With the Cougars losing their second leading tackler in Justin Sagote, there is a lot of question regarding who is going to step up at linebacker for the Cougars this season. Junior MIK backer, Darryl Monroe, was the third leading tackler on the team and is looked at to be the main leader for the linebackers this upcoming season. The question of who is going to step up and help is still remaining.
Tana Pritchard who started to see more and more reps towards the end of last season looks to be the starter at WIL in 2014. Competition from Chester Sua could change that for Pritchard during the rest of Spring and Summer ball. Sua, who sat out all of last season due to injuries, is looking to come into this season and earn the starting spot at WIL but could also be used as a sub at both MIK and WIL replacing Monroe or Pritchard if needed (if they get the starting nod).
Jeremiah Allison and Dylan Hanser are also vying for their roles at WIL back and could be used if needed and if Sua moves over and plays MIK. Hanser has a lot of speed for his size (6-4, 215) and could be utilized somewhere else on the field if the depth gets too much for him. Allison is still being developed into the position and the coaching staff is working with him.
At MIK back it’s a little different. If Sua stays at MIK and backs up Monroe then Peyton Pelluer will be used as a third MIK back. If Sua moves over and plays WIL then Pelluer will see the field a lot more. Monroe has the talent to play every down at MIK but playing every snap will wear him down allowing Sua and Pelluer to see the field when the coaching staff wants to give Monroe a break. Since Monroe has shown what he can do it wouldn’t surprise me if Sua and Pelluer see the field a lot more during the rest of Spring and Summer camp.
The SAM and BUCK positions seem to be less locked up than MIK and WIL back do so they also seem to be the most fun to watch during spring and summer.
At SAM you have Cyrus Coen, who started for the Cougars last season until he was sidelined with an injury and replaced by Tana Pritchard, and Paris Taylor vying for the starting spot. Taylor started out as a safety and moved to SAM halfway through the season. After the half season and Spring/Summer ball Taylor could come out during the Fall and show that he is deserving of the starting spot and compete with Coen. If Taylor shows he is on the same level as Coen it wouldn’t surprise me if they split time more evenly as the year goes on.
BUCK back gets a lot more interesting and will be really fun to watch from here on out. Kache Palacio and Ivan Mclennan will battle it out for the starting spot until August. Mclennan was redshirted last season to learn the program and get him ready and bulk up. Palacio showed a lot last year at BUCK and was the 10th leading tackler on the team and is 7th of those still with the team this season. There was a lot of talk last year about Mclennan coming in and taking over the starting spot and that talk continued into the off-season and is still building as we get closer to the season.
Overall: I think Sua is the breakout player this season for the linebackers. With the ability and skill to come into either position and show what he can do I think he will go out and make the best of his time and allow the coaching staff to give Monroe and Pritchard the breaks they will need throughout the season to keep them healthy and going throughout the rest of the year.
I think Paris Taylor will give Cyrus Coen a run for his money during the Spring and will be able bring that intensity and competition to the linebacker group.