depth chart, 2001 results, returning leaders, and 2002 signees.

According to Athlon, Washington State 'will have one of the more dynamic offenses in the nation.' They expect that unit to be led by Gesser, and senior wide receiver Mike Bush, who they predict will be impossible to double-team with the presence of Jerome Riley, Devard Darling, and Collin Henderson.

Defensively, the publication likes the trio of juniors Rien Long, Tai Tupai, and Jeremey Williams, saying they 'comprise what is considered to be the best defensive tackle combination in the Pac-10.'

The article is followed by a question and answer-style interview with Gessser, who reveals his favorite actor, what he does on a Friday night in Pullman, and who he thinks will step up on the Cougar defense in 2002.

Athlon's Pac-10 and national previews are available on newsstands now.

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