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Originally published September 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 11, 2008 at 9:59 AM

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Cougars found a real nugget with Texan Greg Trent

After two losses and 105 points allowed, it's clear WSU needs a few more Greg Trents. He has stayed out of trouble off the field — no small thing on WSU's roster — and been a healthy contributor on it.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Greg Trent goes home this week, lacking bowl baubles in his duffel bag but not shy of stories to tell to 18 family members expected to be at Washington State's game Saturday at Baylor.

"The thing he wishes most is that he could get Washington State back on track," says older brother Jermaine.

Clearly, the 2008 Cougars have some issues, but one of them isn't a senior middle linebacker from Keller, Texas, outside Dallas. Trent, a captain, is one of the pillars asked to seal the leaks in WSU's coaching transition from Bill Doba to Paul Wulff.

After two losses and 105 points allowed, it's clear WSU needs a few more Trents. He has stayed out of trouble off the field — no small thing on WSU's roster — and been a healthy contributor on it.

"Greg's done a fine job," said Wulff this week. "He's been really consistent."

Still, there are those scoreboards. Imagine the conversation between Trent and Jermaine after Saturday. The Cougars were whomped by California, 66-3, and Texas Southern, where Jermaine is an assistant coach, was waxed by Arkansas State, 83-10.

"I tell him my side from the coach's side, and from the big brother's side," says Jermaine. "We've got about three or four sides."

Trent was part of a push into Texas implemented by Leon Burtnett, an assistant on Doba's staff who had connections there.

So far, Trent, a 31-game starter at WSU, is the best "get" from that effort — most productive and least high-maintenance.

"He's a real quiet person," says DeMaundray Woolridge, Trent's high-school teammate and a former WSU running back. "He doesn't like to be out and about too much. He likes to be more of a role model, especially for the younger guys on the team, not drinking or going out to parties a lot."

Trent says he had scholarship offers from Wisconsin and Tulsa, but was taken by a visit to WSU. He liked the coaches, but looked beyond to the academic side and facilities. It was also alluring to know that WSU had a terrific linebacker in Will Derting in front of him.

Unfortunately — both for WSU and Trent — that didn't last long. A 2005 game at Oregon State proved a pivotal one in the Doba regime, as the Cougars, 3-0, blew a 17-point lead and the game, and in the waning moments, lost Derting to a knee injury.

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Depth was so scarce WSU had to turn to a true freshman at middle linebacker, hardly ever a good thing.

"I hated it because it was his senior year," said Trent.

Opponents quickly recognized where the inexperience was on the Cougars defense, and WSU took a series of high-scoring, maddening losses.

"I caught on stopping the run pretty fast," Trent says. "The [pass] coverage was a big difference. You're facing a lot taller, athletic, faster guys than you're used to."

For a longtime Texan, there was another adjustment at WSU, to the weather.

"I had never seen snow that much," Trent said. "[Now] I love the snow."

The turnaround year never happened for Doba, who was fired in December.

Enter Wulff, to find a team short on talent, depth and leadership. The staff could see Trent's potential to help.

"He's really stepped forward and taken a hands-on leadership role," says co-defensive coordinator Jody Sears. "That's what we need. He's got a reserved personality. That's fine; but he's played a lot of football, and we've kind of leaned on him to maybe step out of his comfort zone a little bit."

It was Trent who reacted with fury at a players-only meeting when somebody broke a self-imposed team ban on drinking over the summer. Now he goes back to Texas, and the home folks will see this about him: The wins have dwindled, but the want-to hasn't.

Cougs to fly Friday

A WSU spokesman said Wednesday "nothing has changed" in the school's plans to fly to Baylor on Friday, while officials at the Waco, Texas, school are monitoring the path of Hurricane Ike and not ruling out a cancellation.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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