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Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW Football

Huskies lose running back Montgomery

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tyrone Willingham was so excited about the prospect of running back James Montgomery becoming a Husky that he inadvertently blurted out Montgomery's name during a radio show last fall, committing a minor NCAA violation in the process.

It was a rare instance of Willingham breaching the rules — coaches are prohibited from talking publicly about players until they sign a letter of intent.

But after saying for months that he planned to attend Washington, Montgomery has had a change of heart and now says he will play for California.

Montgomery, who attends Cordova High in Rancho Cordova, Calif., told the recruiting Web site Rivals.com that his family wanted him to stay closer to home.

"This is really what my family wanted, and it means a lot to me to make them happy," he said.

Montgomery is listed as the 19th-best running back in the country by Scout.com, and recruiting analysts hailed his early commitment — he initially said he would attend UW last July — as a great beginning to Willingham's first full recruiting class at UW.

During his weekly radio show last fall, Willingham mentioned both Montgomery and Ferndale quarterback Jake Locker, who has also committed to UW, while talking about players he expected to make an impact next year. The school later self-reported the violation to the NCAA.

"He's one of the premier running backs in the Western region, not just California," Greg Biggins, director of recruiting for StudentSports.com, said of Montgomery. "And the fact that he's a running back filled a big need. He could have come in and got some early playing time. So yeah, it's a big loss. Especially having to go play against him now for four years."

Washington has a commitment from another player who could be a running back — Leilyon Myers of Lynwood, Calif., who also plays defensive back. The Huskies have 16 commitments overall.

They reportedly received a commitment Monday from Matt Houston, a 6-2, 210-pound linebacker from Dos Pueblos High in Goleta, Calif. Houston also had an offer from Fresno State, but committed to UW after visiting campus last weekend.

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Commitments are not binding until letters of intent are signed beginning Feb. 1, and Montgomery still could change his mind. He reportedly said last week he was leaning toward Oregon if he decided not to honor his UW commitment.

Note

• Former UW receiver Charles Frederick and defensive tackle Jerome Stevens have signed to play for the Spokane Shock, a new entry in the arenafootball2 league.

Frederick, who will play receiver and defensive back, was a UW team captain in 2004 and had free-agent tryouts with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Detroit Lions before being cut. The team will begin play March 30.

Also on the Shock roster is former Huskies receiver Mikal Akbar and former Washington State defensive back Billy Newman.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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