Everybody has their own version of projections for the Spring depth charts, this week ACU is bringing you ours for Washington State. Keeping in mind that Spring can be and normally is a very fluid situation, these are our thoughts on who will finish the Spring sessions on top of the two-deeps and why.
The linebacking corps at WSU was pretty good last season, probably the most consistent group on the Cougar defense, but they still have a long ways to go. The group loses a few blue-collar guys in Justin Sagote, Eric Oertel and Jared Byers but this Spring should show improved athleticism and quickness at the position.
This should be a welcome sight to Cougar supporters as the LB’s have struggled big-time in pass coverage over the past several seasons. In the 3-4 that defensive coordinator Mike Breske likes to run, pass coverage is absolutely essential. Let’s take a look at the two-deep projections and then look a little more at why this is a better group for the Cougar defense.
SAM – Cyrus Coen, Paris Taylor or Mitch Peterson
Like the secondary, I don’t think the final wars at LB will be staged until Fall-ball commences. The one crucial difference here is that three of the four positions have proven Pac-12-quality performers and improving starters and the other (WIL) has two players who have produced at a decently high level in the past. One thing they all lack is consistency throughout any given game and or stretch of games, though Monroe seems to be a lock as one of the more consistent returners the defense will offer up in 2014. Still, even he can be much better.
I’ll continue to talk about the MIKE position with Monroe, Pelluer and perhaps Su’a in the mix in an article later this morning. For now, let’s talk about the other three positions quickly. Again, we are just talking about the players available for Spring and I actually offer up a three-deep list at all but the BUCK position just because of the intriguing additions of Su’a and Taylor.
At BUCK, Palacio and McLennan are likely going to split time right down the middle. I don’t think anyone will “win” the position and I don’t think it matters. Both are capable of explosive pass rushing off the edge and both possess enough raw athleticism to be decent cover-guys. Speaking of pass coverage, Coug-opponents sure targeted the BUCK position last season, so that’s something that would be incredibly important to improve upon, thus McLennan moves in and near-300 pounder Destiny Vaeao moves down to help on the line.
At SAM, Coen is a guy the Cougs can count on but it would be great to see the same scenario break out between Taylor and Coen as exists at the BUCK. Coen struggles mightily in pass-coverage at times but is a sure-tackler when he’s not worn down. The former JC transfer Taylor brings safety speed to the position but possesses enough size to be a sufficient run equation at LB. Peterson is a nice 3rd choice after moving down from safety mid-season (in part to help with pass coverage duties as it was apparent Coen was being victimized by opposing QB’s as the season progressed).
Finally, the WIL position. This is the one most up for grabs but I think Pritchard will earn the starting nod when all is said and done in the Spring game. Su’a is going to be an interesting project to reinvest back into the two-deeps here, if he can reinvent himself as the player many of us thought he was turning into his freshman year. If Su’a can’t get it done, Allison is ready and waiting for an opportunity to be more than just a special teams standout. But if I were to guess, this position is most likely to take on a whole new outlook in the Fall, so I’m not sure how invested I’ll become with WIL as Spring marches on.