Aug. 4, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. - With seven returning veterans and three starters from last year expected back when fall camp opens Aug. 12, Washington State defensive coaches believe their biggest task will be to fit the pieces of the puzzle together to come up with the best cohesive unit.
Heading the list will be Lamont Thompson and Earl Riley, the starting safeties a year ago, and Chris Martin, one half of the Cougars' starting cornerbacks from 1998. The only missing starter is Dee Moronkola, now in the Jacksonville Jaguars camp.
Among those who will battle to replace Moronkola are senior LeJuan Gibbons, who started eight games as a sophomore and one last year, redshirt freshman Virgil Williams, sophomore Anthony Matthews, and newcomer Mory Banks, a transfer out of LA Southwest CC. Banks will join the team for the first time when the newcomers report to camp Aug. 6.
"We are very good at the safety positions, but a little thin at the corners," assesses head coach Mike Price.
Thompson, who also tried his hand as a receiver last year (two catches, 34 yards), burst on the scene as a true freshman two years ago when he was pressed into duty late in the Cougars' run for the Rose Bowl. In the final four games, he picked off six passes, than grabbed four more last year in the first four outings of the season. He is just four interceptions short of the WSU career record. He also led WSU with 16 punt returns last year for 123 yards.
Riley and Martin are both junior college transfers who earned starting spots last year. Riley had the benefit of a redshirt season with the Cougars, while Martin locked up the corner position the week of the opener against Illinois and rarely left the field for the next 11 games.
NOTES: Seven former Cougar defensive backs are currently playing in the NFL and CFL, James Hasty (Kansas City), Ray Jackson (St. Louis), Singor Mobley (Dallas), Dee Moronkola (Jacksonville), Duane Stewart (Edmonton), Brian Walker (Miami) and Torey Hunter (Edmonton).
PRICE ON SECONDARY: "We are very good at the safety positions, but a little thin at the corners. Earl Riley had an excellent spring, while Tory Hollimon and Billy Newman were very good in the spring and I am going to let them challenge Lamont Thompson. Chris Martin certainly held his corner position and LeJuan Gibbons had an excellent spring. Virgil Williams played much better than we had anticipated, while Anthony Matthews is coming off an injury, so needs go get back into playing shape. We also will be adding a transfer corner, Mory Banks out of the junior college ranks and he could help. With Martin and Gibbons the starting corners are fine, but we need to develop some quality depth."
THE FACTS - SECONDARY
LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (7): LeJuan Gibbons, 3V, RS-Sr., Tory Hollimon, 3V, RS-Sr., Chris Martin, 1V, Sr., Anthony Matthews, 1V, RS-So., Billy Newman, 1V, RS-So., Earl Riley, 1V, RS-Sr., Lamont Thompson, 2V, Jr.
NON-LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (2): Dante Minners, RS-Jr., Virgil Williams, RS-Fr.
TRANSFERS (2): Morey Banks, TR-Jr., John Williams, TR-Jr.
IMPACT NEWCOMERS (3): CB Virgil Williams, RS-Fr., CB Morey Banks, TR-Jr., SS John Williams, TR-Jr.
STARTERS RETURNING (3): SS Earl Riley, Sr., FS Lamont Thompson, Jr., CB Chris Martin, Sr.
BACKUPS RETURNING (4): CB LeJuan Gibbons, Sr., CB Anthony Newman, So., SS Billy Newman, So., FS Tory Hollimon, Sr.
STARTERS LOST (1): CB Dee Moronkola.
EXPECTED STARTERS: RCB LeJuan Gibbons, Sr., SS Earl Riley, Sr., FS Lamont Thompson, Jr., LCB Chris Martin, Sr.