San Diegans get a bigger role in this Holiday Bowl

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A year ago, San Diego natives Dezmon Patmon and Jahad Woods watched from the sideline as Washington State played in a bowl game in their hometown.

This time, they'll be starting.

Patmon will make his first career start, promoted after the surprising departure of two outside receivers, and Woods will continue his fill-in work at linebacker when the Cougars play Michigan State on Thursday night in their second straight Holiday Bowl appearance.

Patmon, a sophomore who played sparingly last year, and Tay Martin are the two new starting outside receivers after Isaiah Johnson-Mack quit the team and Tavares Martin Jr. was dismissed after the conclusion of the regular season.

"He was on the verge of making a move before that," WSU coach Mike Leach said of Patmon, who started slowly this season before making a surge in October and November.

"If he focuses in, he improves rapidly, so I think that was key," Leach said.

Woods has been solid and sometimes stellar since becoming a starting linebacker in Week 5 after a season-ending injury to Peyton Pelluer. The second-year freshman is second on the team with 61 tackles, including 21/2 sacks.

Another WSU starter from San Diego is well-established cornerback Darrien Molton, and a number of other players from San Diego County play reserve roles.

GRINCH EVASIVE - Cougars defensive coordinator Alex Grinch spoke to the media Tuesday for the first time since his name was linked to an opening at Ohio State, but he declined to address the issue specifically.

"What you do is you focus on the guys you just spent three years with," Grinch said, alluding to his WSU tenure. His point was that reports of his imminent departure can't be a distraction, despite outside perceptions.

"People weren't in the (practice) bubble at 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in January," he said. "They're not there at Midnight Maneuvers (winter conditioning drills), they're not hanging out with us at Lewiston, Idaho, for a fall camp, or the weeks (of games) and the adversity that goes with that. And so it's been difficult from a coaching standpoint to ignore those things, especially when you put yourself in a position to get nine wins, with a chance to win a 10th. Again, from a distraction standpoint, all the other stuff takes place after your season."

According to the reports, unnamed sources expect Ohio State to hire Grinch to fill the new 10th assistant's job that the NCAA will begin allowing in January. But there's also some speculation that the new job would be more high-profile than that, given Grinch's experience as a coordinator.

Grinch grew up within miles of the Ohio State campus at Columbus.

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Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2290.

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