Pendleton cut his teeth at the strong safety position during his first two years in the program. However, the team saw a gaping hole at the strongside linebacker position, and coaches felt that Pendleton had the athletic goods to fill that hole as long as he was willing to answer the call.
Making the switch to any position isn't an easy task, and although coaches have remained positive about Pendleton's switch since the first day of spring, he had yet at the time to prove much of anything with regards to his ability to play - let alone start - at such a critical position.
While his coverage skills weren't lacking, being seasoned off the ball in coverage as a safety, Pendleton had to learn all the nuances involved with playing just off the line at his new position.
"He's come a long ways since the first practice," mentioned outside linebacker coach Barry Lamb. "We're going to use every practice with him with the ones until we play Oklahoma. That's the plan. He's come a long ways in a short period of time, so we're very hopeful that he'll be our guy and be able to play an effective strongside linebacker for us."
Chief among the obstacles for Pendleton or any safety moving up to play linebacker is the physical demands of the position. No longer is Pendleton free to move off the line and in space in the backfield. Instead, he is having to confront blockers on most plays off the line almost immediately at the snap of the ball.
"That's the big thing, that is for sure the hardest thing to adjust to," said Pendleton about playing just off the line of scrimmage. "But I think I'm learning that part of the game well. A lot of it is identifying the play and how they're going to block you before it happens so you can get there, and that's what I'm doing better at so far."
Pendleton gave evidence of his improving play against the run at outside linebacker by making two tackles for losses during the team's latest scrimmage.
"The play just opened up to me and I made the right fits," said Pendleton about his two plays in the backfield. "I'm gaining a lot of confidence and I think I'm going to be good in that spot. I just need to make sure I'm in the right gap responsibility or that I put the guy that is trying to block me into the right gap, or if that I'm the force player that no one is getting outside and squeeze the play back inside, and that's about it. It's a lot, but it's coming. It feels more natural to me now."
As spring has gone on, Pendleton has looked the part of a linebacker instead of a safety trying to play linebacker. Given his 228-pound frame and his athleticism that head coach Bronco Mendenhall has compared to that of Bryan Kehl, Pendleton is doing just fine.
"It's still difficult and it's always an adjustment as we add more and more to the defense with each week, but I love where I'm at right now," said Pendleton. "Things are coming and I just want to play. I'm at a position where I can really help the team and just play and get out there on the field, which is what we all want more than anything."
"He has a great attitude and he's really trying hard," added Lamb about Pendleton's progression. "His transfers aren't quite where they're going to be just because it still is so new to him, but I've been really happy with his progress and his work ethic."
Lamb continued talking about the outside linebacker position in general and some of the other guys that will be competing for the two-deep up until the start of the season.
-Max Hall finished Monday's practice session going 12-of-19 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Hall made quick work of the defense during his first set of reps, completing passes to Luke Ashworth and O'Neill Chambers for 39 and 31 yards respectively before hitting tight end Dennis Pitta in the end zone from five yards out. Hall's other touchdown pass came by virtue of hitting running back J.J. DiLuigi in the flat before he then turned upfield and went 59 yards to the end zone.
-Defensive highlights included Jamison Frazier recording two sacks and Grant Nelson and Coleby Clawson each adding one of their own.
-Recruits were out in force Monday. Jake Heaps, Bronson Kaufusi and Tanner Hinds were among those in attendance. Commits Brian Logan and Richard Wilson were also in attendance with their mothers. Logan is set to enroll on the block in a couple of weeks, so he can have all summer to work out with the team.