Aug. 11, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. - When Washington State's offense takes the field for the season and home opener against Utah Sept. 4, there will be a new workhorse at the lone running back slot, following the unexpected departure of the top two backs from a year ago.
It isn't unusual for Cougar running backs to pick up in excess of 1,000 yards rushing and this season that task will fall on the broad shoulders and strong legs of sophomore Jeremy Thielbahr, a 238-pounder who bench presses 450 pounds and squats over 600 pounds.
Thielbahr, who had just 12 carries last year for 20 yards and one score, inherits the position following the departure of Kevin Brown and DeJuan Gilmore. Brown, who gained a sophomore record 1,046 yards last season, was dismissed from the team following off-the-field problems in the spring, while Gilmore chose to transfer for his final season after Brown won the starting job last fall.
While Thielbahr enters the season as the starter, he will have competition from several untested backs including incoming freshman Deon Burnett. The latter rushed for over 2,600 yards last fall at Claremont High (Upland, Calif.), scored 27 touchdowns and also caught 33 passes.
Among the Cougar returnees who have their sights set on starting are juniors Alvan Arzu, Adam Hawkins and Alex Tinsley. In addition, the Cougars will give former prep standout and starting linebacker Brad Philley a shot in the backfield during fall camp.
It was, in fact, Philley's idea. "I think I might be able to help the team more as a running back than at linebacker, given the depth and talent we have on defense," offered the junior who started nine games last year on the other side of the ball. As a prep, Philley gained over 900 yards at Rogers High (Puyallup, Wash.) as a junior and his 693 yards led all running backs in Washington until an injury sidelined him his senior year.
"Jeremy Thielbahr is a Pac-10 player," offers WSU head coach Mike Price. "Obviously we are disappointed Kevin Brown will not be with us this year, but Thielbahr is a big, strong back who can bench over 400 pounds and squad over 650 pounds and yet he runs under 4.6. He is not dainty and pretty, he is a tough, physical player who will knock your head off."
NOTES: A pair of former Cougar running backs are currently on NFL rosters, Steve Broussard (Baltimore) and Michael Black (Seattle).
PRICE ON RUNNING BACKS: "Jeremy Thielbahr is a Pac-10 player. Obviously we are disappointed Kevin Brown will not be with us this year, but Thielbahr is a big, strong back who can bench over 400 pounds and squat over 650 pounds and yet he runs under 4.6. He is not dainty and pretty, he is a tough, physical player who will knock your head off. The combination of Thielbahr with Adams Hawkins (junior), Alex Tinsley (junior), and Alvin Arzu (junior) plus Deon Burnett, give us a solid group of runners. When we recruited Burnett we thought he was one of the best in the country and we are excited to see him in the fall."
THE FACTS - RUNNING BACKS
LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (5): Alvan Arzu, 1V, RS-Jr., Adam Hawkins, 2V, RS-Jr., Brad Philley, 2V, RS-Jr. (all previous action as a LB), Jeremy Thielbahr, 1V, RS-So., Alex Tinsley, 1V, RS-Jr.
NON-LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (0): None.
TRANSFERS (0): None.
IMPACT NEWCOMER (1): RB Deon Burnett, Fr.
STARTER RETURNING (0): None.
BACKUP RETURNING (1): None
STARTER LOST (1): RB Kevin Brown, Jr.
EXPECTED STARTER: Jeremy Thielbahr, So.