CF.C Spring Summary: LINEBACKER

PULLMAN – Wrapping up and effective tackling was a major emphasis this spring for the linebackers and the Cougar D, and for good reason – the yards after contact numbers from 2010 are an eye opener. So how did the Coug ‘backers do in that regard during spring drills?

Significantly better, almost a night and day type of difference. And by most any measure, new linebacker coach Chris Tormey's first spring at WSU was a success.

Washington State statistically ranked 115th out of 120 teams in run defense in '10 but oh how different it would have been had the Cougars wrapped up better. D-Coordinator Chris Ball and the Cougar staff tracked yards after contact in 2010 and Ball told CF.C that if you were to take ½ of that YAC yardage, and take that off the run defense, WSU is suddenly in the top half of the country in rushing defense.

WSU was hampered this spring at linebacker as Sekope Kaufusi and Louis Bland missed considerable time, (Bland's knee isn't yet 100 percent, Kaufusi lost practice time to academics and injury). But the improvement in wrapping up was seen across the board at ‘backer.

Alex Hoffman-Ellis took a step forward playing-wise this spring. In years past he's made some nice plays, followed by not-so-good ones. But AHE was far, far more consistent this spring. He's also become a senior leader, both vocally and by example, for the entire defense.

Mike Ledgerwood and C.J. Mizell alternated much of the spring at the starting MIK spot. The more reps Ledgerwood got with the 1s, the better he played. He made good use of his time in the weight room this offseason, he's certainly stronger, and he exemplified one of the ‘backer trends this spring – guys were turning in a lot more quality reps.

Mizell has all the tools but, as was first reported by CF.C back in fall camp last year, he doesn't always put forth the effort. This spring saw more of the same – some days Mizell looked like a world beater, other days he looked about half-speed. Mizell can be a great player, the evidence was laid plain at times during the '10 campaign, but the "want to" wasn't there, not consistently enough, this spring.

Darren Markle spent the majority of his time running with the 2s but got in some time with the 1s as well. With Markle, the Cougar coaches like how smart a football player he is out on the field. If he continues to improve his technique, his contributions could go way up this coming season.

Darryl Monroe was learning fast on the job this spring. The true freshman who enrolled early in January made some freshman mistakes, but they became fewer and fewer as spring went along. And it can't be overstated that when Kaufusi was out, Monroe for the most part was the guy running with the 1s at the SAM.

Eric Oertel ran primarily with the 2s, as did Tyrone Duckett who played at both linebacker and safety this spring. Both are likely special teams contributors while positionally, at present time, there are simply guys ahead of them.

The Cougs have a number of true freshman linebackers due to arrive this summer. Most would be expected to redshirt but some may reveal themselves to be ready when fall camp gets underway. The most ready would appear to be Chester Sua but don't count out guys like Logan Mayes either. Darryl Paulo is likely to move up to the d-line, Max Hersey to tight end and Tana Pritchard, whether he plays LB or S, may need some added bulk before he's ready to contribute.

The Cougs have the potential to field a very good unit of linebackers, that much was made apparent this spring. But a few things do need to fall into place for that to happen, the big one being that guys like Kaufusi and Bland need to be healthy and available.


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