Chester Sua missed all of last season, which was linebackers coach Ken Wilson's first at Washington State. But a strong second half of spring ball has Sua squarely back in the thick of things.
"Chester Sua I think was really a wild card and then the last 5-6 practices of the spring, he really showed he's going to be a factor at that WIL position in the fall," Wilson told Cougfan.com.
Wilson politely declined to list a post-spring depth chart, saying that until they line up against Rutgers, he wouldn't have a "set" depth chart. That said, based on the first team reps this spring, it's safe to picture Darryl Monroe at the MIK, Cyrus Coen at the SAM, and Tana Pritchard at the WIL, with Sua at the WIL the likeliest challenger for starting time.
More important to Wilson, though, is the depth.
"I feel a lot better with our depth than I did at this time last year," said Wilson.
Backing up Coen at the SAM are Mitch Peterson and Paris Taylor. At the MIK behind Monroe are Jeremiah Allison and Peyton Pelluer. And at WIL are Pritchard and Sua. It means Wilson can work on other things besides trying to shore up the back end.
"We have three guys out at SAM with Paris Taylor. We have three guys at MIK. We have two solid guys at WIL and then the young guys coming in. So I feel good about the depth -- now we just have to get them ready to play the long season and let the competition sort itself out for the most playing time… I think we've made some good depth progress throughout the position," said Wilson.
Linebacker is a position open to freelancing, often to a team's detriment. And how much rotation, Wilson said, often comes down to trust – can the coaches trust the players to do what they're supposed to. Allison, Sua and Taylor were three Wilson named who bolstered their stock in that regard in the spring.
With so many pieces back, Wilson expects to be better, crisper within the scheme.
"The way college football and the Pac-12 conference is specifically, with a such wide variety of offenses, you're always looking for little things you can do differently and scheme changes that will help you in certain games," said Wilson. "…You kind of have to adapt by week depending on who you're playing.
"I think it refines, not as much expands, some of the stuff we do. They know what I want out on the field now…whereas last year we were all just getting to know each other."
Wilson said he's used his time with his players this offseason, about an hour a week or so, for film study. He said he won't put his guys through conditioning drills, stating Jason Loscalzo's strength and conditioning program has all those bases covered. Wilson pointed out that last year, Loscalzo had to get the Cougs ready for the heat and humidity at Auburn to open the season and did so with flying colors. "Shoot their guys were cramping and our guys weren't cramping at all… We've been going over different videos and such, we haven't done anything on the field… We have a great strength staff here," said Wilson.
What Sua's re-emergence does for Cougs
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