The number three has always been my favorite number on a jersey, ever since Allen Iverson donned the number for the Philadephia 76ers back in the day. There have been a couple #3’s on the Washington State Football team that I’ve really enjoyed routing for over the last several years, mostly thinking about one of my all-time favorite Cougars in receiver Sammy Moore and then of course, over the last few years running back Carl Winston. Looks like I’ll have another, with linebacker Ivan McLennan stepping into the jersey for 2013. I have to say, I’m pretty stoked after 8 Spring practices about routing for the newest Coug #3!
The El Camino JC transfer was one of my personal favorites in this years’ recruiting haul by Leach and Co., even without the #3 (which he wore at El Camino as well) in the equation. McLennan has really shown out this Spring, his first on the Washington State campus as a junior, pushing for and mostly maintaining a starting spot at BUCK linebacker moving towards the Spring game and ultimately hoping to begin the season with the 1’s at Auburn. He came into camp and started by showcasing explosive and relentless effort in the very first practice, along with a propensity to come off the edge and get pressure. He’s been a steady performer ever since.
The linebacker came in around 6’4″ 210 lbs, but has ‘bulked up’ in a big way since arriving in January. The kid now is flying around the field at a solid 240 lbs, after finally getting the nutrition and food necessary for a man with his frame type. At home in California he didn’t always get three square meals because his mother worked so many hours as a single parent. So he was stuck with a cup-o-noodles or a sandwich at times, not for a snack, not for a meal, for the entire day. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske is telling Ivan something important when he says:
"We’re telling him, ‘you should go back for seconds Ivan’. I mean you assume that but a lot of times these kids don’t know that, so yeah go back for seconds. But we don’t want to get him too big."
Meanwhile McLennan says he feels “like I should’ve been playing at this weight all along.” It shows up in the few Spring highlights that you see him in, just a solid player with a great base and huge hitting potential. But there are many things to learn still for the young man at this level of college football.
Ivan will need to learn the art of patience and reading keys to go along with that aggressive mentality and non-stop motor, as Connor Halliday took advantage of him Saturday and then talked about it afterwards in a somewhat mocking manner. In fact Halliday even mispronounced his LB’s name, which drove in the point a little bit:
"Coach Leach usually doesn’t let us pull the ball in that situation but number three Ivan McLain has never respected it at all. He’s always chasing the running back so I just kind of took it upon myself to just do that. With the defense not even respecting that I just knew I’d just walk in."
Clearly there are still things to think about, but Ivan McLennan is most certainly a surprise performer to this point in Spring ball. He’s an exciting addition to this Cougar football team and if he keeps it up he may even push Logan Mayes into a full time defensive end role, where I think he’ll be most productive anyway. Another big improvement for the Cougar defense in 2013, at least to this point.